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19. Jun 2022

Hokkaido Trivia – Golden Kamuy

The Golden Kamuy Exhibition kicked off in Tokyo.  It’ll be traveling to Kyoto and Fukuoka by early winter this year.  It’s originally a serial manga that takes place in Hokkaido in the early 20th century.  It’s about an ex-soldier and escaped prisoners who work their way with an Ainu girl to find the hidden gold.  It’s been made into TV anime series winning many fans in Japan and globally.  I’m keen to see this exhibition, but I’ve been warned that I’ll need to line up 2 hours to get in!

The word “Kamuy” in the title “Golden Kamuy” means “god” in Ainu language.  Ainu language is rarely used now, but I heard that the young Ainu people are finding ways to keep the language alive in their culture.  A radio station based in Sapporo has been broadcasting a weekly language lesson course since 1987.  It’s a 15 minutes program on simple conversation and introduction to Ainu culture. 

Today, Ainu language is used in most of the names of places in Hokkaido.

For instance:
Abashiri>   
Ainu pronunciation: chi-pa-shi-ri
Meaning: The land with alter for the gods
Shiretoko>
Ainu pronunciation: shi-ri-e-to-ku
Meaning: The tip of the earth/ground
Sapporo>
Ainu pronunciation: sa-tsu-to-po-ro
Meaning: The vast dry land
Otaru>
Ainu pronunciation: o-ta-ru-nai
Meaning: The river full of sands

Kamuy Watara (God’s Rock), a.k.a Chapeau Rock, in Abashiri port is said to be the “alter” from which Abashiri got its name “chi-pa-shi-ri”.

I hope this info can make your activities in Hokkaido more interesting. You might want to add a visit to the National Ainu Museum in Shiraoi in southern Hokkaido in your activities 🙂 And again, if you have any comments, please let me know at info@ahww.jp. Thank you!

Kamuy Watara shining at dawn
Kamuy Watara covered in icey water