The First Edition of Ainu Food Festival kicks off in Japan

The first edition of Ainu Food Festival will take place in Sapporo Pirika Kotan (Hokkaido, Japan) October 28 and 29. The event is organized by Slow Food International Japan, Slow Food Nippon, and the Ainu Women’s Association Menoko Mosmos.

The Ainu People are an indigeneous people that live in on the island that we call Hokkaido and the northern parts of Honshu Japan. Since the occupation of these lands by the “wajin” (Japanese people), they have faced a tremendous amount of subjugation: legally, socially, culturally, economically and spiritually. As the only indigenous people of Japan to be recognized by the government, since 2008, it is very important for the Japanese to know who the Ainu are, and what distinguishes their culture.

Ainu women in tradtional dress. Photo: Remi Ie

The launching of this event is important because the President of Slow Food Nippon—Remi Ie— who is “Okinawan” (the other indigenous people of Japan, as yet unrecognized by the Japanese government) has reached out to the Head of Ainu Women’s Association to launch an renaissance of indigenous Japanese food cultures, starting with the Ainu. Advocating such indigenous cultures is important in view of the opening of the National Museum of Indigenous Peoples in Hokkaido, Japan in 2020.

On the evening of October 28, there will be an opening ritual conducted by the Ainu People to celebrate and pray for a safe event and the start of a long term relationship with Slow Food Nippon and Menoko Mosmos (the Ainu Women’s Association).

On October 29 there will be 3 major conferences talking about:

  • Food and its role for Ainu People: since recently Ainu food has not been featured or recognized as an apsect of their cultural heritage , unlike woodcarving, dance, music and quilting. This event will be hosted by Ainu People who will be talking about their food in person presenting their own food history.
  • Ainu Food Resistance – Cultural Revolution and Economic Vitalization: Ainu people are in the lowest social/economic bracket in Japan. It is important that an Ainu Cultural Revolution takes place that embraces sustainable economic development initiatives which utilize their food heritage.
  • Food and Medicine. Gift from Kamul: How do the Ainu use their herbs as food and medicine? Their food, based on foraging of mountain herbs, is considered medicinal and a gift from the Gods.

    Traditional Ainu food products. Photo: Remi Ie

In addition to the conferences, there will be a showing of a short film-featuring documentary of an Ainu traditional wedding; a traditional harvest dance, and herbal design in quilt-making.

Indigenous peoples have a unique part to play in shaping a future that is more respectful of the environment and its biodiversity. Slow Food wants to preserve agricultural and food biodiversity as a tool for ensuring a future for our planet and humanity as a whole: it would be senseless to defend biodiversity without also defending the cultural diversity of peoples and their cultures.

This is also the reason why the Ainu Food Festival will witness the re-launching of the Slow Food international campaign “Menu For Change“, which connects food and climate change: starting from food, every one can and must make a difference. Slow Food networks worldwide support and promote solutions for producing food while mitigating the impact on the climate by working to protect biodiversity, to encourage food and environmental education, to raise awareness among all actors and to try to influence politics at all levels.

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