Asahikawa Ainu 1 Day
Guided day tour from Asahikawa
Hiking & Culture Tour
Enter the world of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. An active one day introduction to their culture and history, with a day hike to a spiritual peak, Mt Arashiyama.
Tour Duration1 Day
Minimum Travellers4 People
Included Meals1 Lunch
- Visit a historical Ainu museum established in 1916 and run today by local descendants of the founder.
- Experience Ainu culture through lunch and a heart-to-heart talk with our hosts.
- Learn about how Ainu worshipped nature on a guided hiking to Mt Arashiyama.
About the Ainu
Ainu (or Aynu) are the indigenous people of Hokkaido, who developed their own distinctive culture and language in Hokkaido long before the arrival of Japanese people to the island. Ainu people were hunter-gatherers who survived mainly by fishing and hunting up until the mid-19th century, when the island was officially named Hokkaido and the Japanese Government started administering it as part of Japan’s territory. Under the Hokkaido Development Commission, the island became part of Japan and unfortunately the Ainu people were forced to give up practicing their customs and culture; which included unique tattoos and speaking their own language.
In 2018, however, the “Kamikawa Ainu” were recognised with Japan Heritage status, which identified more than 20 sites relating to the Ainu and their legends in the Kamikawa Region. On this tour, we will visit two of these sites of cultural importance, Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum and Mt Arashiyama. The museum is the only private Ainu museum in Japan today, and is named after a tribal chief of the Kamikawa Ainu, who have lived in the area for generations. Today the museum is run by his son and daughter in law, who will be our hosts and will share their stories and a special lunch with us. In the afternoon we will hike to Mt Arashiyama together with our Ainu hosts.
Join us on this unique experience to discover the past and present of Ainu indigenous life and culture.
Who is this tour for?
- Active travellers who enjoy walking for 3 to 5 hours a day.
- Curious travellers who enjoy a mixture of activities & sightseeing and learning about the regions they visit.
- Adventurous travellers who enjoy rural hospitality staying in Japanese style accommodations with natural hot springs on site.
When is the best time to visit Asahikawa?
We run this tour during the snow free months between May and October and anytime during this period is the perfect time to go! Spring arrives in Asahikawa in early May and the spring flowers start waking after sleeping under snow for a good five months. Mt Arashiyama and its nature reserve is a popular spot to see the spring flowers, including dogtooth violets and Corydalis, in bloom. June enjoys pleasant weather for hiking and enjoying the fresh greenery. In July and August, as the temperatures rise, we pull out our short sleeves to make the most of the summer days! The Daisetsuzan mountain range, which we can observe from the top of Mt Arashiyama, becomes snow-capped again in late September. The foliage starts turning vivid colours at this point, and is at its most brilliant during October.
Guided Ainu Culture Tour & Hiking to Mt Arashiyama
Your guide will greet you at around 9:30 am in Central Asahikawa and take you for a short drive to the Ainu museum run by the Kawamura family in Asahikawa. Established in 1916, Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum is the oldest and the only private Ainu museum in the country. Our host will guide us through the museum as well as the ”cise”, a traditional Ainu house preserved on site. We will learn about the rituals, the family, and the Ainu lifestyle before enjoying lunch prepared using traditional ingredients and methods.
In the afternoon, we will transfer by van briefly to the bottom of Mt Arashiyama, a sacred site to Ainu, where they hold an annual ritual called ”kamuy-nomi” each spring. Mt Arashiyama is a nature reserve, where many species of native plants and trees can be found. We will walk on a well-marked trail escorted by our Ainu host, who will share stories of how they used plants for eating, making clothes & tools. At the summit (253m/830ft) we will enjoy a panoramic view of Asahikawa City and the Daisetsuzan mountains, before heading back to Asahikawa. We will say our farewells in Central Asahikawa at around 4 pm.
– 2km / 1.2 miles
– 6 to 7 hours
– 120m / 395ft
What to bring on your Asahikawa Ainu 1 Day Hiking & Culture Tour
- Waterproof jacket and pants
- Adequate footwear for hiking
- Fleece jacket (even in the summer the temperatures can drop below 15˚C/60˚F)
- Gloves, beanie, and other items to keep you warm
- Sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses
- Water bottle or hydration system of more than 1L
- Personal medications
- Backpack with enough capacity to carry all of the above
- Travel insurance
- Walking poles
- Drink and snacks
- First aid kit
- Safety equipment and maps
As a heads-up, there will be a few times during the tour when you have to take your shoes off before entering the Ainu museum and the Ainu house. You may not be accustomed to this, but it is a very common practice in Japanese culture. (Your best hole-less socks will come in handy for this!)