1. Aug 2022 | History

Hokkaido Trivia – Ainu People and Kamuy

Continuation of my last week’s post on Ainu, the indigenous people in Hokkaido.

Traditionally Ainu reveres all natural phenomena, all living creatures, even man-made tools, as well as disasters and disease that are beyond human power.  They believe that each kamuy (deity) has a “spirit” and that they will return to the spiritual world when their roles are completed. 

Among all, the kamuy of fire is the closest deity connected to their daily living. The kamuy of fire protects their livelihood.  Blakiston fishing owl, world’s largest owl, is the kamuy that protects the village.  Brown bear is the kamuy that delivers fur and meat.  “Iomante”, the ceremony that sends the spirit of the brown bear back to world they belong to, has always been the most solemn ceremony to the Ainu people.

As Mr. Debo Akibe, an Ainu artist of wood carving, said in his recent live show “The way we connect with nature has changed.  Not everyone has a strong distinctive belief towards nature like before.  Nevertheless, our bond with kamuy still remains as the backbone of Ainu culture.”

Ainu culture is one of the backbones of Hokkaido today.  Knowing about Ainu can deepen your activities and experiences in Hokkaido!

rf: “The Guide Book on Ainu Culture” by Hokkaido Tourism Organization
rf: “Together with the Ainu” by The Foundation for Ainu Culture
rf: “The Story of Debo” July 3 live show on YouTube

Kotan-kor-kamuy (kamuy of Blakiston fishing owls) watching over the Ainu village in Akan
photo credit (c) Hokkaido, Kushiro – LakeAkan Travel Guide