Yukar (Ainu: ユカㇻ) are Ainu sagas that form a long rich tradition of oral literature. In older periods, the epics were performed by both men and women; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Ainu culture was in decline, women were generally the most skillful performers.

Traditional tales describe floating worlds with "Ainu Mosir", or the land of the humans (as opposed to "Kamuy Mosir", the land of the gods), resting on the back of a fish whose movements cause earthquakes.

Professor Kyōsuke Kindaichi collected yukar and translated them into Japanese.

In August 2006, the Asahi Shimbun reported in its article that Japan's Agency of Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho) would discontinue funding by fiscal year 2007 of the project to translate and transcribe the yukar compilations of Imekanu, Kannari Matsu Notebooks (金成マツノート Kan-nari Matsu Nōto), which consists of 92 yukar stories written in Romaji with the tenth story lost and 49 stories left untranslated. It is said that the stoppage is because of Shigeru Kayano's death in May 2006.

In 1999, a multi-national group of educators and translators established "Project U-e-peker" with the intention of making more Ainu folktales available in English. They have produced English versions of two of Kayano's books under the titles The Ainu: A Story of Japan's Original People (Tuttle Publishing 2004) and The Ainu and the Fox (RIC Publications 2006). Future projects include picturebook English versions of the yukar recorded in Ainu Shin'yōshū (アイヌ神謡集), an anthology of stories from the Ainu oral tradition which were first put into writing and translated into the Japanese language by Chiri Yukie (1903-1922), the niece of Kannari Matsu, an invaluable assistant to Kindaichi until she died at the age of 19.

Books which relate the epic songs of the Ainu in English include Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yōshū, translated by Benjamin Peterson of Project Okikirmui in 2013, and Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans: The Epic Tradition of the Ainu by Donald L. Philippi. The Project Okikirmui collection contains thirteen yukar, while Philippi translates 35 epics, all of them originally recorded by women, the majority by Imekanu.

The Ainu epic Kutune Shirka is a major example of the yukar style.

See also


  • Donald L. Philippi, Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans: The Epic Tradition of the Ainu. University of Tokyo Press, 1979; North Point, 1982. ISBN 0-691-06384-2.

External links

5 (visual novel)

5 (5 -ファイブ-, 5 -Faibu-) is a Japanese adult visual novel developed by Ram that was released on July 25, 2008, for Windows as a DVD. 5 is the third game developed by Ram, and the first to be released after an eight-year hiatus since the first release of their last game, Koigokoro. The game is described by the development team as a "dramatic adventure", and a "noisy northern province love comedy" (ドタバタ 北国ラブコメディ, dotabata hokkoku rabu komedi). The game bears the tagline, "Five little love tales which are likely to be buried in snow." The gameplay in 5 follows a linear plot line, which offers pre-determined scenarios and courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the five female main characters.

Ainu language

Ainu (; Ainu: アイヌ・イタㇰ Aynu=itak; Japanese: アイヌ語 Ainu-go) is a language spoken by members of the Ainu ethnic group on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Until the 20th century, Ainu languages were also spoken throughout the southern half of the island of Sakhalin and by small numbers of people in the Kuril Islands. There are three main dialects along with 19 other dialects of the Ainu languages. Only the Hokkaido variant survives, the last speaker of Sakhalin Ainu having died in 1994. Hokkaido Ainu is moribund, though attempts are being made to revive it. The Japanese government made a decision to recognize Ainu as indigenous in June 2008. Currently, the Japanese government is constructing a facility dedicated to preserving Ainu culture, including the language.Ainu has no generally accepted genealogical relationship to any other language family.

Ainu music

Ainu music is the musical tradition of the Ainu people of northern Japan.

The oral Ainu culture includes various genres, of which upopo, lighthearted ballads on daily affairs and rituals often accompanied by traditional Ainu instruments, and yukar (mimicry), a form of rhythmic epic poetry often supported by light percussion, are most prominently covered in writings on this oral Ainu culture.

The contents of these ballads were an important source of understanding daily life as well as various traditions and habits of the Ainu people, and today these remain an important part in protecting the Ainu cultural identity, as seen in efforts by performers such as Oki, the most famous contemporary performer of Ainu music.

The most useful English-language overview of Ainu music (with recordings and transcriptions) is by Chiba Nobuhiko.

Ainu people

The Ainu or the Aynu (Ainu アィヌ Аину Aynu; Japanese: アイヌ Ainu; Russian: Айны Ajny), in the historical Japanese texts the Ezo (蝦夷), are an indigenous people of Japan (Hokkaido, and formerly northeastern Honshu) and Russia (Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and the Kamchatka Peninsula).The official number of the Ainu is 25,000, but unofficially is estimated at 200,000, as many Ainu have been completely assimilated into Japanese society and have no knowledge of their ancestry.

Don Philippi

Donald L. Philippi (October 2, 1930 – January 26, 1993) was a noted translator of Japanese and Ainu, and a musician.

Born in Los Angeles, Philippi studied at the University of Southern California before going to Japan in 1957 on a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Kokugakuin University. In Japan he became an expert in both classical Japanese and Ainu.

Philippi is known for his translation of the Kojiki and the ancient Shinto prayers known as norito. He also published a book of translations of Ainu epic poems (yukar), Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans: The Epic Tradition of the Ainu, and a book of translations of ancient Japanese poems, This Wine of Peace, This Wine of Laughter: A Complete Anthology of Japan's Earliest Songs. Philippi was also a noted technical translator.

