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Marimo Festival and Ainu Culture: まりも祭りとアイヌ文化

Marimo Festival is newer tradition of Indigenous Ainu culture. It is celebrated between 8th to 10th of October each year. It is one of rare Ainu festivals that are open to the public. The festival began in 1950 to preserve rare and endangered Marimo, Aegagropila linnaei of Lake Akan by educating public about Marimo and its habitats and celebrating the respect and appreciation to the nature. It is also the time to gather for Ainu people from all over Hokkaido and other parts of Japan to share their traditional songs and dances to tie its people and preserve its tradition and culture.

What is Marimo?

Marimo is made of freshwater green alga.

Over many years, alga floats at the bottom of the quiet and peaceful lake, gathers and forms into a sphere. The largest one is about 30 cm in diameter. It takes about 100 years to reach this full size. From its unique and rare form, it has been registered as special natural monuments. It can survive under frozen water, but not in the condition over 35 degree.

About Ainu people Hokkaido is the northern island of Japan. It snows in the winter and famous for skiing and richness of seafood, such as kelp, salmon, sea urchin etc. Ainu people used to fish and hunt to make their living in Hokkaido region. The number of Ainu people and the keeper of its tradition and language are decreasing, but about 120 people still reside by Lake Akan which is called Lake Akan Ainu Kotan (village).

What happens during festival? On 8th, the first day, welcoming Marimo ceremony is held. There are lectures about Marimo and its habitats to educate public the importance of respecting and preserving the nature.

On 9th, the second day, Aunu youths appear on the lake in canoes to hand over Marimo to its elder. Marimo is then carried over to 1000-torch parade which is held at night. People in Ainu’s traditional costume hold torches and walk through the streets. Anyone can also participate this parade. Variety of Ainu tribes demonstrate their traditional rituals from their regions through singing and dances. These dances can be familiar animals to them such as Tsuru (cranes) and Kuma (bear) and sword dance from their traditional life style.

On 10th, the third day, Marimo is blessed and appreciation for the nature is expressed by Ainu priests. Children dance and elders row canoe to take Marimo back to the lake to conclude the ceremony.

Names of Ainu costume

Ainu is indigenous people of Japan from Hokkaido area. There are four types of Ainu clothes.

ci-kar-kar-pe【チカルカルペ】has patterns with straight cloth with embroidery.

ruunpe 【ルウンペ】is made of cotton, silk, wool etc.

kapar-imi【カパリミ】has large pattern with white cloth.

cinjir【チンヂリ】is the one only with embroidered patterns

Ainu people used to make shoes from salmon skin called cep-keri 【チェプケリ】or deer skin called yuk-keri 【ユクケリ】.

日本語(にほんご)で読(よ)んでみよう!: Let's read in Japanese!











ことば 祭り: festival アイヌ民族: Ainu people

日本(にほん): Japan 北海道(ほっかいどう): Hokkaido

先住民族(せんじゅうみんぞく): indigenous people アイヌの文化(ぶんか): Ainu Culture 今(いま): currently

子孫(しそん): descendants 阿寒湖(あかんこ): Lake Akan ほとり: on the banks 村(むら): village


毎年(まいとし): every year

10月(がつ): October


生息(せいそく): habitat

藻(も): algae

一種(いっしゅ): one of 大(おお)きい:large

直径(ちょっけい): diameter 球体(きゅうたい): sphere

世界的(せかいてき): in the world

とても珍(めずら)しい:very rare

絶滅(ぜつめつ)に瀕(ひん)する:endangered 特別天然記念物(とくべつてんねんきねんぶつ): special national momentum 守(まも)る: protect

為(ため): for 始(はじ)まる:begin

Other links to explore Ainu culture

Listen: Ainu Language Are you curious how Ainu language sounds compared to Japanese language? Here is Three Little pig in Ainu language (Horobetsu dialect) Subtitle by Ainu language and Japanese.

Read: Manga: 'Golden Kamui'

If you are into manga, here is popular manga featured Ainu people called Golden Kamui:ゴールデンカムイ *This manga contains some violating images, so please only access the link if you are fine with it. This manga is aimed for the readers in their 20-30's. You can read the 1st book for free from the official magazine site.

Play: Games to learn Ainu language

Are you a school teacher looking for some resources to introduce Ainu language? Here is the link to a variety of recourses such as Karuta and Sugoroku.

Make: Embroidering Ainu Patterns Instruction is written in Japanese with many photos.

Stay: Akanko Ainu Kotan Lake Akan is about 60 km from Kushiro Airport of Hokkaido, Japan. The volcanic activity began about 6000 years ago. You can travel to Hokkaido to visit Ainu Kotan (village) at Akan Lake. You can also enjoy the stay at luxurious hot springs inn around this peaceful lake.

Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center You can learn about Marino during other times of the year except 1 Dec. to end Apr.

Visit: National Ainu Museum and Park: Ainu Upopoy

This museum is about 40 minutes from Sapporo city.


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The Brisbane Japanese Language and Culture School

YouTube: @BJLCSchool

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