Nibutani the Ainu, Living with Kamuy
The Ainu people are the indigenous people of Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan's northernmost main island. They developed their own distinct language, history and culture, which were quite different from Japanese, and also lived in northern Honshu, Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. The Ainu people hunted and foraged for edible wild plants, coexisting with the natural environment. They produced powerful, beautiful folk art and craftworks, and they practiced many seasonal rituals to give thanks for the blessings of nature. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, US filmmaker Martin visits Nibutani, an area in Hokkaido with a strong connection to the Ainu people, to discover how they have managed to maintain their culture, handicrafts and beliefs to this day.


This museum and culture center in Shiraoicho was built by Japan's central government to promote and develop the Ainu culture.

Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum

This museum in Nibutani displays items of folk art alongside artifacts from daily life, in order to hand down the history of the local Ainu people.

Biratori Onsen Yukara

This facility offers accommodation and natural hot spring baths featuring carbonated hot water. It also has a display of traditional Ainu craft products.


To reach Nibutani from Tokyo, flights from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport take 90 minutes. From there, it takes about one hour by car.