Wednesday, September 16, 2009

first salmon festival

Asir chep nomi ("welcoming the first salmon of the year") is an Ainu festival that takes place each year on the banks of the Toyohira River, a mere ten-minute bicycle ride from where I live in Sapporo. At the core of the festival is a solemn prayer ceremony in which the Ainu elders, in traditional attire, express thanks to the gods for sending the precious gift of salmon. There are also demonstrations of traditional Ainu fishing using spears of ancient design with hinged hooks, opportunities to watch Ainu craftsmen at work, and lots of food cooked in the Ainu manner. After the ceremony there is singing, dancing, and story-telling. Games and contests are also part of the program, making it a very visitor-friendly festival. One of the things I appreciate about this festival is that it gives me a chance to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste things I've only read about in reference books. The Asir chep nomi takes place on a weekend or national holiday in mid-September. This year it was held on Sunday, September 13.