This year the Ainu workshop took place at the Biratori Cho Nibutani Ainu Cultural Museum as well as Shiraoi Porotokotan.
The Porotokotan is site location for the National Ainu Cultural Museum, which is an Ainu settlement on the fringe of Lake Poroto.. The workshop this time allowed us to participate in the Porotokotan Night, which is a special event held in summer and also to take a tour of the cultural museum. This was a special experience because we could see the strong connection between the Ainu daily life and their gods, who are worshiped and given thanks through singing and dancing.
Biratori Cho is different from Shiraoi Cho as it is in the interior of the island. Even though both groups are Ainu, the places that they lived are quite different, which also meant that their livelihoods were also very different. More than anything, we could experience the differences in their cultural items such as the Attus or the Itta. On the other hand, at Nibutani, Mr. Koichi Kaizawa, who is a direct descendent of the Ainu who live in Nibutani, works at the cultural museum and gave us a lecture. Mr. Kaizawa described how Nibutani was formerly a bustling center of Ainu culture and life, and also discussed the dramatic changes in Ainu culture and life. Additionally, he described the necessity for us to preserve the cultural identity of the Ainu in as much as we can. Furthermore, at Biratori Cho, we were able to deepen our understanding of the Ainu culture from the perspective of Ainu folklore.
Student Impression of the Ainu Workshop
I haven’t experienced the Ainu culture as deeply as I had this time and was able to learn much about the Ainu through the Ainu workshop. Through this experience I was able to feel that both our knowledge of the Ainu as well as their novelty is wearing off in Hokkaido as well as the rest of Japan even though they have been living in Japan for a long time. So, this was a very fruitful experience for me. At one time, the Ainu culture almost disappeared because of the Japanese government, but it continued and I, myself, could realize the value and importance of the Ainu culture.