Ainu are indigenous people of Hokkaido, with their own culture, music, arts, food and language. The Festival of Japan gives tourists to Niseko the chance to discover a little about Ainu culture, by sampling a little of their music, a little of their artwork and a little of their food.
The afternoon started off with some very enchanting music on their own unique string instrument, the tonkori. It was accompanied by another unique Ainu instrument the Mukkuri (like a mouth harp). There was singing, and dancing, too.
The performance took a slightly more serious tone when one of the men started with his melodic story telling. Even though his stories about the wolf and the seasons were all in Japanese, the crowd could feel the message he was telling with their heart.
After the performances had finished, visitors were able to make their own Mukkuri. However, making it was the easy part – playing it is a whole other challenge!
There was also a small selection of Ainu cuisine to sample, and it was like no other food I’d experienced before. The rice had millet added to it, making it a lot more wholesome than plain white rice. They also had another dish with potato, pumpkin, corn, beans with some tiny citrus fruit that gave it a real zesty kick. And some mochi dango with a konbu dressing.
Finally, there was also a small workshop to learn about the Ainu sewing designs, which are beautiful and unique to their culture.
In a great gesture, Festival of Japan has decided to make this event FREE! So there are no excuses for missing the second and last Ainu performance tomorrow, 3PM at Annupuri Rest House (next to Annupuri Nook Restaurant).
For more information, have a look at the Festival of Japan website.