"Shiraoi Ainu Village" Top 5 Page for this destination Hokkaido Travelogue by kielorla

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Shiraoi Poroto Kotan

Shiraoi Poroto Kotan is located next to Lake Poroto to the north of JR Shiraoi Station. "Poroto Kotan" means "a village by a large lake" in the Ainu language. A village in which the Ainu formerly lived beside the lake was restored in 1965 to popularize and open up Ainu culture to the general public. In the park are the Ainu Museum and four "cise" (Ainu houses with thatched roofs), depicting how the village appeared at that time. Explanations of Ainu life, manners, customs and events are provided in these cise. Moreover, adjacent to the park is "Yasoen," a wild herb park where approximately 50 types of mountain/wild herbs representative of those in Hokkaido that the Ainu traditionally used for food and medicine are planted and grown.


Kotan House are made of cogon grasses, bamboo grass, barks, etc.The length lay east to west or parallel to a river. A house was about seven meters by five with an entrance at the west end that also served as a storeroom. The house had three windows, including the "rorun-puyar," a window located on the side facing the entrance (at the east side) , through which gods entered and left and ceremonial tools were taken in and out. The Ainu have regarded this window as sacred and have been told never to look in through it.

Inside the Kotan house

A house had a fireplace near the entrance. The husband and wife sat on the fireplace's left side (called "shiso") . Children and guests sat facing them on the fireplace's right side (called "harkiso"). The house had a platform for valuables called "iyoykir" behind the shiso. The Ainu placed "shintoko"(hokai) and "ikayop" (quivers) there.

Smoked Salmon

The Ainu stored in storehouses called "pu" most of the foods obtained by fishing, hunting, gathering wild vegetables, agriculture and other activities so that they could survive the winter or famines.

Salmon are hanged on the roof top to dry and smoked.

Ainu girls - Coming of Age

Women were also considered adults at the age of 15-16. They wore underclothes called "mour" and had their hair dressed properly and wound waistcloths called "raunkut," "ponkut," etc. around their bodies. When women reached age 12-13, the lips, hands and arms were tattooed. When they reached age 15-16, their tattoos were completed. Thus were they qualified for marriage. If their tattoos are not completed or they dont have any tattoos on them, they are not qualified for marriage.

Mukkuri - Ainu Musical Instrument

Mukkuri is a a musical instrument representative of the Ainu. It is made of wood and make a sound like whistling. It is very difficult to play this instrument and i heard that it need a lot of years of practising before you can master the art of playing this instrument.

Sea Fishing

In 3 to 4 m long boats, the Ainu vigorously fished and hunted swordfish, tuna, sunfish and marine mammals like fur seals, other seals, dolphins and whales. Particularly in the Funka Bay, fur seal hunting and whale fishing were popular.

Sacred Dances

It was believed that every day of life was made possible, and that peaceful harmonious life was ensured only by the gods' protection and supply to man of food for subsistence. Therefore, the Ainu dedicated various dances to the gods by holding various festivals that would enable families and "kotan " (villages) to live peacefully. Furthermore, dances were meant for people to share the feelings of joy and sorrow with the gods, and therefore played an important role in daily life.

  • Page Updated Aug 5, 2004
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