November 29, 2012

Ainu Films, Exhibitions & Workshops - November & December, 2012

Several Ainu events are scheduled for late November (tomorrow!) through early December (and onwards!) as follows:


Ainu Film Screening
The 60th Anniversary of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Film in the Museum: Screenings before National Film Center

Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the foundation of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, this special event will make a retrospective review of the screening projects conducted in the 1950s when Film Library, predecessor of National Film Center, came into existence.

As one of the many programs, “River Fishing of the Ainu,” a 23 minute black and white film from 1953, will be screened as one of three films (the others being “The World of the Vaccum” and “Natural Society of Japanese Macaques”) included in the Culture/Documentary Film Program (2).

Culture/Documentary Film Program (2) will be screened
November 30 (Fri), 17:00
December 22 (Sat), 11:00

Venue: National Film Center
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo


Mini-showing of TOKYO Ainu in Nakano

Date: December 2 (Sun)
Time: OPEN 13:30 START 14:00

Tickets: 1500 yen (no presale)
*you may use supporter tickets sent to you by the production committee

Reservations: Reservations required, as seating is limited.
Please make reservations through the online form.

2-17-9 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
*13-minute walk from JR/Tozai Line Nakano Station
*10-minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku Line Numabukuro Station

Organized by "TOKYO Ainu" Screening Committee

Click here for more info on the film in English.


-Storytellers of the Wind-

There will be an exhibition of both traditional Ainu crafts and the works of modern Ainu artists at the Matsuura Takeshiro Memorial Museum in Matsusaka, Mie. There will also be special workshops and discussions arranged during the exhibition period as well.

Venue: Matsuura Takeshiro Memorial Museum
383 Onoe-cho, Matsusaka, Mie
TEL: (0598)56-6847 FAX: (0598)56-7328

Dates: December 4 (Tue) – January 20 (Sun)
*Closed every Monday (or the next day if holiday), December 29 to January 3
Times: 9:30 to 16:30
General - 300 yen (200 yen for groups of 20+)
6 to 18 years old - 200 yen (100 yen for groups of 20+)
6 years and under are free, discount of 100 yen for JAF members (up to 5 people)

Gallery Talk
Dates: December 9 (Sun) & January 12 (Sat)
Time: 11:00 – 12:00
*Exhibition Admission required

Music Workshops
Description: Experience the Ainu instruments tonkori and mukkur (free mukkur provided)
Date: December 16 (Sun)
Times: 10:00 – 11:30 & 13:30 – 15:00
50 person capacity for each workshop (first come first serve on day of)
Participation is Free

Embroidery Workshops
Description: Experience making Ainu embroidery
Date: January 13 (Sun)
Times: 10:00 – 12:00 & 13:30 – 15:30
Reservations required (up to 20 people for each workshop), please call or fax the museum
Participation is Free

Organized by:
Matsusaka City, Mastusaka Board of Education

Support from:
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Hokkaido Prefecture, Hokkaido Board of Education, Mie Prefecture, Mie Board of Education, Hokkaido Ainu Association

Exhibition Materials from:
Koji Kaizawa, Tamami Kaizawa, Toru Kaizawa, Noriko Kawamura, The Ainu Museum, Tatsumi Sato, Masamitsu Takiguchi, Nuburi Toko, Kohei Fujito, Takeki Fujito, Hiroshima Museum of History, Historical Museum of Hokkaido


November 28, 2012

Report: Ainu Shadow Puppet Project in Tokyo!

I was able to attend the at Ainu Shadow Puppet Project show at Asahi Art Square in Asakusa, Tokyo on Sunday, November 25, 2012.

Headed towards Asahi Art Square

The show was a brilliant mix of traditional Ainu yukar storytelling, Ainu traditional song, modern music, Indonesian shadow puppetry, dashed with bits of humor, political satire, and social commentary, all fused together with the American cinematic flavor of director Larry Reed.
Post-show talk

As Director Reed described in the post-show artist discussion, it was essentially a live performance of a movie. Indeed, arguably much more real and entertaining than a simple projection of film on a screen - the live performance definitely created a direct connection between the artists and the audience, drawing them into the story.  

