As a national center for learning about and promoting Ainu history and culture, Upopoy (National Ainu Museum and Park) (ウポポイ(民族共生象徴空間）) enables people of all nationalities and ages to learn about the Ainu’s worldview and respect for nature. It also acts as a symbol of a society based on mutual respect and coexistence, passing on and sharing various aspects of Ainu culture, which has developed over many years and is influenced by the surrounding nature.
The Ainu are an indigenous people in the northern region of the Japanese archipelago, particularly Hokkaido. The Ainu culture is distinctive, with a language that is unrelated to Japanese, a spirituality that holds that spirits dwell in every part of the natural world, traditional dances that are performed at family events and festivals, and crafts such as wood carving and embroidery that incorporate unique patterns.
Upopoy serves as a national center for the revival and development of Ainu culture, an invaluable culture in Japan that is at risk of extinction. Upopoy was created to fulfill multiple roles and functions as a symbol of Japan’s long-term aim to build a vibrant society with a rich, diverse culture in which indigenous peoples are treated with respect and dignity, without discrimination. Experience the richness of Ainu culture while surrounded by the plentiful nature on the shores of Lake Poroto.
“Upopoy” is an Ainu word meaning “singing together in a large group”.
The main facility of Upopoy are The National Ainu Park and The National Ainu Museum. The National Ainu Park is an interactive open-air center where you can experience Ainu culture, which is intrinsically linked to the natural environment. You can watch traditional dances recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage and take part in hands-on activities including performing arts, cooking and crafts. Kotan（Traditional Ainu Village） area features a group of reconstructed cise (houses), where you can experience a traditional Ainu living space. The park is also a space to relax and enjoy the splendor of nature while experiencing Ainu culture.
The National Ainu Museum is Japan’s northernmost national museum and the first one dedicated to the history and culture of the indigenous Ainu people. The National Ainu Museum’s objectives are to build a society where Ainu pride is recognized, raise awareness of Ainu history and culture, and help to forge a future for Ainu culture.
The permanent exhibition introduces the Ainu language, history and culture from the perspective of the Ainu. The Ainu are an indigenous people to Hokkaido, Sakhalin, Tohoku and the Kuril Islands, and the exhibition spans the history of humankind in the region from 30,000 years ago to the present day. Visitors can experience the Ainu language from a range of linguistic traditions based in different areas through writing on signs and panels and the audio guides available for rental.
Ainu crafts produced by artisans from different areas, books about the Ainu, and souvenirs that can only be found at Upopoy are available from the shops on the first floor of the museum and in the Entrance Center. These items are perfect as mementos or as gifts for friends and family. Snacks and drinks are also available, along with handy items to make your time in the park even more enjoyable.
A restaurant and food court are located in the Entrance Center, while a café and pastry shop are available in the Welcome Plaza. These are great places to try Ainu cuisine made using traditional methods and ingredients. With a selection ranging from snacks to full course meals and original desserts, these outlets are perfect for short breaks and relaxing meals alike.
Photo & Text: (C) The Foundation for Ainu Culture