The Akan Yukar Utasa Festival February 2020 put the spotlight on
the Ainu of Lake Akan in Hokkaido. Taking place on frozen Lake Akan and in -15°C conditions,
non-Ainu Japanese performers collaborated with the Akan Ainu to create wintery magic.
I knew so little about the wonders and charms of the Ainu,
Japan’s indigenous people,
even though we live
in the same country…
This is surely the sentiment shared by people who visited
the last festival.
The wonderous celebrations will once again take place
over two days this winter.
Come join us again for myriad new discoveries and to magically connect with the Ainu.
Let's make the best of this unique time that we are all in.
* “Utasa” in the Ainu language means “connect”.
Utasa Online Live Music Session
Online Live Music Sessions Performed by Ainu and Guest Artists in Collaboration
free-of-charge online live stream
Performance starts: 17:00 | Performance ends: 20:00
URL for stream: https://youtu.be/FzK6X9od4Rg
Concurrent talk sessions!
In between the live music sessions,
two talk sessions will be held.
1. Midori Toko (advisor for The Foundation for Ainu Culture) × GOMA (didgeridoo player and painter)
2. Masao Nishida (elder of Lake Akan Ainu Kotan) × Toshimitsu Araida (Board Chairman of The Maeda Ippoen Foundation)
The live music sessions of the second Akan Yukar Utasa Festival will be performed
without an in-person audience and
will be streamed online
from the DAX -Space Shower Digital Archives X- YouTube account.
Together with the Akan Ainu and our guests,
we are putting our all into making sure
this festival will be one to remember.
Although the live music will be enjoyed
from afar via video,
the festival will still have a spirit of utasa
(connecting with each other).
We are delighted to present the magic of
the Utasa Festival
from Lake Akan Ainu Theater <Ikor> to people throughout Japan and around the world.
Tonkori Necklace Gift!
A tonkori necklace that has been specially created for
the Utasa Festival will be gifted to
50 people selected at random
from those who watch
the online live music session and follow
the Utasa Festival’s official Instagram.
the gift will be posted on
that official Instagram account.
Utasa Festival’s official Instagram account:
Note: The winners will be sent their gift
but will not be notified via Instagram.
Masao Nishida (Elder of Lake Akan Ainu Kotan)
Masao Nishida is the great-grandson of Ueyoshi Nishida, a man who was forcibly moved from Kushiro to the upper reaches of the Seturi River (currently Tsurui Village) back in 1885. From the founding of the Lake Akan Ainu Kotan (village) in autumn 1954, Masao Nishida learned about Ainu culture from his adoptive father, Sanzirou Akibe, and his mother, Katsumi, while living the Ainu lifestyle. In 1973, Masao inherited a house in the village. And while running a folk art store there, he began engaging in Ainu cultural activities in earnest as a member of the Akan Ainu Culture Preservation Society and of the Lake Akan Ainu Association.
