Culture & Heritage Experience the Culture of the Indigenous Ainu People!

Go to an airport in Hokkaido, and you're likely to find the word "Irankarapte." In the Ainu language, the word is used as a greeting, just like "hello." And if you're visiting Hokkaido, you will definitely want to experience the culture of the indigenous Ainu people! Let's introduce you to places that allow you to see, feel, taste, and learn more about the Ainu culture!

Upopoy – National Ainu Museum and Park

The "Niepuy" store offers unique sweets and handicrafts that make great souvenirs.

Upopoy opened in 2020 in Shiraoi and is home to facilities like the National Ainu Museum and the National Ainu Park: the museum showcases the history and culture of the indigenous Ainu people, including their lifestyle and language, from the perspective of the Ainu people themselves, and the park is an interactive open-air museum where you can watch performances of traditional Ainu dance—recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage—as well as experience Ainu pattern embroidery and wood carving. They also host various programs for visitors, such as playing traditional musical instruments, field tours of the park's flora, and cooking Ainu cuisine! We recommend checking out their website, where you can find a schedule beforehand so you can efficiently participate in a program that piques your interest.

See details on this destination

Akanko Ainu Kotan

Kotan is the Ainu word for village. The Akanko Ainu Kotan is located inside the hot spring town alongside Lake Akan. Both sides of its wide sloping path are dotted with folk craftwork stores and restaurants, and you may even catch a glimpse of people creating works of embroidery and wood carving in some of the stores. At the top of the slope lies its largest building, the Lake Akan Ainu Theater "Ikor," which offers performances including ancient ceremonial dances.

See details on this destination

Ikor – Lake Akan Ainu Theater

Hands-on wood carving and embroidery courses are available for groups of 5 people or more.

Ikor is the Ainu word for treasure, and Lake Akan Ainu Theater Ikor is a place to experience the traditions and culture of the Ainu people. The Ainu people have composed various songs and dances about nature and their lives—including the harshness of nature, their relationship with animals, their joys and sorrows, and their rituals and interactions. The ancient ceremonial Ainu dance is performed by matching the rhythm of unique songs and vocals with the movement of one's knees and the claps of one's hands. A current performance titled "Lost Kamuy" features traditional dance arranged in a modern manner by augmenting it with digital art. The story features the Ezo wolf "Horkew Kamuy," who forms a special part of the Ainu folklore.

See details on this destination

Cinita – Folk Art Shop of Nishida

Cinita is a folk craft shop run by Mr. and Mrs. Nishida. Masao, the husband, is the president of the Akan Ainu Arts & Crafts Cooperative; and his wife, Kayoko, is an excellent craftswoman certified by the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, and she also teaches embroidery courses. The store has a wide selection of Kayoko's creations, wood carvings, and original items that make fabulous souvenirs.

See details on this destination

Poronno – Traditional Ainu Food & Craft Cafe

Poronno is one of the rare places in Hokkaido where you can enjoy Ainu cuisine. The traditional Ainu dish Potce-imo is a favorite among guests. It's similar to potato-mochi and is made using potatoes fermented by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Their menu also features original dishes made with a fusion of traditional Ainu cuisine and contemporary cooking styles. Their "Potce Pizza" consists of toppings of cheese and Siberian onion on a base made from potce-imo dough. They also serve set-menu items—the sets include ohaw (soup), amam (mixed seasoned rice), mehun (salted, fermented salmon liver), and you can choose from two kinds of ohaw soup: yuk (deer) and cep (chum salmon). The ohaw soup is made with kelp broth and seasoned almost solely with salt—this brings out the best flavors of the ingredients, which makes the soup deliciously soothing.

See details on this destination

KAMUY LUMINA – Night Walk in Lake Akan Forest

This night walk tour comprises a 1.2 kilometer path in the Bokke trail. Based on a yukar (traditional Ainu saga) featuring an owl and a jay, the story revolves around the theme of coexistence with nature, and the visitors also play their part in the story. The scenography uses digital technologies such as projection mapping to bring a magical atmosphere to life—with Yezo sika deer and korpokkur (tiny people in Ainu folklore) moving around in the forest. In the lush natural landscape of the Akan-Mashu National Park, you can gain a deeper appreciation of the perspective of the Ainu people on nature. Kamuy Lumina is a seasonal event (closed during winter). Be sure to check their website for their opening hours.

See details on this destination