National Ainu Museum and Park (Upopoy) ウポポイ（民族共生象徴空間）
The National Ainu Museum and Park promotes the life and culture of Ainu people, an ethnic group indigenous to northern Japan
The open-air facility, with interactive educational exhibits, is better known by its Ainu name, “Upopoy.” The name Upopoy means “singing in a large group,” symbolizing the facility's mission to provide a place for people to gather and learn as a community. Upopoy provides an in-depth look at a history and culture few people outside Japan have heard about.
- Traditional Ainu dance, designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO
- A visit to the Kotan—a traditional Ainu village
- Classes on Ainu cuisine, music and woodworking
How to Get There
Upopoy is accessible by rail and car. The closest station is JR Shiraoi Station—around 90 minutes from Sapporo. The facility is a ten-minute walk from the North Exit of the station. Parking is available for visitors arriving by car.
National Ainu Museum: A wealth of cultural and learning experiences
National Ainu Park: Open-air exploration
Outside the museum is the National Ainu Park. Its lush greenery and extensive walking paths encourage contemplation on the importance Ainu culture places on coexisting with nature. As you explore, stop by its many experience centers for an up-close look at Ainu crafts, cuisine, life and music.
At Upopoy's southern end is the Cultural Exchange Hall (uekari cise), where you can enjoy traditional music and dance performances, including an “Ainu ancient rite dance” that was designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This dance is accompanied by demonstrations of the mukkuri (a bamboo mouth harp) and tonkori (a five-stringed zither). These performances are also held in the open at Cikisani Square, with Lake Poroto as a stunning, natural backdrop. A short walk away from the Cultural Exchange Hall is a workshop where you can cook and sample Ainu dishes and learn how to play the mukkuri and tonkori.Further north, you can watch Ainu woodcarving, embroidery, knitting and weaving demonstrations while listening to brief educational commentaries at the park's Crafts Studio (ikar usi). You can also participate in workshops and try these crafts for yourself.
A mission of preservation
Upopoy has a vital mission—to preserve and promote Ainu culture and history. Each year, there are fewer people who can pass on Ainu history, language and traditions to the next generation. To counteract this, Upopoy was created as a space where Ainu culture can be safeguarded.
As a center for learning, Upopoy enables people from around the world to discover a vibrant, but little-known culture. It will become a base from which Ainu research is conducted and where Ainu culture is revitalized and expanded. It will also act as a symbol of the Japanese government's commitment to ensuring that Japan's Indigenous people are treated with respect and dignity.
*Photo credit: The Foundation for Ainu Culture