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Japan has launched a first-of-its-kind indiegnous museum to showcase Ainu culture and cuisine. Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park was opened on July 12 to promote the culture and habits of the Ainu people who are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido.
Constructed beside Lake Poroto, the museum’s opening had got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The word ‘upopoy’ in Ainu language translates to 'singing in a large group'.
This is a big step in preserving the culture of the Ainu community which has been neglected by the Japanese government for a long time, often falling prey to discrimination due to colonial assimilation.
The Ainu Recognition Bill passed in 2019 acknowledged Ainu as indigenous habitants of Japan for the first time.
In the #Ainu language, #upopoy means, "to sing in unison." The Upopoy National Ainu Museum & Park opening today in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, provides a platform to discover & learn the wealth & depth of history & culture of #Ainu: https://t.co/sMOlWiCwiH #LandOfDiversity pic.twitter.com/oYAiMmn64G— The Gov't of Japan (@JapanGov) July 12, 2020
Originally supposed to open alongside the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the museum had a target of attracting a million visitors per year before the pandemic hit the world.
Planned as an educational hub for Ainu culture and traditions, the museum consists of three different areas. The National Ainu Museum building has exhibits consisting of images and videos about the history and daily life of the Ainu. The National Ethnic Harmony Park is made up of traditional houses.
Visitors can enjoy Ainu dances, recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, in the Interactive Gallery, and have a taste of traditional Ainu dishes or try cooking them as well.
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The Upopoy has certainly put the Ainu on the map once again, a place where visitors can learn all about the Ainu culture and traditions. But there are still arguments particularly related to the absence of fundamental rights to the Ainu with only a symbolic recognition of their heritage to be commercialised and sold to the public.
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