Demonstration of what happens backstage
Also interesting was the discussion on the importance of balancing the conservative and the innovative in developing the show, as is often the case when working with indigenous cultures. One must be mindful of conserving tradition and at the same time find ways to create something new. 

Director Reed also noted that although he often asked Oki to explain different aspects of the story, in dealing with mythology not everything need to be understood, nor did everything need to make sense.
Shadow Puppet of OKI

The last chance this year to see the Ainu Shadow Puppet Project show will be December 1st in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, but hopefully there will be more opportunities in the future. Given the rich oral traditions of the Ainu people, I personally am hoping that the Ainu Shadow Puppet Project will be putting on many shows to share with audiences a variety of different Ainu stories.

(see more photos from the show on our Facebook page)

Ainu Party Candidate Running for Seat in Upcoming Election

The upcoming 46th general election for the House of Representatives in Japan will be held on December 16, 2012. 

Naomi Shimazaki of the Ainu Party has announced that she will be running in the election for the Hokkaido 9th district seat, previously occupied by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. 

Interestingly enough, PM Hatoyama was a supporter of Ainu causes (perhaps in part due to the fact that many Ainu make up the constituency of the Hokkaido 9th district), and his retirement from politics has given Ms. Shimazaki the opportunity to run for his seat. 

Another interesting twist is that Ms. Shimazaki will be running against former representative Tatsumaru Yamaoka, the son of ex-DPJ and current Life People's Life First bigshot Kenji Yamaoka who once infamously joked that was "a savage descended of Ainu blood."

Indeed, this race is full of symbolism and crossing fates.

Photo by Toshiaki Sonoda

Shimazaki is running on a platform of restoring Ainu rights as well as against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), nuclear power, and increased consumption tax.

She is currently the Deputy Director of Sapporo Branch of the Hokkaido Ainu Association and the Secretary General of the Sapporo Upopo Preservation Society.

News articles (in Japanese):
Tomakomai Minpo
Wall Street Journal
Sponichi Annex

(see our previous blog entry for more info regarding the Ainu Party)

November 27, 2012

Performances by OKI, Marewrew in Tokyo (November 29 to December 9, 2012)

Preeminent tonkori player OKI and Ainu traditional singing group Marewrew are (separately) scheduled for various performances in Tokyo from November 29 to December 9.


“Thank You Full Moon” Tsuki Miru 8th Anniversary Festival

OKI / Ikue Asazaki / Tabito Nanao  

Date: November 29 (Thu)
Time: OPEN 18:30  START 19:00

Venue: Aoyama Tsuki Miru Kimi Omohu
B1F Simple Aoyama Bldg., 4-9-1 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
TEL: 03-5474-8115

Tickets: ADV 3000 yen / DOOR 3500 yen  +1 drink 500 yen
Reserve by phone or online:
TEL: 03-5474-8137 (16:00 – 21:00)


“Ainu Culture Now: Diverse Forms, Diverse Present”

Ainu performance, exhibition, and talk session
featuring Marewrew, Youmaru Yamamichi, and Yoshiro Matsunaga (VJ)
at Keio University Hiyoshi Campus

Exhibit: “To be –Daily Life and the Real Selves of Certain Ainu–”
Date: December 3 (Mon) – December 8 (Sat)
Time: 11:00 – 18:00
Venue: Raiosha Gallery

Artist Talk Session
Date: December 8 (Sat)
Time: 14:00 – 15:30
Venue: Raiosha Gallery

Live Performance
Date: December 8 (Sat)
Time: 18:00 OPEN  18:30 START  20:00 END
Venue: Raiosha Event Terrace

Organized by HAPP (Hiyoshi Art and Performance Project)


Hiya! (Hello!) from the Northern Country
Marewrew presents “Ainu Dinner Party” Winter 2012

Mukkuri, Song, and Dance Performance
Singing Workshop
& full-course Ainu dinner!
(yuk rur deer soup, amam ipe mixed grain rice, rataskep mixed pumpkin)

Date: December 7 (Fri)
Time: OPEN 19:00  START 19:30

Venue: Kichimu
B1 Kichijoji Bldg., 2-14-7 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo

Tickets: 3500 yen (advance deposit) + 1 drink
To reserve, please send your (1) name, (2) mobile phone number, (3) event name, (4) number in party (up to 4), and (5) name of accompanying guests to

Entry will be according to the order of your number sent in an email confirmation.


