A visit at the Teshikaga Town Kussharo Kotan Ainu Museum
Five years ago we featured on kaput an interview by Andi Otto with the musician Oki Kano that originally was published as the liner notes to “Ihunke” by Umeko Ando on Pingipung. Oki Kano had worked as a Tonkori player with Ando on the album and was able to share some insights.
Umeko Ando, who sadly passed away in 2004, was a representative of the Ainu culture. The Ainu are the original inhabitants of the most northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. They are an indigenous community only granted official recognition by the Japanese government as late as 2008! Ando’s music is highly reflective of her Ainu background, the Ainu language and its instrumental traditions, including her playing of the mukkuri.
While recently “traveling kaput” through Hokkaido, we passed by a very special kotan (a kotan (コタン) is generally spoken a traditional settlement of the Ainu people,) right next to Lake Kussharo. This specific kotan is believed to be the oldest settlement of the Ainu. Today we find there the Teshikaga Town Kussharo Kotan Ainu Museum.