March 17, 2019

Capstone 2019: Museum of Northern Peoples

Sunday March 17th, 2019, Hakodate City, Hokkaido Japan.

On our last day in Hakodate we visited the Museum of Northern Peoples in the afternoon. The central focus of this museum was on the native Ainu of Hokkaido as well as other regions north of here in Russia and Alaska. The kids started with an activity making a traditional Ainu instrument called a Koukin, a type of mouth harp. The project was to carve a prepared piece of bamboo in such a way that the instrument would vibrate just right when a short string was pulled. By placing it in front of your open mouth it would vary the quality of the sound. Turned out to be rather difficult to pull the cord properly and create a good tone.  Interestingly, the instructors were surprised that our kids had not experienced using chisels to carve wood. This is something that they would do in the fourth grade in Japan and then begin using electric tools in fifth grade. On the other hand they were also surprised how well they were able to speak and understand Japanese. All in all the kids did a great job tackling this task. Once completed we moved on to our tour of the museum and artifacts. There was a impressive collection of traditional robes and clothing, ceremonial tools, knives, fishing tools and goods traded with the Japanese to the south. The students were able to watch a video about how the Ainu, while once hidden and assimilated in Japanese life, have started to invest in learning and educating about their language and culture once again. This is especially true among the younger generation that feels less shame and more pride about their ancestry. – TIS Parents Joshua & Sandra Peterson-Osterbeg