Active both in Japan and overseas, Masao Nishida is a performer of Ainu ancient ceremonial dance, yukar drama, and Ainu folk-tale puppet shows. And in recent years, he has also held the role of priest for the kamuynomi (an Ainu ritual in which prayers are offered to the gods) for his local region as well as further afield. In that role, while caringly guiding those junior to him, Masao Nishida has strived to foster heirs to the culture and promote aware awareness of it. His contribution to Ainu culture is enormous
Akira Toko is Ainu through and though. He was born to Ainu parents, Suketaro (his father) and Tami (his mother) in the Chiyonoura district of Kushiro City in Hokkaido’s far east. And his older brother, Nuburi Toko, was a well-known woodcarver. Akira dedicates much time to his heritage alongside running an Ainu restaurant, café, and folk arts store called “Poronno”. He served as head of the Akan Ainu Culture Preservation Society. As a master of Ainu dance, he is active on the stage where he teaches the younger generations. And, viewing the world through the lens of Ainu culture, he has abundant experience as a nature guide, an activity he engages in on Anytime, Ainutime!, a website dedicated to Ainu culture×
Singers and dancers of Lake Akan Ainu Kotan (village)
Lake Akan Ainu Kotan is home to fuchi (Ainu women elders) and ekashi (Ainu men elders). These elders have passed down rituals and festivals by performing ancient upopo (songs) and rimse (dances). There are also a group of men in the village who provide support for and carry on traditions. And in the Iomante fire festival and Lost Kamuy performed at Ainu Theater
Kanto no Heya
Kanto no Heya is a three-member band that was formed by Kanto (guitarist and vocalist), a Tokyo-born Ainu who grew up near Lake Akan. Kanto, who currently lives in Kushiro City to attend senior high school, was eager to explore music. He reached out to Manau (drummer), who is the son of OKI, the eponymous Tonkori player in the OKI DUB AINU BAND. And with Kanto as guitarist and vocalist and with Daichi (bassist) from the band GREEN Bou GRINBO joining, Kanto no Heya dived into creating music. The band members live far from each other—Kanto and Daichi live near Lake Akan in Kushiro, which is around 200km from where Manau lives in Tōma in Kamikawa Subprefecture. Do have a listen to the music created by this trio of young Ainu, who utasa (connect) over great physical distances to make their tracks.×
OKI is a musician who was born in Kanagawa in Japan in 1957. His ancestors are the Ainu of the Ishikari River in Hokkaido.
OKI creates and plays the tonkori, a traditional stringed instrument of the Sakhalin Ainu. Centering his musical creations on Ainu traditional music, he has pioneered a unique style that uses novel sounds. OKI leads the Oki Dub Ainu Band and has performed with the band at festivals around the world. He runs the music label Chikar Studio and is the producer for the legendary Ainu singers Umeko Ando and Marewrew.
Kapiw and Apappo are sisters from Lake Akan Ainu Kotan who perform upopo (Ainu folk songs). Their names are Ainu words: “Kapiw” means “seagull”, and “Apappo” means “flower”.
Since childhood, these singing sisters have shared the magic of Ainu songs by using traditional Ainu instruments such as the mukkuri (a bamboo instrument similar to a Jew’s harp) and the tonkori (a plucked instrument) to play local Akan songs and songs handed down from their grandmother.
They started performing in 2011. And since then, they have performed all over Japan, sometimes performing together with other musicians.
Akan Jew’s Harp Association
Established in 1992, Akan Jew’s Harp Association promotes Ainu culture by hosting mukkuri (a traditional Ainu bamboo instrument similar to a Jew’s harp) performances and lecturing about the instrument. The association’s members pour their efforts into preserving ancient Ainu dances and Ainu songs as well as into training young people in them. The association has participated in various International Jew’s Harp Festivals (Austria in 1999, Norway in 2002, Netherlands in 2006, and the Sakha Republic in Russia in 2011). And it has received high critical acclaim internationally—the association was invited to perform at the third “Meeting of UNESCO Masterpieces on Olonkho Land”, an international festival that is held in the Sakha Republic in 2016.×
GREEN Bou GRINBO
Formed on October 14, 2017, GREEN Bou GRINBO are a Hokkaido band mainly made up of members living near Lake Akan Hot Spring.
The band came to life when Pete (the band’s founding member) wanted to form a band at Lake Akan after moving there. He invited local elementary and junior high school students to make some music with him, and the rest is history. The band’s curious name originates in the green algae balls found in Lake Akan that are called “marimo”. The band apparently came up with their name in a moment of desperation during a band meeting. GREEN Bou GRINBO is currently made up of two junior high school students and four senior high school students as well as one person in his forties, making them an inter-generational band. All members are either Ainu or have Ainu descendants. In their musical repertoire, the band perform original songs in the Ainu language that have been translated from Japanese.
KOM_I (Wednesday Campanella)
KOM_I is a young Japanese vocalist who is difficult to categorize. Born and raised in Kanagawa in Japan, she first started singing after being invited to perform at house parties.
She’s the lead vocalist of the Japanese music group Wednesday Campanella, and has performed at festivals and toured with them in Japan and around the world.
Her live performances with the group that she creates in response to the places she visits and people from them are a must see.
