Ainu Food

. Ezo, Emishi 蝦夷 エゾ Ainu Culture アイヌの文化 .

Ainu Food アイヌ料理 - Hokkaido


The origins of the Ainu have not been fully determined. They have often been considered Jōmon-jin, natives to Japan from the Jōmon period. "The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came" is told in one of their Yukar Upopo (Ainu legends).

Ainu culture dates from around 1200 CE and recent research suggests that it originated in a merger of the Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures. Their economy was based on farming as well as hunting, fishing and gathering.

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Full-blooded Ainu are mostly fair-skinned, with the men generally having dense hair development. Many early investigators proposed a Caucasian ancestry although recent DNA tests have found no traces of Caucasian ancestry.


Their traditional cuisine consists of the flesh of bear, fox, wolf, badger, ox or horse, as well as fish, fowl, millet, vegetables, herbs, and roots.
The Ainu searched for food amongst nature, and were always careful to 'preserve' the source of the food, never gathering it to extinction. Seasonal plants and animals were steamed, boiled, or roasted. They never eat raw food.

Their traditional habitations were reed-thatched huts, the largest 20 ft. (6 m) square, without partitions and having a fireplace in the center. There was no chimney, only a hole at the angle of the roof; there was one window on the eastern side and there were two doors. The house of the village head was used as a public meeting place when one was needed. Instead of using furniture, they sat on the floor, which was covered with two layers of mats, one of rush, the other of flag; and for beds they spread planks, hanging mats around them on poles, and employing skins for coverlets.

The men used chopsticks when eating; the women had wooden spoons. Ainu cuisine is not commonly eaten outside Ainu communities; there are only a few Ainu-run restaurants in Japan, all located in Tokyo or Hokkaidō, serving primarily Japanese fare.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Individual plate with Ainu pattern, Asahigawa
© PHOTO : www.tomiya-s.com


Archaeological finds

The archeological grain from Sakushukotoni-gawa ("gawa" means river), as the campus site is known, dated to A.D. 700 to 900. The site is contemporaneous with the medieval Japanese to the south, who had been forging a nation-state for several centuries. The immediate predecessors of the Ainu, who are the native people of northeastern Japan, occupied the site. Many archeologists consider the Ainu to be the last living descendants of the Jomon people, who lived throughout Japan from as early as 13,000 years ago.

The Jomon are known for their elaborate earthenware, which they often decorated with cord (rope) impressions, and for their stone tools, pit-house villages, and, by 1500 B.C., elaborate cemeteries marked by stone circles or high earth embankments. To a large degree, the Jomon relied on hunting, fishing, and collecting plants and shellfish for their subsistence.

Archeologists and historians have long described the Ainu, like the Jomon, as hunter-fisher-collectors and, because the two peoples lived in the same region, they had few qualms about assuming the Ainu were living representatives of Jomon culture. However, the Ainu, at least in the last few centuries according to historic records, lived in above-ground, rectangular dwellings and used metal tools as well as wooden and ceramic bowls, pots, and dishes.
These characteristics contrast with those of the Jomon, but in the minds of historians and archeologists it was the lack of agriculture in both cultures that forged the link between the Ainu and Jomon cultures.

Read the full article here:
source :  Gary Crawford

The Ainu believe that the world rests on the back of a giant trout, that otters caused human beings to be flawed, and that seeing an owl fly across the face of the moon at night is cause for great trepidation.
Find out the basis for such beliefs, along with what Hokkaido's Ainu have traditionally thought about the crane, the bear, the flying squirrel, and a host of other creatures.
Ainu Legends about Animals / Gary Crawford



Animal meat, such as of bear and deer, was boiled in pots, dried in the sun, further dried and smoked on racks above a fireplace indoors. Smoked meat was wrapped with birch bark in bundles and put in storehouses.
Fish, such as salmon and trout, were unheaded, halved lengthwise along the backbone, and smoked as was the animal meat and put in storehouses. Salmon which had spawned and became unfatty were used for smoking. As trout were very fatty and apt to spoil, they were grilled and dried.
Wild plants and agricultural products were dried in the sun or boiled and dried to be put in storehouses. Ubayuri (a lily) bulbs pounded in a mortar were soaked in w ater to obtain starch. This starch was dried for storage. Sometimes it was dried outdoors in pairs of disc-like dumplings, one made from starch and the other from its residues, then hung indoors for storage.


