Ainu ritual held at Upopoy in Hokkaido

NHK -- Oct 15
The National Ainu Museum and Park in Shiraoi Town in Hokkaido has observed a traditional ceremony to pay tribute to the ancestors of the indigenous Ainu people.

The area, called Upopoy, is designed to serve as a base for promoting the Ainu culture. It is a symbolic space for ethnic coexistence.

Upopoy means "singing in a large group" in the Ainu language.

About 50 people attended the ceremony held on Wednesday at a memorial site, which keeps the remains of Ainu people. The attendees included representatives from the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and Hokkaido University.

The head of the association, Okawa Masaru, said that he wants to offer prayers to the souls of the ancestors laid at the facility. He added that he wants to preserve and pass the facility on to future generations.

During the ceremony, a ritual called Ichalpa was observed, with Ainu people, clad in traditional costumes, making offerings to honor their ancestors.

Between the 19th and the 20th centuries, the remains of more than 1,500 Ainu people were recovered from graves across Hokkaido for research purposes. They had been kept at universities throughout Japan. Last year, most of the remains were brought to Upopoy where they can be properly taken care of and honored with a memorial service.

Hokkaido University Vice President Yamamoto Fumihiko said he will think of what he can do to help create a society where Ainu people can live with pride for their ethnicity and where they can be respected.