北の生活文化(Religious faith of the Ainu)

 

 

北の生活文化(Religious faith of the Ainu)


 

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 The Ainu people support themselves through their subsistent activities of hunting fishing and the gathering of wild plants. Their style of life exemplifies their adaptation to the environment and their effective use of the abundant riches of nature. Japanese settlers who immigrated to Hokkaido converted undeveloped land into arable land and created a new lifestyle and culture suitable for the harsh natural environment, while inheriting forms of culture from their native places.
 
Religious faith of the Ainu
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14. Ritual which has been restored 15. Ritual of sending off the spirit of bear
 The Ainu people have established and handed down their culture over the generations. This culture is in its essence an example of adaptation to the rich natural environment of Hokkaido. Rooted in the creed that the work of the spirit is apparent in all life and phenomena, according to Ainu belief "kamuy" exist and play a part in much of what is most deeply and fundamentally involved in people's daily lives. These areas of involvement include fauna, nora, fire, water and utensils for daily use as well as natural phenomena which are beyond human control, and famine and disease which are deemed evil in their spiritual culture. The interactions between human beings and kamuy and the influences they have upon one another determine the cause of all phenomena of the world in accordance with their cosmology. Kamuy are thought to have emotions and live in the human form leading their lives in the way humans do.

 When visiting the domain of humans either to assume some important role or for pleasure all the kamuy appear in the form of animals, plants, daily utensils or natural phenomena. When the kamuy return to their original domain after they have accomplished their work, the Ainu offer prayers in gratitude to kamuy who are of extreme importance to human life, praying for their future return to the human domain. The offerings include "inaws" or sacred symbols and some of the objects used in worship are meant to please the kamuy or are employed for souvenirs, for example "sake," dumplings and dried salmon.
 
Rituals of the Ainu
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16. Crane Dance 17. Iyomante Rimse
 The Ainu people worship the kamuy for various purposes on a range of occasions. The act of taking animals' lives was indispensable in order to obtain hides and meat from the captured game animals and was perceived as freeing the souls of the animals from their bodies. Humans would receive the bodies and send back the animals' soul to the domain of the kamuy.

 The ritual of sending back the bear's soul to the sacred domain, known as Iyomante, is one of the rites conducted within the framework of Ainu spiritual culture and is described as follows. When a parent bear was hunted in early spring its accompanying child was captured alive and brought to the Village. After the young bear was raised for about two years, the soul of the bear was sent back to the domain of the kamuy through the rite.

 When an epidemic prevailed or signs of epidemic diseases were seen. plants with strong odors were placed at doors, windows and gardens in the hope that the kamuy of epidemic diseases would go to other places. Rites were conducted on various occasions including one in which people prayed for their offerings to be sent to the deceased in the afterlife.

 Rituals are followed by songs and dances which are designated intangible cultural assets of Japan. These songs and dances are transmitted and are being energetically performed today in many areas of Hokkaido. Examples can be seen in the Sword Dance and the Bow and Arrow Dance which are performed by men to drive away evil as well as in the Crane Dance and the Waterfowl Dance which are gracefully performed by women and Iyomante Rimse.
 
Immigration and cultivation
 
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18. Land cultivation in Nayoro, 1906 19. Building a simple shed by the early immigrants
 Due to the increased poverty of farmers in Honshu the development of Hokkaido was highlighted. Most farmers were hit by floods, earthquakes and other forms of natural disasters at home and as a result of the natural disasters suffered greatly from damage caused by cold weather and from harvest failures. Despite these situations the farmers had to move to Hokkaido without sufficient preparation. Information concerning Hokkaido was extremely scarce, limited to briefings by officials of the Hokkaido Government and developers in addition to brochures issued by the Hokkaido Government which were strictly designed to attract immigrants. Some material introduced Hokkaido in such a manner that the climate in Hokkaido seemed not so cold so that people could live comfortably and was even somewhat healthful for people just like Massachusetts. Immigrants who were least prepared for the climate and life on the island had to face a desolate wilderness and a harsh winter climate far beyond their expectations.

 Cultivation work began with the building of a house. A simple shed was built upon round logs which were placed the ground while the roof structure was assembled using branches and twigs. Roof and walls were thatched with dwarf, striped bamboo leaves, cogon grass and tree bark. Immigrants had to clear the dense forests of huge trees and cut the grass under the trees in order to cultivate the land for agricultural use. As they had little experience with logging, they were often injured or killed by falling trees and when they set fires to clear the dwarf bamboo under the trees, they eventually caused big fires in the mountains and burned down their houses.
 
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