August 30, 2011

Article on Special Exhibit at the Historical Museum of Hokkaido

This is a translation of an online article from the Asahi Shimbun Newspaper August 5, 2011 edition regarding the exhibition at the Historical Museum of Hokkaido (see previous blog entry). The link to the original online article is dead (Asahi typically removes articles from their site after 2 weeks I believe) but the content can be seen here at the “Indigenous-related News” blog in Japanese.

The exhibit at the Historical Museum of Hokkaido runs until September 25. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the hohciri!


Sakhalin Ainu Forehead Adornment Hohciri Confirmed Domestically
On Display for the First Time at the Historical Museum in Sapporo Starting Today

from Historical Museum of Hokkaido

The “hohciri” was a unique and ancient practice passed down by the Sakhalin Ainu to decorate the forehead of young boys, but the actual objects could not be confirmed within Japan until now. The Historical Museum of Hokkaido (Atsubetsu-cho, Atsubetsu-ku, Sapporo) which received the donation, will put it on public display for the first time at the special exhibit “Ainu Life  Kuriles, Sakhalin, Hokkaido.”

The hohciri is a forehead adornment tied to and hung from a boy’s hair in the front. It is a tufted object made from beads strung together in a triangle, and was removed at around the age of 10 when the boy would hunt and capture his first prey. This practice was shown in photographs taken by researchers from Europe that visited Sakhalin approximately 100 years ago, but no existing hohciri could be confirmed in Japan, and it was only reported that such could be confirmed to exist at a museum in Cologne, Germany.

Masato Tamura (35), a curator of the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, learned that Yoko Abe (78), a Sakhalin Ainu living in Kawasaki with whom he kept in contact over the years, had what seemed to be a hohciri in her possession. It was something that she received from her childhood fried in Sakhalin, and Ms. Abe donated it “to be stored at the museum and shown to future generations as evidence of the culture of the Sakhalin Ainu.” Mr. Tamura and others proceeded with the confirmation process.

From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the theory that the Ainu were of European ethnicity was popular in Europe and America (later discredited), leading many researchers to visit many Ainu villages (kotan) inside and outside Hokkaido to collect objects of daily life. It is said that there are over 13,000 Ainu items in museums around Europe and America.

In the special exhibit, there are 152 items that have returned from the Museum of Ethnology in Germany. The hohciri donated by Ms. Abe and daily items that were owned by her grandparents are also on display. Until September 25.

(article by Masakazu Honda)


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