An indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu once inhabited northern Honshu, Hokkaido, southern Sakhalin, and the Kurile Islands. (“Ainu” means “human” in the Ainu language.) Most Ainu now live in Hokkaido, with a limited number in Tokyo, other parts of Japan, and abroad.

T-Kaizawa-250Like many other indigenous people throughout the world, in recent decades the Ainu have taken initiative to revive their traditional culture, including a project for Ainu artists to make replicas of Ainu artifacts owned by various museums. This activity is helpful for the Ainu people to regain what has been lost and integrate the traditional skills of ancestors into contemporary works. Moreover, these new cultural resources inspire both innovation and creativity among Ainu artists.

This exhibition features modern Ainu masterpieces and replicas of Ainu artifacts held by Hokkaido University’s Botanic Garden Museum; early 20th century Ainu handicrafts from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; historic and contemporary photographs of Ainu craftsmen; and video clips showing historical and social context.


Included in the Gallery are ceremonial objects—quiver, libation sticks, ritual wood shaving sticks, necklace and sword belt; textiles— cotton and wood bark fiber embroidered robes, bags and headbands; and everyday objects—a deer call, harpoon, fish spear, knives, trays and bowl. This exhibition represents the Hokkaido University Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies’ first exhibition initiative beyond the shores of Japan.

JF-HA-logos-250bGuest-curated by Koji Yamasaki of the Hokkaido University Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies, the exhibition was made possible by generous support from The Japan Foundation and Hawaiian Airlines. Additional support provided by the Hawaii Pacific Rim Society, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Honolulu Festival, The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture, The Ainu Association of Hokkaido, and contributors to the EWC Foundation, including members of the EWC Arts ‘Ohana.

Click here to download a pdf handout with more detailed information about the exhibition and Ainu culture.

Free group tours are available to school and community groups. Performance demonstrations by top artists from the Asia Pacific are offered as well. For details contact Eric Chang; (808)-944-7584.