She’s fond of folk music and techno. And her similarly eclectic favorite foods include South Indian cuisine and fruit-flavored chewing gum. When not music making, she can be found modelling and acting. On April 3, 2019, she released the magnificent Yakushima Treasure. This EP was produced by the film score composer Oorutaichi and was made on and with the sounds of Yakushima, a small island in southern Japan. KOM_I has since performed Yakushima Treasure at concerts and festivals at various venues.
Kuniyuki Takahashi is based in Sapporo, Japan. His unique musical sense can be described as borderless, and he has been highly praised by producers and DJs from all over the world.
He released “Precious Hall,” a tribute song for the clubs in his hometown of Sapporo, through Natural Resource (organized by Joe Claussell), took part in the compilation of 4Hero Dego’s 2000Black, remixed “Cascades of Colour” by Ananda Project, and also released the single “Earth Beats” from Mule Musiq, gaining the passionate support of numerous DJs.
From his first album “We are Together” in 2006, he has released seven titles, and with his latest album, “Feather World” in 2012, his music entered a new phase, featuring the one-of-a-kind jazz pianist Fumio Ishibashi and fellow artist Henrik Schwarz. In recent years, he has actively collaborated with international artists such as DJ Nature and Mr Raoul K, also remixing domestic artists such as the Amami Shimauta folksong singer Asazaki Ikue as well as MAREWREW, who sing traditional Ainu songs, and Mouse On The Keys.
Since 2013, he has taken part in DJ EMMA’s Acid City compilation project, and his track “Acid Air,” which was included on their recent release “Acid City 2,” has been played by DJ Harvey.
In recent years, he has performed not only in Japan but abroad, as well, in Europe, South Africa and elsewhere, where his particular live style has featured a powerful combination of improvisation and dance music.
Shōtaro Aoyama is a Japanese musician and producer who is heavily involved in the musical project called “NF”, which is led by the Japanese musician Ichiro Yamaguchi from Sakanaction . In NF, he has created all manner of sonic delights, from remixes to music for runways at the Paris Collection and music for video advertisements.
Shōtaro has also launched his own music label, which is called "Hyōgu". In late 2020, this label released Ainu Utasa, which is a collection of songs featuring Ainu music.
GOMA is a didgeridoo player and a painter. In 1998, he made history by becoming the first non-Aboriginal player to win the Northern Land Council prize at the Barunga didgeridoo competition in Australia’s Arnhem Land. Right when he was spreading his wings in Japan and overseas, GOMA was unfortunately in a near-fatal traffic accident in which he suffered a traumatic brain injury and damage to his higher brain functions. His didgeridoo playing was put on hold, but two days after being discharged from hospital, he felt a compulsion to paint dot paintings. He drew the world of light, which he became extremely sensitive to as an after-effect of his brain injury. GOMA went on to create distinct paintings from his primitive impulses, free expression, and unique sense of color. His works have been exhibited throughout Japan. And his compulsion to paint carried on—he continues to pick up his brush and has now created over 500 artworks.
2011: GOMA started playing his didgeridoo again after overcoming the hardships caused by the car accident from which he was told he could not recovered.
2012: the movie Flashback Memories 3D, which starred GOMA in the lead role, won the Audience Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
February 2018: GOMA featured in the NHK ETV special feature called "Reborn: Drawing Rebirth”. In the program, GOMA was told that he is an acquired savant by Dr. Darold Treffert, a world-renowned psychiatrist who was an expert in savant syndrome.
GOMA continues to pour his energy into his didgeridoo and painting, and he now also lectures.
U-zhaan studied the tabla (an Indian percussion instrument) from two Indian table virtuosos: Anindo Chatterjee and Zakir Hussain. In 2000, he joined the Japanese band Asa-Chang & Junray and created four albums with the band, including Hana and Kage No Nai Hito. In 2010, after leaving Asa-Chang & Junray, he released Kawakoshi Rendezvous, Mister Morning Night, and much else as one half of U-zhaan × rei harakami. In 2014, he released the album Tabla Rock Mountain, which features guest appearances from Japanese musicians such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cornelius, and Hanaregumi. In 2017, he released the album 2 Tone with Shuta Hasunuma. In 2018, he released the LP KOUTA as one half of Miki Furukawa ÷ U-zhaan. And in 2020, he performed at the Saptak Annual Festival of Music, an enormous, classical-music festival that takes place each year in the city of Ahmedabad in India.
