Ainu, Okinawa and Indigeneity: An Introduction to Upopoy

Part of the Ainu, Okinawa and Indigeneity Series.

Tuesday, February 23, 5-6pm
An Introduction to Upopoy, a “Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony”
Dr. Kitahara Jirota mokottunas, Hokkaido University

Recorded lecture in Japanese with English subtitles, followed by live discussion with translation.
Webinar format (audience not visible; questions welcome via Q&A).


Upopoy, the “Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony,” is a national centre dedicated to promoting the cultures of Indigenous Ainu People. It opened in July 2020 on the foreshore of Lake Potoro in Shiraoi Town in Hokkaidō. Upopoy houses the National Ainu Museum, the National Ainu Park, and a memorial site. The Ainu Museum in Shiraoi, which Ainu people ran for over thirty years, closed its doors in March 2018 to facilitate the building of Upopoy. Their roles of these people were incorporated into the main facility of Upopoy, the National Ainu Museum.

As the former curator at the Ainu Museum and a specialist of Ainu culture, Prof. Kitahara was involved with the preparations to establish Upopoy. In this presentation, he will introduce the characteristics of the exhibitions and programs, as well as the use of Ainu language at the centre. He will also share some of the issues they have faced, such as how we interpret “ethnic harmony,” whether all staff members share the centre’s vision, and the concrete plans to promote Ainu cultures along with the challenges of securing time, budget, and human resources.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 5-6PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 8-9PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 10-11AM in Japan Time

About the Speaker

Photo: sukus

Kitahara Jirota mokottunas is Associate Professor at the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University. Born in Tokyo in 1976, he obtained a PhD from Chiba University. Dr. Kitahara grew up in the Ainu cultural environment. With an Ainu grandmother from Sakhalin, his parents were involved with establishing the Kanto Utari Association, an Ainu group in the Greater Tokyo area, dedicated to promoting Ainu cultures and civil rights movements. At the age of thirteen, he became interested in learning Sakhalin Ainu language and culture thanks to the influence of his grandmother Oda toonintemah, based in Hokkaidō. He specializes in Inau, an Ainu ritual wood shaving stick and its shapes and regional characteristics and similarities with surrounding cultures. His publications include Ainu no saigu Inau no kenkyū (Ainu Ritual Tools: A Study of Inau) by Hokkaido University Press (2014).

Available after the event