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Visit Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum to learn the Ainu culture deeply


What is Ainu culture? People who wonder should visit “Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum” located in Nibutani area of Biratori-Cho! You can touch the culture and history of Ainu people and learn about them deeply. The exhibitions of clothes, daily tools, and religious items are beautiful and enjoyable.

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館▲Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum has a unique exterior which catches people’s attentions. 

Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum is approximately one hour from Shin-Chitose Airport by car and two hours from central Sapporo, so the museum is accessible to stop by during sightseeing or road trip. Biratori-Cho has a lesser amount of snow comparing to other regions which make the museum easy to visit even in winter. 

In this article, I will mainly introduce Ainu culture around Saru River flows in Biratori-Cho. The museum exhibits many kinds of items such as clothes, accessories, and boats, etc., used by Ainu people. I will introduce just a few parts of the exhibitions in this article. 

沙流川▲Saru River flows in Biratori-Cho. There are many mountains and rocks around the river related to Ainu people’s myths, and parts of them are designated as Important Cultural Landscape. 


Neat! Ainu culture which lives with nature

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲“Ita” decorates the entrance of exhibitions. It’s a wooden tray with Ainu pattern sculptures. Ita was the first National Traditional Crafts designated from Hokkaido. 

As you enter the museum, the exhibitions start from people’s lives, praying and religions, the introduction of Ainu culture’s spiritual culture from myths and stories, tools for farming and hunting, and art crafts. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲Many kinds of Ainu clothes used before are displayed in the museum. 

Most of the textiles used in clothes are called “Attushi” which is unique to Ainu people. It is designated as National Traditional Crafts together with Ita. 
Attushi is a textile made from barks of Ohyounire tree. They peel barks and soak inside skin into the water to extract fiber. Then spin into yarn to create textiles. (To tell the truth, there are much more detailed instructions) This textile needs a tremendous amount of work. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲It had cool Ainu patterns in the back! 

Ainu patterns can be found from many things such as clothes and daily tools. They are basically used in embroidery for females and sculptures for males. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲Above is a small knife for females called Menoko Makiri. Menko means female in Ainu and Makiri means knives. By the way, males are Okkayo in Ainu language. 

The sheath and hilt of Menko Makiri have Ainu patterns, and something like metal is wrapped in the middle and both sides. Do you recognize what this is? Surprisingly, they are not metal; they are barks of cherry blossom trees! Ainu culture makes use of nature very well. 


Surprising! Ainu people’s unique spiritual culture

There are many daily tools and religious items displayed in the glass cases. There are countless numbers of items that make time passes so fast if you look each item closely. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲A necklace called Tamasai. They are put around neck and chest of females when they dress formally for ceremonies. 

Tamasai is a necklace today. There are also bracelets called Tekunkane and earrings called Ninkari. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲A wooden religious item called “Tukipasui (Ikupasui)” used for Ainu ceremonies. It is called chopsticks to devote alcohols in Japanese. 

These are communication tools for people and god used during ceremonies. Sort of like a mobile phone? 

There is a part to display Chise, houses of Ainu people. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲The exhibition is unique and does not display actual Chise, but there is pillar, etc., to introduce layout and spaces. There is a small model of Chise as well.

If we compare the layout to today’s house, it’s a house consisting of a big single room. There is an Irori, fireplace, in the center used for cooking and heating. There are no bells to ring around doors, so people give a cough as a sign of visiting. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲The near side is the entrance, and the back is the top seat within a room (meaning the place of honor). The further back is an exhibition which replicates an altar in a glass case. 

The top seat is put towards the sacred direction. They have a different sense of compass depending on the era and regions, but it is said to be east-south to east direction in Saru River area. 


Experience the Ainu culture

There are exhibitions like below. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲A model to experience Ainu’s gimmick bow. Ainu people used to involve in hunting animals such as bears using bows and arrows. 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲Arrows fly out when the bear appears. Can you hit the bear? 

平取町立二風谷アイヌ文化博物館の展示物▲You can also get into parts of Chipu, a boat made by wood! Would you like to row the boat?

For those who want to experience the Ainu culture more deeply, you can enjoy Ainu patterns embroidery workshop or sculpting workshop at Nibutani Kougeikan next to the museum. (Reservation needed)

The exhibitions were so much, and I cannot introduce everything in an article. People who want to learn about Ainu culture should visit this museum to learn about it deeply in a fun way. 

* Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum is planning to renovate the museum in 2018, such as putting huge screens and making multilingual descriptions. Therefore, the content may change from this article. 
  • Visit Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum to learn the Ainu culture deeply