Animal meat was cooked in pots to make soup. The Ainu rarely ate raw meat. However, they ate sliced raw internal organs of bear and deer. The Ainu ate grilled fish on skewers. Dried fish was cooked to make soup. They also ate frozen salmon in winter.

As for wild plants, the Ainu ate fruits raw. They ate meat or fish soups with stalks, Ieaves, roots or greens. They also ate porridge and rice mixed with these wild plants.

The Ainu basically ate breakfast and dinner. Sometimes they ate lunch.
The staple of the Ainu diet was a soup called "0haw" or "rur." A side dish was "sayo" (porridge) . Ohaw was divided into various shapes depending on ingredients : "kam ohaw"(meat soup ), "pukusa ohaw" (garlic soup) , and "pukusakina ohaw " (anemone soup) .

Sayo was a gruel of grain simmered in pots. Sayo was also divided into various shapes depending on ingredients : "piyapa sayo " (barnyard grass soup) and "munchiro sayo" (millet soup) . Besides the aforementioned foods, the Ainu diet included boiled wild plants and vegetables called "ratashkep" and ceremonial dishes of cooked grain.

These meals were seasoned with animal or fish fat, salt and other spices. However, such spices as soybean paste and soy sauce were not used.

The Ainu Museum, popularly known as "Porotokotan" was established in 1976 as the Shiraoi Foundation for the Preservation of Ainu Culture.

Ainu Museum Wakakusa

Ainu museum in Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Kinenkan 川村カ子ト(かねと)アイヌ記念館
Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum
One of the most impressive aspects of the museum is the wall lined with photographs that visually document the Ainu in their realm as an unassimilated people in their beautiful traditional garments.

. . . CLICK here for Museum Photos !

. . . CLICK here for English Photos and Information !


- quote
Ainu Religion
Ainu religion is pantheistic, believing in many gods. Traditional belief held that the god of mountains dwelled in the mountains, and the god of water dwelled in the river. The Ainu hunted, fished, and gathered in modest quantities in order not to disturb these gods. Animals were visitors from the other world temporarily assuming animal shapes. The bear, striped owl, and killer whale received the greatest respect as divine incarnations.

The most important god in the home was the female god of fire. Every house had a firepit where cooking, eating, and rituals took place. The main offerings made to this and to other gods were wine and inau, a whittled twig or pole, usually of willow, with shavings still attached and decoratively curled. A fence-like row of taller inau stood outside between the main house and the raised storehouse. Outdoor rituals were observed before this sacred altar area.

Ainu Food
Traditional staple foods of the Ainu were salmon and deer meat, in addition to millet raised at home and herbs and roots gathered in the woods. Millet was largely replaced by rice earlier in this century. Fresh salmon was cut up and boiled in soup. A rice porridge called ciporosayo was prepared by adding salmon roe (eggs) to boiled grains.

As in other cold regions, Ainu children used to enjoy making maple ice candy. On a late March or early April evening when a cold night was expected, they made cuts in the bark of a large sugar maple and placed containers of hollow sorrel stalks at the roots of the tree to collect dripping syrup. In the morning, they found the sorrel cylinders heaping with frozen white syrup.
source :  www.everyculture.com

Emishi 蝦夷

This site is dedicated to bringing together research from both sides of the Pacific about the Emishi people.
- source : emishi-ezo.net


- quote - Japan Times 2014
. . . early May in Hokkaido, and it is high season to pick sansai, or edible wild mountain plants. Among them, the Alpine leek — kitopiro in Japanese and pukusa in the native Ainu language — is the most attractive.

