Ainu exhibition in London

A 5-month exhibition, ‘AINU STORIES – CONTEMPORARY LIVES BY THE SARU RIVER,’ is currently happening at Japan House London. It started November 16, 2023 and will end April 21, 2024. In conjunction with the exhibit, Japan House London has held in-person Ainu-related events: language workshops, dance performances, craft demonstrations, food tastings. These were led by people from the Ainu community of Biratori where I filmed my documentary ‘Ainu-Indigenous People of Japan’. They held two screenings in January, and both screenings were sold out!! I couldn’t attend the screening but the staff emailed me about the feedback, which was 100% ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good.’ I was really happy to hear that. 🙂 Here are some of the comments.

-The film was simply excellent!  Very informative.

-It deepened my understanding of the Ainu in an enjoyable way.

-We have been to Hokkaido and we enjoyed watching the documentary, reminiscing about our time in Japan, and learning about the Ainu people.

-I’ve not heard much about the Ainu before except for derogatory comments. This showcased efforts to prevent loss of their culture.

In January, my Ainu friend told me that a fourth group from Biratori was going to London to perform an Ainu dance and cook Ainu dishes, so I decided to go to see them at the end of February.

First of all, I was really happy to be reunited with my friends from Biratori. As they had some free time before their performance in the evening, we went sightseeing, had lunch, and caught up. One of the most important things I learned from my friends was that many young people have started living in Biratori and working to preserve and promote Ainu culture.

The exhibition and events were just fabulous!!! All of the events were completely sold out. I was especially impressed by the exhibition. Their main emphasis is on modern Ainu culture, which is rare. Japan House London shot new video material in Biratori, and interviewed many people ranging in age from 20s to 80s about various topics, from crafts to language to hunting to cuisine.

Since my film’s focus is on elders, some people may think that when the time comes and these elders pass away, Ainu culture will disappear. However, these events and the exhibition are proof that Ainu culture is alive and well because young people are working with these elders and adding their own modern twists; for instance, using Ainu patterns on cellphone cases and water bottles.

During the final period of the exhibition, another group from Biratori is going to be in London on March 21 to hold a workshop about wood carving. In April, they will show two short films about canoe making and traditional Ainu sake featuring Shigeru Kayano, the first Ainu  member of the Japanese Parliament. The date just has announced! It will be April 16, 6pm-7:15pm. Please see here for more details.

It was thrilling to see my friends from Biratori in the spotlight and being applauded. I want this kind of event to happen all over the world, including Japan.

This exhibition will end on April 21st. But… I understand that everyone cannot make it to Lonodon. HERE IS GOOD NEWS!!! You can see the virtual exhibition here.