Under the pseudonym Slava Ranko, Philippi edited and published Maratto, a little magazine focused on Ainu literature and culture. The first issue was published March 3, 1977 in San Francisco.

Philippi was also a musician, learning the shamisen and the biwa both in the U.S. and Japan. In the late 1970s, he became familiar in the San Francisco music scene, again using the name Slava Ranko, and performing a combination of biwa and synthesizer music. In 1981, he issued an album, Arctic Hysteria.


Imekanu (イメカヌ, November 10, 1875 – April 6, 1961), also known by her Japanese name Kannari Matsu (金成 マツ), was an Ainu missionary and epic poet. Along with her niece, Yukie Chiri, she wrote down and preserved numerous Ainu yukar she learned from her mother.


A kamuy (Ainu: カムィ; Japanese: 神威 or 神居, kamui) is a spiritual or divine being in Ainu mythology, a term denoting a supernatural entity composed of or possessing spiritual energy.

Kutune Shirka

The Kutune Shirka (Ainu: クツ゚ネシㇼカ), known in Japanese as Itadorimaru no Kyoku (虎杖丸の曲) or simply Itadorimaru (虎杖丸), is a sacred yukar epic of the native Ainu people of Japan. The Ainu title refers to a magic sword wielded by the story's protagonist. It is one of the most important, if not the most important, piece of Ainu literature. There have been several translation efforts since its compilation, into Japanese and other languages.

Kyōsuke Kindaichi

Kyōsuke Kindaichi (金田一 京助, Kindaichi Kyōsuke, May 5, 1882 – November 14, 1971) was a Japanese linguist from Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. He is chiefly known for his dictations of yukar, or sagas of the Ainu people. Linguist Haruhiko Kindaichi was his son. His grandson is Keio University Professor Emeritus, Russian scholar, and president of University of Nagano, Masumi Kindaichi.

Lutz D. Schmadel

Lutz Dieter Schmadel (July 2, 1942, Berlin – October 21, 2016) was a German astronomer and a prolific discoverer of asteroids, who worked at the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ARI) of the University of Heidelberg.His special interest was the astrometry of minor planets. Among his numerous discoveries were the three main-belt asteroids 8661 Ratzinger, 10114 Greifswald and 11508 Stolte.He was the author of Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (see below) a reference book containing information about the discovery and naming of 12,804 asteroids (March 2006). One asteroid 2234 Schmadel, discovered in 1977, was named in his honor. The asteroid 8811 Waltherschmadel was named for his father, Walther Schmadel (1902–1944), who died at the Eastern Front near Stalingrad during WWII.

Lyudmila Karachkina

Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina (Ukrainian: Людмила Георгіївна Карачкіна, Russian: Людмила Георгиевна Карачкина, born 3 September 1948, Rostov-on-Don) is a Ukrainian astronomer and discoverer of minor planets.In 1978 she began as a staff astronomer of the Institute for Theoretical Astronomy (ITA) at Leningrad. Her research at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory (CrAO) then focused on astrometry and photometry of minor planets. The Minor Planet Center credits her with the discovery of 130 minor planets, including the Amor asteroid 5324 Lyapunov and the Trojan asteroid 3063 Makhaon. In 2004, she received a Ph.D. in astronomy from Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University.Lyudmila Karachkina has two daughters, Maria and Renata. The inner main-belt asteroid 8019 Karachkina, discovered by German astronomers Lutz D. Schmadel and Freimut Börngen at Tautenburg on 14 October 1990, was named in her honor (M.P.C. 35489). On 23 November 1999, the minor planet 8089 Yukar was named after her husband, Yurij Vasil'evicht Karachkin (b. 1940), a physics teacher at CrAO's school.(M.P.C. 36946).

Oral literature

Oral literature or folk literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken (oral) word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. There is no standard definition as folklorists have varying descriptions for oral literature or folk literature but a broad conceptualization refers to it as literature characterized by oral transmission and the absence of any fixed form.


Pirikanoka (ピリカノカ) (lit. 'beautiful form') is the Ainu name, sung in yukar, for a grouping of geological features in Hokkaidō, Japan. In 2009 Pirikanoka was nationally designated a Place of Scenic Beauty, with the first six sites listed below, with an extension in 2012 to include the next three, and another in 2014 for the tenth. Each has its own name in Ainu.

Shigeru Kayano

Shigeru Kayano (萱野 茂, Kayano Shigeru) (June 15, 1926 – May 6, 2006) was one of the last native speakers of the Ainu language and a leading figure in the Ainu ethnic movement in Japan.

Stranger In My Land

Stranger In My land is a 2014 Indian English/Hindi documentary-style short film written and directed by Duyu Tabyo, and produced and co-written by Padi Genda. The film was produced and released under the banner of CoreConxept Entertaintment in association with Padi Genda Pictures.

Based upon the racial discrimination faced by people of Northeast India, the film attempts to portray the ignorance of the mainland Indians towards those from North-east India, and was released August 2014.


Uepeker (Ainu:ウエペケㇾ, old tale) are Ainu folktales, and form part of the Ainu's oral literature. In Sakhalin, the term "uchashkuma" is used, and in other areas the term "tuitak" is used.

Yukie Chiri

Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵, Chiri Yukie, June 8, 1903 – September 18, 1922) was a Japanese transcriber and translator of Yukar (Ainu epic tales).

Mythic texts
Japanese creation myth
Takamagahara mythology
Izumo mythology
Hyūga mythology
Human age
Mythical locations
Major Buddhist figures
Seven Lucky Gods
Yōkai and Yūrei with divine aspects

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