Born in 1981 in Miyagi Prefecture, Tamaki Roy is a Japanese rapper who has released six music albums and has performed at various music festivals in Japan and abroad. Tamaki Roy’s talents also stretch to creating art performances, art installations, and film scores. His recent output includes his music album Anyways (2020), a performance called "Arika" at the Maison de la culture du Japon in Paris (2020), exhibition music called “Digging the Future” at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (2019), and a children’s book called “Yoyoshoten” published by Fukuinkan Shoten (2020). At the 21st Japan Media Arts Festival, Tamaki Roy’s music video Koto no Shidai was selected as a recommended video work.
Experience Ainu Culture Online
Utasa Festival’s official Instagram account:
The festival’s Ainu culture experiences will be held online, mainly on the Utasa Festival’s official Instagram account.
To participate, please follow this account beforehand.
Online Viewing of Kamuynomi (Ainu Ritual)
February 13, 2021 (Sat): from 13:00 (30 mins)
February 14, 2021 (Sun): from 15:30 (30 mins)
Note: The start times might change, without prior notice.
A viewing with commentary of kamuynomi
(an Ainu Ritual in which the Ainu express
their respect to the kamuy (gods) and wish for
a peaceful life) will be streamed from the
Utasa Festival’s official Instagram account on
February 13th (Saturday). This is one of
the options on offer from Anytime, Ainutime!,
a website on which Lake Akan Ainu act as
guides for Ainu culture. Also, on the day after
(February 14th (Sunday)), the kamuynomi
for the Utasa Festival will be streamed.
Online Viewing of Ainu Traditional Craft Wood-Carving Performance
February 13, 2021 (Sat): from 15:30 (60 mins)
Note: The start time might change, without prior notice.
Online Museum of Works of Ainu Traditional Craft
February 13, 2021 (Sat): from 14:00 (60 mins)
Note: The start time might change, without prior notice.
Utasa Festival Special Invitation
During the Utasa Festival, the Iomante Fire Festival, Ainu Ancient Ceremonial Dance,
and the Akan Yukar “Lost Kamuy”
(all performed at
Lake Akan Ainu Theater <Ikor>)
will be streamed live on the Utasa Festival’s official Instagram account.
These three productions have been revamped to further enhance the magic of the Akan Ainu.
Don’t miss out on this unique
opportunity to view this online.
The Ainu cultural promotion
“For a limited-time only
-Ainu traditional cuisine-”
Experience the Ainu “food” culture.
The following locations will serve
the Ainu dishes from
February 12th until February 28th:
Lake Akan hot spring resort
“New Akan Hotel”
Restaurant “Dining Kitchen TOKIMEKI”
Winter Event Information for Lake Akan
Praying to Kamuy
on Frozen Lake Akan,
Since ancient times, the Ainu people have believed that there are good kamuy
and wen-kamuy (bad gods) that cause harm to people,
such as the coronavirus.
The way of life of Ainu people,
who are humble before kamuy,
cherish coexisting with nature,
and have protected the wilderness of Akan,
can be a guide to help us through this with-coronavirus era that we find ourselves in.
This is an event in which, through kamuynomi,
respect to and support for
health care providers will be expressed.
Iceland Akan is a recreational park
that is open only in winter.
At Iceland Akan can enjoy, to your heart’s content
winter-time activities that are unique to
frozen Lake Akan.
A number of thrilling attractions are
available on the lake,
including snow-mobiles, a banana boat,
and Japanese smelt fishing.
Measures Taken to Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus
- ・social distancing
- ・disinfecting of hands
- ・disinfecting of all venues
- ・wearing of masks
- ・monitoring of staff’s health