With its intense garlic-like flavor, the plant is an important ingredient in Ainu cuisine. Traditionally, women gathered the wild plants while the men were out fishing and hunting.

.. Tokyo’s Okubo district, served at HaruKor — probably the only restaurant in Tokyo that specializes in Ainu cuisine.
In the Ainu language, the word haru means “food,” while kor means “to have,” and so the restaurant’s name expresses a wish for plentiful food.

HaruKor aims to re-create a cozy cise (traditional Ainu thatched house), decorated with wooden carvings, weaving and embroidery.
HaruKor does not only offer dining: It is also a place to gather, and sometimes to hold charanke, a kind of discussion or negotiation, among sympathetic friends. It is a beacon for Tokyoites of Ainu descent, and for those who wish to learn more about Ainu culture.

To mark the restaurant’s third anniversary last month, a Kamuy-nomi ritual to pray to the kamuy (gods or divine spirits) was held there. Kamuy-nomi is practiced by the Ainu on occasions such as weddings, funerals and blessing new homes. The ritual at HaruKor was an opportunity to give thanks for the previous year, and to pray for prosperity and safety in the future. Dressed in robes bearing traditional Ainu designs and brandishing inau (ritual sticks topped with tufted wood shavings), the participants prayed to each of the gods. They then spilled sake using ikupasuy (ceremonial sticks used for making offerings) in honor of the god of fire.

... The Ainu rarely ate raw fish or meat such as sashimi, so dishes are cooked in pots, boiled or grilled. The meals are seasoned sparingly with animal or fish fat, salt and spices, and without soy sauce or soybean paste.
The meals may not be elaborate, but that is no cause for disappointment. Ainu cooking methods bring out the flavor of the ingredients, as if in respect of nature.
.. boiled kitopiro, an Ainu favorite. Despite having a little bite, this plant has recently become popular among health-conscious people for its purported medicinal effects, such as relief from fatigue and suppression of cholesterol.

The Ainu staple ohaw is a kind of hot-pot or soup with meat or fish and plenty of wild plants and vegetables, similar to a Japanese nabe. Cep ohaw is made with salmon, kam ohaw with meat and pukusa ohaw with kitopiro.

.. kampoca rataskep with Japanese pumpkin. Rataskep means “mixed and braised,” and the dish is made by mashing together boiled vegetables, beans and wild plants. This popular dish — eaten at Ainu ceremonies such as the Iomante bear sacrifice and the Icarpa commemoration of ancestors — combines the delightfully creamy texture of sweet mashed pumpkin with crisp roasted pine nuts and the mildly bitter taste of shikerebe, small black berries of the Amur cork tree. This is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat gastroenteritis, abdominal pain and various skin diseases, and the Ainu have also used shikerebe as a folk remedy for asthma and stomach ache.

Imo-sito (baked potato dumplings) . . .
- source : Japan Times, 2014


Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵, Chiri Yukie)
June 8, 1903 - September 18, 1922) a transcriber and translator of Yukar (Ainu epic tales), was born into an Ainu family in Noboribetsu, a town in Hokkaidō, the northernmost prefecture of Japan, at a time in Japan's history when increasing immigration of Japanese (Wajin, as distinguished from the Ainu) to Hokkaidō was resulting in the Ainu being relocated into separate communities and, in many cases, their means of livelihood being taken from them.

Chiri was in her mid-teens when she first met the famous Japanese linguist and Ainu language scholar Kyōsuke Kindaichi during the nation's Taishō period. He was traveling around Hokkaidō in search of Ainu transmitters of oral literature and had come to seek out Matsu and Monashinouku. Kindaichi immediately recognized the girl's potential. When Kindaichi explained to Chiri the value of preserving the Ainu tales (yukar), a welcome but completely unfamiliar pride in her Ainu roots began to awaken in her, and she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to studying the yukar of her ancestors.

