Hokkaido

Trip Start May 28, 2009
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Trip End Jun 21, 2009


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Flag of Japan  , Hokkaido,
Sunday, June 7, 2009

I came to Sapporo last year with my friends. On the last day, I went to visit the Ainu museum in Shiraoi by myself.
Since then, I got in the PhD program, and I am focusing on the indigenous issues. Ainu culture is such beautiful. I got so much interest in their culture since then.

This time, I came to Sapporo to meet up with more people.
Haruzo from Kimitsu had me connect with Nanako. She's a graduate student at the Hokkaido University. We talked on the phone. She was excited to see another student who's studying about Ainu people.

She set up a dinner with an Ainu sculptor and storyteller, Mr. Takashi Yuuki.
Also, another student from Indiana, Shingo joined us.
They were the members of the Indigenous Summit last year held right before the G8 Summit at Tohya Ko (Lake) in Hokkaido. 23 indigenous groups from all over the world gathered and discussed issues. They submitted a declaration to the participating nations.
They told me about many stories about the summit such as meeting other groups of indigenous peoples, struggle for coordinating the event, joy of the success, etc.
I felt their passion, and I felt great starting to know about such great people.
The next indigenous summit will be in Canada next summer. Hopefully I can participate in the event next year.

Takashi kept telling about the importance of the education especially for younger generations to learn about multiculturalism and respect of diversity. He gave me his booklet of his works (sculpture). His work seems very strong, but at the same time I felt like I could see something gentle and calm in his work. Most of the Ainu people I met are like that... they are very passionate and dedicated, but at the same time, they are very calm and relaxed. Somehow, Hawaiians are like them.

I also visited the town called Nibutani in Hidaka region.
This current movement of Ainu culture renaissance really began from this town.
The government planned on building a dam on Saru River, where Ainu people have used for salmon hunting and other sanctuary rituals. Many individuals including Mr. Shigeru Kayano who became a politician later fought about this project. The dam was built, but during the court session, Sapporo regional court mentioned about Ainu people as the indigenous people. That was the very first recognition of the national level about them. Since then, Hokkaido prefecture government has begun to have cultural consideration in decision-making and projects. This whole dam incidents became a trigger for the movement.
 
Now, there's a museum showing Ainu traditional lifestyle, culture and people. I watched the video of 'Kumaokuri (gods (bears) sent off)". It was like when I watched the bull fights in Spain. At the beginning,  I felt disgusted killing an animals... but after learning why they do this, seeing how they do this, I started feeling like this ritual is like a beautiful art with a full of everyone's wishes, hopes and appreciation. This is how they have done it for a long time. I, as an outsider, just come in and see this ritual, and I scream "this is cruel!". I think that's not right.
I mean, Ainu people have appreciated the existence of bears because bears bring them food, fur to protect from cold weather, and medicine. To appreciate what they can have for their living, they celebrate bears' existence and contributions.

A small town of Nibutani (Biratori) still has many populations of Ainu.
At the bus stop, I was asked where I came from from an older lady. I said, "Hawaii".
She just told me "thank you for coming all the way from Hawaii. It must be really cold here for you". It's summer, but yeah, it was a bit chilly for me.

Next summer I hope to come back to Hokkaido and drive around, and I'd like to talk to more people. I am already looking forward to it!
 
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