Marewrew LIVE at Aoyama CAY

also featuring OOIOO with Gamelan, Sibitt-Sugadairo, and more!

Date: December 9 (Sun)
Time: 15:00

Venue: Aoyama CAY (Spiral B1F)
5-6-23 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Tickets: ADV 3200 yen / DOOR 3700 yen 
Reserve by phone or online:


November 20, 2012

Ainu Events this week of November 20, 2012: Ainu Art Project Live in Obihiro & more!

In addition to the Ainu Shadow Puppet performances, there will be a variety of upcoming Ainu events this week & weekend - check them out if you are anywhere nearby!


The Beauty of Tradition & Creation 
-2012 Ainu Folk Art Exhibit-

Date: November 22 (Thu) - November 26 (Mon)
Time: 10:00 - 18:00

Venue: Tokyo Tower 3F Gallery
4-2-8 Shiba Park, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Live woodcarving & embroidery
Embroidery workshop
Display of Ainu crafts

Participating Artists:
 Kiyoko Mamiya
Shigeru Araki
Takeko Kaizawa
Mika Ishii


Hokkaido Ainu Association
TEL 011-221-0462

Aotearoa Ainumosir Exchange Program Charity Performance 
Date: November 23 (Fri)
Time: 15:30 Doors open
16:00~17:30 Event start and finish
Entrance fee: None, but donations are being collected for the the Aotearoa Ainumosir Exchange program (a program supporting exchange between the Ainu and Maori people)

Venue: Sakaimachi Garow
Sakaimachi Oike sagaru
Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
* Introduction of the Exchange Program
* Traditional Ainu music and storytelling by Aki Nagane
* Exhibition of woodblock prints by Yuki Koji
* Sale of Program T-Shirts
* Tea Provided
For more information contact:



Date: November 24 (Sat)
Time: 18:30

Venue: Obihiro Seikatsukan
 2 Hakurindai Higashimachi Obihiro, Hokkaido
Tickets: Adv 1000 yen / Door 1200 yen
The event is organized by young members of the Obihiro Kamuyto Upopo Preservation Society.

"Haruzo: A Life Among the Spirits"

The documentary film "Haruzo: A Life Among the Spirits" (see previous entry here) will be showing at Meisei University in Tokyo.

Date: November 24 (Sat)
Time: 14:30 OPEN / 15:00 START
Venue: Meisei University, Hino Campus
Building 28 First Floor Mini Theater (28-100-2)

Free admission, reservations not required.
Seating is limited to 80 people on a first come first serve basis.

For information contact Prof. Kayano
Tel: 042-591-6657


Hunpe Sisters Performance in Sapporo
Date: November 25 (Sun)
Time: 17:00 - 18:30

Kokune Bldg B1F
Kita 1jo Nishi 3, Chuoku,  Sapporo
Tel: 050-5799-0832

Performance of both Ainu and Nepali dances!


November 24 - December 1: Ainu Shadow Puppet Project

In a series of encore performances from their show last year, the members of the Ainu Shadow Theater Project will be putting on several shows starting November 24. This unique collaboration will bring together Ainu music with shadow puppets to retell the creation legend of the Ainu people.

You can join the event group on Facebook for the Tokyo performance for exclusive information and sneak peeks, and they even have iPhone covers available featuring some of the shadow puppets!

Definitely catch the show nearest you! But just in case you can't, you can also watch last year's performance on demand.


Ainu Shadow Puppet Project
Poro Oyna –The Legend of the Superhuman Aynurakkur

Tokyo Venue:

Date: November 24, 2012
Time: OPEN 18:30 START 19:30
Date: November 25, 2012
Time: OPEN 16:00 START 17:00

Asahi Art Square, Asakusa
Super Dry Hall 4F
1-23-1 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Tickets: Reserved 3,500 yen / Day of 4,000 yen
Reservations can be made here:

Info: Asahi Café Night Execution Committee
Inquiries: P3 art and environment 03-3353-6866 (Weekdays 12:00-19:00)

More information available (in Japanese) here:


Nagareyama (Chiba) Venue:

Date: November 27, 2012
Time: OPEN 18:30 START 19:00

Nagareyama Culture Hall
1-16-2 Ka, Nagareyama-shi, Chiba

Tickets: Reserved 1,500 yen / Day of 2,000 yen
High School & under 700 yen / Special Parent&Child Pair Tickets 2,000 yen

Reservations & Information:
Nagareyama City Lifelong Learning Center 04-7150-7474
or Nagareyama City Culture Hall 04-7158-3262


Shiraoi (Hokkaido) Venue: 

"Stories of the Ainu Gods"

The Ainu Shadow Theater Project will be featured as part of a special 70th anniversary commemoration event for the NHK Muroran station.

