Ainu Museum

Ainu Museum

Travel Guide


Statue of an Ainu Chief Kotankorkur
Statue of an Ainu Chief Kotankorkur
The Ainu Museum
The Ainu Museum
Ainu traditional dance performance
Ainu traditional dance performance
Music performance with Ainu’s traditional instrument
Music performance with Ainu’s
traditional instrument
Ainu ancient life
Ainu ancient life
Ainu traditional close
Ainu traditional close

Ainu Museum, or Shiraoi Ainu Museum, popularly known as Porotokotan (meaning large lakeside village in the Ainu language) is one of the country's most important museum about the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan. The open air museum is a replica village consisting of Ainu’s traditional thatched houses along the shore of Lake Poroto.

The Ainu Museum includes five houses, a museum, a botanical garden and an animal barn.

Each of the houses at Ainu Museum is modeled on a chise (an old Ainu house). One of the larger houses holds a free, hourly performance with traditional Ainu folk dances, songs and mouth harp demonstrations, and these are performed by Ainu in traditional costume as they were in ancient times. Traditional dances such as the iomante rimse (sending of the bear's spirit), the sarorun chikapu rimse (courting crane dance), etc. are designated as significant intangible folklore cultural assets of the nation. Explanations regarding the kotan are given regularly inside the chise (house), and traditional Ainu dress is provided for visitors to wear while having their photos taken.

The rest of the houses are museums specializing in everything concerning the Ainu, where many materials and cultural assets introducing the Ainu lifestyle culture through their clothing, food and shelter, their beliefs and way of life, are displayed. For a small fee visitors can try their hand at several different activities including woodcarving, embroidery, dance, Ainu cuisine, and making and playing traditional Ainu instruments.

The conventional museum building with an excellent, bilingual exhibition on Ainu history and lifestyle, as well as a small botanical garden with about 60 different species of plants that the Ainu used for food and medicine. There are also several pens where visitors can see live brown bears and snow white Ainu hunting dogs.

If you wish, you can lunch on dried salmon, potato cakes, ohau (a stew of mountain vegetables, meat, and fish), and herb tea bought from one of the stalls in the village. Although the village is small and can be toured in about an hour, it's an important stop for those wishing to learn about Ainu culture and the indigenous people who have little left of what was once a rich heritage.

The museum also contains a Museum Shop, where traditional Ainu crafts and the like can be purchased. There is also an abundance of material on the Ainu, and various types of literature and books produced by the Ainu Museum itself, are also on sale.

The Ainu Museum was established in 1976 as the Shiraoi Foundation for the preservation of Ainu Culture. This cultural education facility aims to carry out comprehensive educational promotion projects, such as the transmission, preservation, research and study of Ainu culture. Investigations and research into Ainu culture is carried out at the facility, which acts as a base for exchanges with indigenous people throughout the world, and also exhibits materials from such cultural exchanges.

In 1984, the Ainu Folk Museum was added to this facility to exhibit both tangible and intangible Ainu cultural assets and to perform academic research and study. In 1990, the facility was reopened under the auspices of The Ainu Museum Foundation.

About Ainu

The Ainu are indigenous people in Japan (Hokkaidō) and Russia (Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands). Shiraoi (an Ainu word meaning Place of Many Horseflies) was settled by the Ainu long before Japanese arrived. Historically, Ainu people spoke Ainu and related varieties.

They used to live all over Japan. Even the name of Mt. Fuji originates from the Ainu language. But now, they are mostly residing in and about 24,000 people declared themselves as the Ainu.

It is estimated that the actual number of the Ainu are ten times & over higher. Pure Ainu are hard to find now because many Ainu married Japanese after the late 19th century, when the Meiji government enforced the assimilation policy. Today, there are several places you can see the Aunu culture, including dancing, singing, weaving, and craft making. One of the places to visit if you are interested in the Ainu culture is The Ainu Museum.







Travel Advice


- You can receive the tourist information and wear the Ainu dress in the chise.

- Free rental for wheelchairs and dolls are provided.

Traditional Ainu folk dances performance time table
Time 09:15 / 10:15 / 11:15 / 12:15 / 13:15 / 14:15 / 15:15 / 16:15
Duration 25 munites



- As for a souvenir, mukkuri, a traditional musical instrument used by the Ainu people is recommended. As mukkuri is hand-made, each one creates a different sound! Please be minded, it’s not so easy to just make a sound with mukkuri at first, but it’s worth trying.

- Another recommended souvenir is bracelet, which is made from the bark of Manchurian elm tree. Traditional Ainu people’s bark clothes “Attush” are made from fiber obtained from Manchurian elm.

- You can also buy a bandana with Ainu traditional patterns for a souvenir.

Hands-on experience

Numerous hands-on activities are available, including the making and playing of the Ainu musical instrument, the mukkuri or Ainu traditional food taste. Reservations are required for each activity at 0144-82-3914.


Events in 2017
Night of Porotokotan It is an Ainu traditional dancing and cultural event. You can see Ainu prayer songs, dances and taste the traditional food. Aug 5(Sat) and 6(Sun)


Address 2-3-4 Wakakusa-cho, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido
Phone 0144-82-3914
Admission Adult: 800 yen (Groups 650 yen)
Senior high: 600 yen (Groups 486 yen)
Junior high: 500 yen (Groups 324 yen)
Elementary: 350 yen (Groups 216 yen)
Adult: over 18
Groups: over 15
Hours 08:45 to 17:00 Entry until 30 minutes before closing
Closed December 29 to January 5
Duration 1 hour
Getting There By Train
10 minute walk from JR Shiraoi Station.

By Car
Take Hokkaido Expressway to the Shiraoi exit. It is approximately 5 kilometers 10 minutes from exit.
Parking Paid parking available

Attractions in Japan