Mar
5
2015

Shiraoi Ainu Museum: Following the Traces of the Ainu in Hokkaido

There are a lot of reasons why you should visit Hokkaido. One of them is to learn more about the Ainu. If you’re interested in Ainu culture, you should definitely check out one of the Ainu museums in Hokkaido.
Today I want to introduce the Ainu Museum of Shiraoi which is considered one of the best museums about Ainu in Japan.

smilie Visited: February 11th 2014 smilie

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

How To Get There

Shiraoi (白老) is not too far from Sapporo in Hokkaido Prefecture (map).
In fact, it makes a nice day trip from Sapporo, but you could also spend some time at nearby Noboribetsu Onsen.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

The fastest and most convenient way to get to Shiraoi from Sapporo is by train.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

From the station it takes about 15 mins to walk to the Ainu Museum which is also known as “Porotokotan” (ポロトコタン).

The name derives from the nearby Lake Poroto. It’s actually right next to the Ainu village.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Porotokan – The Ainu Museum of Shiraoi

At the entrance a huge Ainu statue will welcome you.

For those of you who’ve never ever heard of “Ainu“, they are indigenous people of northern Japan. The remaining descendants live mainly in Hokkaido. Ainu means “human” in the native Ainu language.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

As you can see it’s an open-air museum featuring traditional thatched houses.

There’s also a bear statue as Hokkaido is considered “the land of the bear”.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Dried salmon hang outside of the houses. There were even some dogs.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

The Shiraoi Ainu Museum (アイヌ民族博物館, Ainu Minzoku Hakubutsukan) is probably one of the best places to learn about Ainu culture in Japan.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

It is a replica village but the houses are the real deal.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Inside you can either see how Ainu people used to live or take part in workshops. You can also observe Ainu people while they’re making instruments, clothes and other typical Ainu crafts.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

In each of the houses there’s something else to discover, so make sure not to miss anything.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

As it’s very cold in winter in Hokkaido, all of the houses have a fireplace.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Ainu women have tattoos on their face and hands. They’ll receive them around the age of 12-13.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

The museum also displays some old photos showing Ainu people’s everyday life.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

I don’t know if you can see it well on the photo above, but all buildings had proper signs with explanations in Japanese AND English.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Traditional Ainu Performances

In one of the houses you’ll be able to observe traditional Ainu performances.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

From 9:15 to 16:15 there’s a performance each hour which will take about 25 minutes.

One of the dances has been registered as UNESCO intangible cultural property in 2009.

This video shows one of the dance performances. Quite impressive. You shouldn’t miss it when you’re there.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

There’s also an indoor museum where you can learn a lot about Ainu culture and history.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

There are detailed explanations in English as well.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

These “mannequins” help visitors to imagine the everyday life of the Ainu people.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Traditional jewelry and craft.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

Typical Ainu fashion.

Shiraoi Ainu Museum Hokkaido

 

Even if you’re not particularly interested in Ainu, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the museum.

There’s a lot to learn and it’s a great side trip from Sapporo or Noboribetsu.

 

T O U R I S T    I N F O R M A T I O N
Opening Hours: 8:45 – 17:00
Holidays: December 29th – January 5th
Entrance fee: 800 yen (adult)
Time required: about 1 h
TEL: (+81)0144-82-3914
Website: http://www.ainu-museum.or.jp/en/
Access: Take a train from JR Sapporo Station to Shiraoi. From the station it’s a 15-mins walk to the museum.

*Please Note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

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