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Ainu Yukar

Yayerap, Sakorpe, Hawki, Oyna, etc.

Yukar of Ainu People

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Performing by the fireside
(c) Victor Entertainment, Inc.

Filming Date 4 February 1992
Filming Place Biratorichou, Hokkaido

Yukar is Ainu epic poetry.

Reasons for selection

Yukar is an outstanding example of oral tradition of the Ainu people and of Japan.

Area where performed


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Story-telling

Detailed explanation

Yukar is Ainu epic poetry.

Ainu means human in the Ainu language. In ancient days, the Ainu people used to live in Hokkaido, the northern part of Honshu, on the Kuril Islands and in Sakhalin. After World War II, most of the Ainu people moved from Kuril and Sakhalin into Hokkaido. Today they live not only in Hokkaido but also throughout Japan. According to a current survey in 1993, the Ainu population in Hokkaido was 23,830.

The Ainu speak their own language, which is different from Japanese. However, since the Ainu did not have their own written language, they have transmitted their epics, songs and stories orally from generation to generation.

Some of the oral literature of the Ainu, such as Yayerap, Sakorpe, Oyna or Kamuy Yukar, have melodies.

Those with melodies can be divided into two types. One is stories in which heroes are animal gods or nature gods. The performers tell the stories with melodies, inserting onomatopoeia of various sounds of nature. The other type is epic of a human with divine power.

Yukar performers are non-professional men as well as women. Both the performers and audience usually sit together by the fireside, and Yukar is performed while beating the wooden hearth frame with a wooden stick called repni.

Publication and textual documentation

1993 Fukkoku: Ainu jyojishi yukara shu Reprint: The Collections of Yukar, Ainu epic poetry .
Tokyo: Sanseido. In Japanese.

2004 Ainu-minzoku no Bungaku to Seikatu Literature and Life of Ainu
Tokyo: Sofukan. In Japanese

KUBODERA Ituhiko(ed.)
2004 Ainu no Kamuy Ukar Song of God of Ainu
Tokyo: Sofukan. In Japanese

NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai)ed.
1965 Ainu no dento ongaku Traditional music of the Ainu .
Tokyo: Nippon Hoso Shuppan Kyokai. In Japanese.

1996 Hoppo Shominzoku no Sekai Kan World View of the North People
Tokyo: Sofukan. In Japanese

1979 Songs of God, Songs of Humans.
Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. In English.

Publication Board of CHIRI Yukie 'Path to the collection of Ainu Kamuy Yukar '
2003 CHIRI Yukie 'Path to the collectionof Ainu Yukar'
Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki. In Japanese

2000 Ainu-e: Music Ethnography of a Cultural Transformation.
Sapporo: Hokkaido University Press. In Japanese

1993 Kamuy Yukar -Ainu rak kur den Songs of God
Tokyo: Heibonsha. In Japanese

Audio documentation

Ainu no yukara The Yukar of Ainu .
Sekai Minzoku Ongaku Taikei World Music Gala Collection 4. CD.
Tokyo: King Records.

Kamuinomi, Kamuiyukara, Yukara.
Tape. Hokkaido: Hokkaido University.

Kayano Shigeru no Ainu Shinwa Shusei Kayano Shigeru's Anthology of Ainu Myth . CD,VTR. 1998.
Tokyo: Victor Entertainment, Inc. (Distributed by Heibonsha)

Visual documentation

Kayano Shigeru no Ainu Shinwa Shusei Kayano Shigeru's Anthology of Ainu Myth . CD, VTR. 1998 Tokyo: Victor Entertainment, Inc. (Distributed by Heibonsha)

Ainu Bunka Densho Kiroku Bideo Daizenshu The documents of Ainu Traditional Cultures .
1976~ Hokkaido: Ainu Mukei Bunka Densho Hozonkai.

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Hokkaido Ainu Culture Research Center.
Presto 1-7, Nishi 7, Kita 1, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0001, Japan
Tel : (81-11)272-8801 Fax : (81-11)272-8850

Ainu Culture Center, Tokyo.
2-chome, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0028, Japan
Tel : (81-3)3245-9831 Fax : (81-3)3510-2155

The Ainu Museum.
2-3-4 Wakakusa-machi, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido, 059-0902 Japan
Tel : (81-144)82-3685

Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum
Nibutani, Biratori-cho, Saru-gun, Hokkaido, 055-0101 Japan
Tel : (81-1457) 2-2892

Data provider

Ms. Hiroko Yamamoto
Editorial Advisor
Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Address: 6 Fukuromachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8484, Japan