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Hokkaido | Akan National Park

Ainu Festivals

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Ainu Festivals

The Ainu, also called Aynu, Aino, and in historical texts Ezo, are indigenous people in Japan and Russia.

May 1st to the beginning of October The Yukar (Akan-ko-onsen Hot Spring)
Once a day from May 1st to the beginning of October, a play based on a historical tale is performed in Ainu Kotan at the Akan-ko- onsen Hot Spring. "Yukar" is a type of folk tale which is passed down through generations of Ainu people. These vibrant cultural plays incorporating modern music are performed in countries around the world to wide acclaim.

September 15 Ashiri Cheppu Nomi (Chuo-ku, Sapporo)
This Ainu ceremony is held on the Toyohira-gawa river plain in Sapporo in honor of the new run of salmon. The god of the forest, the god of the village, and the god of water are enshrined on an altar, and the Ainu harpoon salmon that have been released into a pond created in the river. It is said that the Ainu would only catch and eat the salmon after the spawning season, and during the salmon run they would ask permission from the gods before the catch. We can see the wisdom of the people of the past at work here, as the Ainu took only what they needed for survival. Nowadays, this activity is prohibited, so the salmon caught from the Ishikari-gawa River are released into a pond and the ceremony is conducted there. Afterward, traditional Ainu cuisine is served.

September 23 Kotan Festival (Asahikawa)
A solemn prayer for nature is offered at the holy "Kamui Kotan", which means "homeland of the gods" in Ainu. Strange rocks line the shores of the Ishikari-gawa River where there is a mysterious atmosphere that lingers in the air. The river suddenly narrows around this area, and many boats have been swallowed up by the torrent in the past. So, prayers for the safety of people are also offered at the festival. In addition, a concert of traditional Ainu music is held.

Iomante
Iomante was originally a ceremony conducted to send the spirit of a bear to the gods. The atmosphere of the original ceremony is brought forward to the modern age with music and dancing. Around 8 o'clock at night, a parade of people singing and carrying torches march along the main street of Lake Akan-ko-onsen Hot Spring from the sightseeing boat pier to Ainu Kotan. After the parade, an open-air play is performed at Ainu Kotan. Everyone is welcome to participate in the torch parade.