In addition to the Ainu Shadow Theater Project will be storytelling from Shizue Ukaji's storybook "The Song of the Cicada" together with her embroidery work as well as traditional dance performances from members of the Ainu museum.

Date: December 1, 2012
Time: OPEN 13:30 START 14:00

Shiraoi Central Hall (Chuokan)
1-1-1 Honcho, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido
Admission is free, but you must receive an entrance ticket 
by contacting the NHK Muroran station.
TEL: 0143-22-7271 (weekdays 9:30 - 18:00)
(Tickets will be available only to the first 500 applicants)

Shadow Puppet Direction: Larry Reed
Story: OKI
Script: Tetsuro Koyano
Shadow Puppet Design: OKI, Kohey Kawamura
Music: OKI & Marewrew, Kohey Kawamura
Shadow Puppet Performance: UrotsuteNoyako Bayangans


November 19, 2012

Ainu & Okinawa Connections

First, many apologies for being MIA for a long time - this is my first blog entry in nearly 7 months! Things have been quite busy for a while but hopefully I will be able to return to doing a better job of keeping everyone updated about goings on in the Ainu community.

The Ainu have been in the news recently, particularly in their relation to the people of Okinawa.

The Asahi Shimbun: "Genetic kinship found between Ainu and native Okinawans"

A study has found that Okinawan and Ainu peoples most closely resemble each other, sharing Jomon DNA while Japanese on Honshu were of a mix of Jomon and Yayoi DNA. This supports the theory that the Jomon people originally lived throughout the Japanese archipelago, and the Japanese people were into being as the Yayoi came from mainland Asia (China and Korea) and intermixed with the Jomon in Kyushu, moving northwards throughout Honshu.

The theory is already a well-known (and perhaps well-accepted) within certain parts of the Ainu community, so it does not come as much of a surprise. However, there are some criticisms of the study. Some people for example point out the fact that the study treats Jomon as a monolithic entity when in fact it consisted of many different groups and ethnicities.

Personally, I do not find the results surprising but am wary of putting great emphasis and meaning on genetic analysis. Indeed, given the history of using Ainu bodies for study, I have somewhat of a distaste of studies of this nature. Where did the Ainu DNA they used come from? Given all the issues with Ainu identity in the current community, how did they define what an Ainu person was?

Even without the "genetic kinship," many Ainu and Okinawans share a connection in modern society, whether from shared experiences as minorities in a Japan or from the simple fact that they occupy the extremities of the Japanese archipelago. Interestingly enough, these connections have also been brought to the forefront due to recent events, and it is these that draw my personal interest.

Recently the Ainu musician OKI teamed up with Okinawan legend Misako Oshiro for a tour to commemorate the release of their CD, "Kita to Minami (North and South)."  

I was able to attend their performance in Tokyo, an interesting mix of the two traditions. You can find some excellent photos of their rehearsals as well as from their performances in Tokyo, Naha, and Miyako-jima at photographer Masashi Noda's blog.

Also check out check out an interview with the two artists (in Japanese) on Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting's "Q Report."

November also marked the 19th Annual Charanke Festival, the gathering of Ainu and Okinawan communities in Nakano, Tokyo. 

The festival was a great success marking a return to the park area in front of Nakano Station where the festival has traditionally been held. The festival featured many Ainu artists and Okinawan performers as well as various booths featuring crafts and foods from both communities. 

Check out more photos from "Charanke Festival 2012" on our Facebook page.

Indeed, the Ainu and Okinawan communities have strong bonds through people, music, food, and culture, regardless of what is written in their DNA - or perhaps, some may argue, because of it.