August 10, 12 | Iwasaki
Located near the town of Shiraoi is a small lake (approx. 4km circumference) called "Poroto Lake". Built on the shores of this lake is a traditional Ainu village / museum. Ainu are the indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaido. The museum, now in its 10th year, has designed a program to celebrate indigenous peoples and the Ainu culture.
This program is called the "Night of the Porotokotan" and involves Ainu prayer songs and dance and traditional food.
After passing the admission gates, you will come across a huge statue of "Kotankorukuru". It's a good idea to remember this face as you will see a live version of this during the show.
"Proto Lake" which actually means 'Large Pond' in Ainu, is the backdrop for the performance which will be held in one of the traditional houses along its shores.
The show introduces various rituals, songs and dances to the audience. It is easy to get wrapped up in the atmosphere as special prayers are dedicated by the Ainu.
"Kamuinomi Prayer" lasts about 45 mins and watching the is extremely interesting to watch.
The "Mukkuri" or Ainu mouth harp is a three stringed instrument which is similar in style to those found in Russia and Taiwan. This instrument is very similar to others from around the world. The melodies can create feelings of breezes, flowing water and give a sense of the natural world.
Various dances are introduced during the performance. For example, "Iyohaiochin" is an impromptu dance done by a small number of male dancers. "Imushirimuse" are dances handed down from long ago that evoke bear spirits and there are also other traditional dances called "Iyomanterimuse". During the performance you will be introduced to a huge bear!
After the performance concludes, traditional food can be tasted. Here smoked salmon which was caught in the local Shiraoi falls area have been smoked and then air dried along the shores of the lake. The technique is an old method that has been faithfully reproduced and brought back to life for visitors. The whole conserving process takes about seven months!
After the show, on the shores of the lake, a bonfire was light and I was invited to join and chat with some of the performers. An amazing once in a lifetime experience and a great end to the night. Even born and bred Hokkaido people may be left with the feeling they are new to the area after the museum, show and meeting the performers. A unique night, full of new experices.
Hokkaido Ainu Museum
2-3-4 Wakakusa, Shiraoi
8:45 to 17:00
"Night of the Porotokotan"
July 27th & 28th
August - 3rd, 4th,10th, 11th, 12th - 6pm to 8:15pm
Hokkaido Likers Photo-Writer - Iwasaki
※ Photo : Tetsuya Iwasaki