Chiri's anthology was published the following year under the title

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Ainu Shinyōshū, Ainu Shinyoshu, Ainu Shinyooshuu
(A collection of the Ainu epics of the gods).

She died shortly after completing the work.

Her younger brother Chiri Mashiho later pursued his education under Kindaichi's sponsorship and became a respected scholar of Ainu studies. Her aunt Matsu also continued the work of transcribing and translating yukar.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Japan has for the first time recognised the Ainu as an Indigenous people, pledging to support the traditionally nature-worshipping community that has endured centuries of discrimination

It is a landmark move for Japan, which has prided itself on being ethnically homogeneous but where the Ainu have sharply lower incomes and educational levels.

Parliament last week unanimously approved a resolution recognising the Ainu and calling for "immediate" support to the community. The move is primarily symbolic, although it will likely open the way for economic aid.

The resolution comes ahead of next month´s summit of the Group of Eight rich nations on the northern island of Hokkaido, home to most of Japan´s estimated 70,000 Ainu.

The resolution submitted jointly by ruling and opposition lawmakers stipulates for the first time that the Ainu "are an Indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government would respect the parliamentary resolution, but stopped short of declaring concrete support for the Ainu.
Fairer-skinned and more hirsute than most Japanese, the Ainu traditionally observed an animist faith with a belief that God exists in every creation, respecting trees, hills, lakes, rivers and animals - particularly bears.
The act was repealed only in 1997 and replaced by legislation calling for "respect for the dignity of Ainu people".

source :  www.galdu.org, 17.06.2008


Some Ainu Food Words

aha, Aha beans, Amphicarpa bracteata Edgeworthii var. japonica

atat, salmon, Oncorhynchus L

chep, chi-e-p チェプ fish, "things we eat"

chiporo チポロ salmon roe, ikura

chiporo imo チポロ芋, mashed potatoes with salmon roe
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

chiporo ratashikepu チポロラタシケプ

chise チセ house, restaurant

cimakina, udo spikenard, Aralia cordata

cihue, angelica, Angelica edulis

korkoni, butterbur, Petasites japonicus

kitobiro, kitopiro, wild onion/garlic キトピロ, Ainu negi アイヌネギ, Ezonegi エゾネギ

munciro, Panicum italicum, Italian millet

ohawa オハウ soup with salmon, carrot, onion and other vegetables

pene emo, Solanum tuberosum, frozen potatoes

pipa, pearl mussels, Margaritifera margaritifera

piyapa, barnyard millet, Echinochloa crus-galli

pukusa, wild onion, Allium victorialis var. platyphyllum, also : kitobiro キトビロ
gyooja ninniku

pukusakina, anemone, Anemone flaccida

ratooshipe ラトゥシペ salmon with wild garlic
. . . CLICK here for Photos !
Lachs mit langer Siegwurz

ruibe, ruipe ルイベ "melting food"
frozen bites thawing in your mouth

often salmon sashimi, a typical AINU dish
originally pronounces RUIPE, meaning "melted fish"
RU = thawing, IPE = fish, also food in general
When the frozen food is put into your mouth, it starts thawing, so you can enjoy the juices.

shipe, shi-ipe シペ "real fish"
... chep チェプ fish
... kamuy chep カムイチェプ "god fish"
usually referring also to the salmon

sikerpe, Armur cork fruit, Phellodendron amurense

sipuskep, Panicum miliaceum, egg millet

sorma, dried Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris

turep, Perennial lily, Lilium cordatum var. glehnii
on turep, fermented turep

tsubugai shellfish. Whelk. Neptunea, Buccinum, Babylonia japonica

yuk, Hokkaido deer, Cervus nippon

MORE dishes

shikaniku-iri karee raisu シカ肉入りカレーライス
curry rice with deer meat, Ezo-deer meat curry

Served in a bamboo container.
"ascetics garlic" (gyooja ninniku), butterbur sprouts, chicken meat in miso soup, rice with millet and azuki beans.
source :  faro.i-ra.jp


