Ainu Indigenous Cultural Tourism

, by Ayaka

In this article, we will discuss where the Ainu originate from, how many Ainu still reside in Hokkaido and discuss how the Ainu perceive the past, present and future of Ainu indigenous cultural tourism.

Ainu wood carving statue displayed at the museum (Photo courtesy of Aaron Jamieson Photography)

In this article, we would like to share a thought-provoking discussion we had with Shinrit Eoripak Aynu (Kenichi) and Hisae Kawamura about Ainu indigenous cultural tourism.

Hokkaido is home to the Ainu or Aynu, Indigenous people of Japan. On our tours, we often talk about them and where possible we try to fit in a visit to an Ainu museum in our itineraries. The Ainu are an integral part of what shapes Hokkaido, and cannot be left out of discussions about Hokkaido’s history and culture. 

As we take guests to these places of cultural and historical significance to the Ainu, we’ve also come to increasingly question ourselves: “How do the Ainu perceive tourism and tourists?” “Is conventional Ainu tourism ethical?” To obtain answers to these questions, we visited and interviewed the Directors of Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum in Asahikawa.

Ainu Indigenous Museum in Asahikawa
Shinrit Eoripak Aynu & Hisae Kawamura, the Directors of Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum

First of all, who are the Ainu? Where do they come from?

Directors of Kawamura Kaneto Aynu Museum discussing about Indigenous tourism

How many Ainu are still around?

*For the first time in the Japan history of law, the Ainu were acknowledged as the indigenous people

Aynu indigenous cultural experiential tourism
Finding edible wild leeks in their garden

How did Ainu indigenous cultural tourism begin in Hokkaido?

Inside the Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum in Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Inside the Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum in Asahikawa

How do you feel about Ainu tourism going forward?

Traditional Ainu food, dried Salmon, in the Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum in Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Smoked salmon – how the Ainu preserve food for the winter months

If you have some time during your visit to Hokkaido, we highly recommend a visit to the Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum. They are welcoming and open-heartedly share their knowledge and thoughts about Ainu history, culture and where they stand today. Pop in to their museum (it’s also where they live) and say “irankarapte“, hi in the Ainu language!

Singing an Ainu song in the rounds
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  • Open Hours – Everyday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (From July to August  from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm)

  • Entry Fee – ¥500