Friday, October 12, 2007

Yukara Village

This is an overdue entry from my trip to Hokkaido. Just put this up as I just uploaded the videos.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2007 - Part 2
The visit to the Noboribetsu Bear Park didn't finished with just seeing bears there. Just next to the bear park, there is a Ainu Village, called Yukara Village.
This mock Ainu Village revives the lifestyle of Ainu (native Hokkaido) people in the late 19th century.
Before we walk around the village, we went to the end of the village first to catch some squirrels there. The swift movement of these squirrels jumping along the dried branches made it almost impossible to take a clear picture of the squirrel.
This is the best I could get.
The were several traditional Ainu's hut in this village. Almost all of the stuff put on display were made of wood.
The carving skill of the Ainu are evident in these wooden handicrafts.
Besides serving as decorations, some of the wooden carving are for sale. Like this brooch fishes.
These cute little mushrooms didn't come cheap as well.
The stuff there were not limited to only wooden carvings. I suppose the Ainu people use these during their religious ceremonies.
Ainu people that time didn't have the luxury of using electrical rice cooker of blender for cooking like what we are using today. They use quern or mortar, depending how you call them. Quern is a simple stone mill used for grinding grain by hand.
Making forest as their place of living, hunting will be one of their method to get their food supply. Besides consuming the meat, they use the other parts of the animals for other purposes as well. One of it will be rings, made of deer's horn.
Some even go one step further by carving them into paper knifes.
Their traditional habitations were reed-thatched huts, the largest 20 feet (6 m) square, without partitions and having a fireplace in the center.
While we were looking at those stuffs, an old man asked us if we wanted to spend some time talking to him. Apparently, he is one of the natives of Ainu and he told us some brief history about the tribe.
Here is a video of him demonstrating to us one of the traditional musical instruments.
The Ainu language is significantly different from Japanese in its syntax, phonology, morphology, and vocabulary. While talking with him, he offered us some coffee, prepared using a special pot on the charcoal. It was during that time that my attention turned to a big fish in the middle of the stove, which looked like a plastic fish to me. Out of my curiosity, I asked him if it was a real fish or just a fake one.
"本物ですよ" (Real one la), was his answer.
Apparently, they never ate raw fish or flesh, but always either boiled or roasted it. It was a smoked salmon and we were give a few small pieces of it to have a taste on it.
The short chat with him ended as it was time for the demonstration of a few ritual ceremonies of the Ainu tribe. It started with a simple ritual of making offerings to the God.
The Ainu are traditionally animists, believing that everything in nature has a kamuy (spirit or god) on the inside. There is a hierarchy of the kamuy. The most important is grandmother earth (fire), then kamuy of the mountain (animals), then kamuy of the sea (sea animals), lastly everything else.
They have no priests by profession. The village chief performs whatever religious ceremonies are necessary; ceremonies are confined to making libations of rice beer, uttering prayers, and offering willow sticks with wooden shavings attached to them.
These sticks are called Inau (singular) and nusa (plural). They are placed on an altar used to "send back" the spirits of killed animals. The Ainu people give thanks to the gods before eating and pray to the deity of fire in time of sickness.
They believe their spirits are immortal, and that their spirits will be rewarded hereafter by ascending to kamuy mosir (Land of the Gods).
After the ritual ceremonies ended, it continued with the demonstration of the musical instrument, which was similar to the one that old man showed us earlier on. The girls even joined in during the ceremony.
The next one is one of the most enjoyable of all. It shows how they put their baby to sleep. The interesting part is the melody of the song. It originated from a voice of an animal. Guess what animal is that.
This one is not bad either. They are really creative when it comes to dancing and creating sound effect during the dance. I wanted to laugh out when I saw it, but I kept it within myself as laughing at their culture will surely made them feel offended.

The last part was another traditional Ainu dance. Interested visitors can take part along with them. Of course, we did not let go the chance of joining them as well.
We were each given a headband, made of dried leaves I suppose.
This is the old guy that we had a chat with earlier on.
And here is my first time dancing the Ainu dance. I know I looked really blur in it.
As a remembrance of our visit to this village, a group photo with the chief tribe.
We later went to the souvenirs shop in the Ainu village.
There are some wooden cravings of cute baby bears too.
But the majority of the carvings there are of owls.
They believe owl brings happiness and good luck to them.
In fact, Ainu owl not just has two balls. They have MANY balls.
I mean the necklace made of wooden balls around their neck.


Anonymous said...

i thought you bye bye hokkaido already...

mg said...

sounds like a bird? lolz..

btw. the owl balls thingy pure lame =P

calvin said...

@ kok hong:
this is the remaining one being left out earlier.

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
yes, a close guess. they were trying to potray an owl actually =)

KOKahKOK said...

sugoi neh! so nice the wooden made items! .......the carvings are really unique and looks cute especially mushrooms.....looks real man! by the way, is it a place for visitors to go?

KOKahKOK said...

i am a bit outdated....reading your old posts! hehe....sry ah! just got to know your blog!

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
yes, the ainu village is open to visitors. however it's not a real settlement for the ainu tribe, but just a replica of an ainu village. since it's located inside the bear park, you don't have to pay any entrance fee again.

no problem there. just enjoy my older posts as you read on. and thanks for going through all those posts =)

taddecl said...

thank you for showing these photos/stuff it's very interesting also hope ainu will survive and their culture as well :-)

calvin said...

@ taddecl:
glad that you enjoyed this entry :)