Travel to Hokkaido
Woodcarving techniques, Indigenous Ainu People of Kamikawa
After large numbers of mainland Japanese people moved to Hokkaido, the Ainu whose economy had previously been based on barter found that they now had to use money. They started selling wood carvings, often of the brown bears that they worshipped as deities. These have long been a popular Hokkaido souvenir. Ainu woodcarving has been passed down to modern times and now includes a range of animals and motifs.
Taisetsuzan and Sounkyo Gorge, Indigenous Ainu People of Kamikawa
Taisetsuzan Volcanic Group, which extends across the center of Hokkaido, is a varied and wild mountain environment with lakes, marshes, and stunning views. Thanks to its altitude and high latitude, it boasts a wealth of alpine flora. Sounkyo Gorge is located in the north part of Taisetsuzan and is cloaked in virgin forest. It was here, in the Ishikari River basin, that the Kamikawa Ainu built their northernmost settlements the name Sounkyo comes from an Ainu word that means “river of many waterfalls.” In autumn the sheer walls of this spectacular gorge burst into vibrant color.
Kamuynomi and traditional dance, Indigenous Ainu People of Kamikawa
There are several opportunities to see traditional Ainu rituals in Asahikawa and Kamikawa each year. The Kamuynomi takes place every September and features prayers for safe travel and various other forms of everyday well-being. Participants in this ritual sit opposite each other across a sacred fire and offer prayers to the deities, including those of fire, mountain, and river. At the end, sacred wood-shaving sticks called inau are thrown into the Ishikari River. Traditional dances are performed as part of the rituals, mostly by women.
From its "million-dollar" night views to its gorgeously kept 19th-century Western-style buildings, the port city of Hakodate has a lot to offer. There is one spot that visitors will not want to miss: a curious star-shaped structure carpeted with cherry trees that bloom magnificently in spring. It is hard to tell from ground level, but this structure was actually Japan's first Western-style fortification, completed in 1864.