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Teachings and Romanticism of Ancestors
Still Alive in Today’s Hokkaido

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Hokkaido welcomes about 7.85 million domestic and international visitors a year (fiscal 2015 figure). In the past the island was called Ezochi, and its history was woven by interaction between the Ainu ethnic group on Hokkaido, other ethnic groups in surrounding areas, such as Sakhalin and Kamchatka, and the non-Ainu Japanese (wajin) who moved northward. In the Meiji period (1868–1912), in view of the international situation, the Meiji government of the time established the Hokkaido Development Commission (Kaitakushi) in 1869 to take charge of development and renamed the island as Hokkaido. The following articles introduce the beginnings of today’s bustling tourist destination of Hokkaido, including Ainu culture and the history of Hokkaido Shrine, which was built to enshrine protective deities watching over the island’s opening and development.。


Hokkaido’s Ainu Culture

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Ms. Tomie Noto

Soulful Ainu clothing

“Look at this Ainu costume!” said Ms. Tomie Noto, an Ainu living in Shiraoi-cho, Hokkaido, pointing to the clothing she was wearing. “Isn’t it wonderful?” In the distant past the main costumes of the Ainu people consisting of tree-bark clothing, woven from the inner bark of Japanese linden and other trees; fish-skin clothing, made by piecing together the skins of salmon, trout, and other fish; and animal-hide clothing, made from the fur of seals, bears, and other animals. In the Edo period (1603–1868) there was an increase in more colorful clothing made from cotton and silk fabric obtained through commerce with non-Ainu Japanese and other ethnic groups. Today these costumes are worn for ceremonies and dancing performed at festivals. The costumes are decorated with patterns characteristic of the region or family lineage of the wearer. Apparently these patterns also contain a wish to ward off evil spirits.

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