Preparing salted salmon 鮭の山漬け shake no yamazuke
The intestines are taken out and the fish placed in a large box of raw salt. It is then rubbed from tail toward heat with the salt to bring it under the scales. It is also pressed into the gills. Then the inside is filled with handfuls of salt too.
The fish are placed in a container and let to sit for about one month,with a heavy weight on top. They are rather flat when taken out of the woodne tubs.
Now they are hung into the sea wind, with the opened stomach toward the breeze, for another few days to absorb more sea salt and dry properly.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Ainu Daruma ... アイヌだるま Hokkaido


Salmon (sake 鮭 Oncorhynchus keta) and trout (masu 鱒 Salmo milktschitsch) are the representative fish of Hokkaido.
pronounced shake when used as food on the table
Its roe and eggs, ikura, are quite a delicacy too.
kigo for all autumn

Ainu patterns with the salmon
Ainul legends with salmon

WASHOKU : Salmon

The Ainu, the aboriginal people of Hokkaido, originally cultivated small plots of land but they survived chiefly on game. The Ainu men hunted deer, bear and other wild animals, and fished for trout, salmon and other fresh-water fish; the women gathered edible wild plants such as roots, nuts and berries.

An essential item in their diet was salmon, that intrepid fish that migrates from September to January from the sea to rivers, fighting its way upstream to spawn in such numbers that the rivers of Hokkaido once seethed with them.
Salmon are called "autumn fish" in the Ainu language, or sometimes "fish from the gods."
The Ainu caught salmon in huge quantities and used several methods of long-term preservation including drying, smoking over a slow fire, and allowing the fish to freeze in the cold. Frozen salmon is sliced thinly and dipped it in soy sauce, then savored as the fish melts in the mouth. This is called ruibe, an Ainu word meaning "thawed food," a typical Ainu way of eating salmon. Nowadays, ruibe is enjoyed throughout Japan.
source :  www.kikkoman.com


smelt, shishamo 柳葉魚 (ししゃも)
the name comes from the Ainu language.
kigo for early winter

shishamo no sudareboshi ししゃも すだれぼし dried "like a windscreen" on a bamboo shelf

made in Mukawacho 鵡川町
Mukawa Town hosts the "Shishamo Kamui Nomi" festival asking the gods for a bountiful catch.


Herring roe
kazu no ko 数の子 (かずのこ), 鰊鯑(かずのこ)
kado no ko かどのこ

Herring is called "kado" in the language of the Ainu. The name derived from kado-no-ko "children of kado fish".
kado, kippered herring
kigo for the New Year


. Kaneko Tohta 金子兜太 .

sake kuu tabi e sora no koomon to naru yuuhi

on a trip to gorge myself
on salmon, the evening sun
becomes the sky’s anus

Haiku, Zen and the Eternal Now
source : www.haikuoz.org

(Kaneko here simply refers to the fact that all the things we eat have to come out at the other end in a natural way.)

- and then he reached Hokkaido

hone no sake ainu sannin mizu wataru

bones of a salmon -
three Ainu are crossing
the water

More sake bones haiku by Kaneko sensei on the trip in Hokkaido

1 骨の鮭アイヌ三人水わたる
2 骨の鮭夜明けの雨に湖(うみ)の肉
3 骨の鮭アイヌの母子に茂りの木
4 骨の鮭湖(うみ)の真乙女膝抱いて
5 骨の鮭山越す人ら野に墜ちる
6 骨の鮭鴉もダケカンバも骨だ

source : kuuon.web.fc2.com/TOTA


Ainu food -
I look for medical herbs
in my own woods

Gabi Greve, December 08,2008

Related words

MORE - - Dishes from Hokkaido

***** WASHOKU : Regional Japanese Dishes


. Ezo, Emishi 蝦夷 エゾ Ainu Culture アイヌの文化 .




Anonymous said...

