Every year, on the 23rd of September, the Ainu celebrate Shakushain Festival. This festival held in Mauta Park in the small town of Shinhidaka on Hokkaido's southern coast. This festival celebrate the great Ainu leader 'Shakushain' who rebelled against Japanese rule.
A statue of Shakushain in park Mauta.
The settlement of Japanese into 'Ezo' (present day Hokkaido) began in the 11th century. This led to trade between Ainu and the Japanese who would later rise to become the Matsumae clan. The Matsumae were subsequently placed in charge of Hokkaido by the Japanese Shogunate. (Later to be removed and then reinstated.)
As the Matsumae clans power increased they established various ways to tax the trading in Hokkaido and more and more began to plunder it's resources. Various Ainu clans were also subjugated and forced to work for the Matusmae clan. The anger caused by this and the increased pressure on local resources eventually led the (until then) relatively peaceful Ainu clans to begin skirmishes and then open conflicts with one another.
Emerging in the middle of this was a charismatic leader called 'Shakushain'. He managed to help unite the bickering Ainu clans and created a rebellion against the oppressive Matsumae clan. This rebellion turned to open warfare in 1669 to (approx.) 1672.
City view from the trail above Shizunai.
After a period of warfare the Matsumae clan invited Shakushain to a peace banquet e at the clans meeting lodge. However peace was actually the last thing on the Matsumae clans mind and Shakushain was poisoned at the banquet which led to the fracturing of the Ainu alliances. This (and possibly better weaponry, including firearms) allowed the Matusmae clan's Samurai to brutally crush the rest of the rebellion and secure Hokkaido.
Although ultimately defeated, the Ainu to this day, still celebrate this brave sole who stood up to oppression and tried to save their culture and political freedom.
Although defeated, Shakushain who fought to protect the ethnic pride and self-esteem. In remembrance of the brave, hold a memorial service for all the souls of the road Ainu gather at the site of the fort is Shizunai, I am a Shakushain festival.
Shakushain memorial located near the statue of Shakushain. Free admission.
* Article based on information from the book "北の彩時記―アイヌの世界へ"
(Author Mitsunori Kera, Published by Commons).
* HP - Sayaka Kaji
* More about Hokkaido history ... (Japanese)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Manamin)
* 1 - A word from the translator - please note that all Ainu words used in this article have first been translated to Japanese and then from Japanese to English and should be considered an approximation only.