A Taste of Ainu Culture in Tokyo

Rera Chise, Tokyo's only Ainu restaurant

"We wanted to start our own restaurant for years," explained the manager, Tatsue Sato, an Ainu activist who left her native Hokkaido decades ago. Many of the approximately 2,500 Ainu now living in the capital region came to escape discrimination, which is easier to do in the anonymity of the big city. "Whenever we needed a meeting for something like a cultural event we could arrange to secure a local hall, but it's not the same as having your own space. The trouble was the start-up fees for something like this in Tokyo are so high. But thanks to donations that came in from all over the country, we could finally open up the restaurant in May."

"Traditionally we ate what we could catch," explained Sato. Salmon and herring are popular fish choices from the menu. Deer and other game may be available in season. Wild vegetables called kitobiro in the Ainu language dress up beef or egg dishes, or taste good by themselves. Also worth trying are the chiporo imo, a filling mix of mashed potato and salmon roe and the tsubukai shellfish.

International Herald Tribune, 1994

Anonymous said...


Food Study

This field study was carried out in Biratori, a town in the Hidaka District, located in the Southern part of Hokkaido. The aim was to provide research to preserve the Ainu traditional food culture. Biratori stretches over an area 743 16km2 and is divided into 17 districts.

The Ainu are believed to have settled in the area around 1000 AD. The Japanese migrated to Hokkaido from the main island in 1400 and contact between the Ainu and Japanese became more frequent. After the Shakushain War, the Ainu lost power over the area and became under Japanese control. Many efforts were made to assimilate the Ainu into mainstream society which resulted in decline of traditional cultural practices. The Biratori Ainu Cultural Preservation Group (BACPG) was founded in 1998 in efforts to gather information and preserve Ainu traditions and knowledge.

The purpose of this publication is to present a true reflection of the usual composition of foods as available and/or consumed among Ainu community members. This is a living document and nutrient information will be added and/or updated when available. These 15 foods are divided into three food groups:

Cultivated Grains
Fish & Game
Wild Plants


News said...

AINU, Spirits Singing:
The Living World Of Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shinyoshu,
By Sarah M. Strong.
University Of Hawaii Press, 2011

"In the past this spacious Hokkaido was our ancestors' world of freedom. Living with ease and pleasure in the manner of innocent babes in the embrace of beautiful, vast nature, they were truly beloved children of nature. Oh, what happy people they must have been!" - Yukie Chiri.

Was primitive life really the paradise it seems to those betrayed by or weary of civilization? The question is pertinent, but let's put it aside for a moment.

Yukie Chiri was an Ainu of the Horobetsu region of southwestern Hokkaido. Her grandmother was a shaman-bard, her aunt a woman whose encyclopedic knowledge of Ainu oral lore earned her official recognition in 1956 as an "intangible cultural asset."

the Japan Times

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

ainu-goya maruta no hari ni sake ibushi

small Ainu hut -
from the round crossbeams
salmon for smoking

Enoki Miyuki 榎美幸

about crossbeams

Gabi Greve - Kappa said...

- KAPPA - 河童 / 合羽 / かっぱ / カッパ - Legends -

Ainu Kappa Legends

Anonymous said...

Ainu: The Secret History of Northern Japan’s Indigenous People
The Ainu’s history has, sadly, been largely lost amidst the cultural assimilation of the last few hundred years. However, there are those, particularly in modern Hokkaido, who still fight to keep the traditions and culture of this unique people alive.

Upon seeing an Ainu for the first time, one could be forgiven for thinking this person wasn’t from Japan at all. Their tall frame, often stocky build, thick dark hair, and large, sunken European-type eyes give a look that seems far closer to Russian than it does Japanese.

Anonymous said...

What is the Topical Dictionary of Conversational Ainu?
Recently, minority languages have been facing extinction on a global scale. According to a UNESCO publication from 2009, there are eight languages in Japan that are critically endangered, and the Ainu language tops the list with the highest degree of endangerment.
A talking dictionary of Ainu: a new version of Kanazawa’s Ainu conversational dictionary
with recordings of Mrs Setsu Kurokawa