Last chance to see Ainu Stories: Contemporary Lives by the Saru River at Japan House London

Japan House London • 2 April 2024 - 13:54


Art Entertainment Travel


Future Events
  • Ainu Stories: Contemporary Lives by the Saru River is the UK-first exploration of the contemporary stories of this Northern Japanese indigenous culture.
  • Visit in the remaining weeks to experience four central themes of contemporary Ainu culture: the critically endangered language; society and the preservation of the environment; Ainu textiles, song and dance; and woodcarving and tourism.
  • The exhibition is free to enter.

LONDON, April 2, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Now in its closing weeks, visit Ainu Stories at Japan House London to discover the rich cultural diversity of Japan in this UK-first exploration of contemporary Ainu culture. Since the exhibition opening, Japan House London has welcomed over 100,000 visitors.

Ainu Stories: Contemporary Lives by the Saru River has been curated in collaboration with the people of Biratori, an area located in Saru River basin in the south of Hokkaido. The exhibition explores the significance of Ainu culture for this community and the relationships between its people and their surroundings, as well as revealing interesting historical links between the UK and Biratori. Ainu Stories offers UK audiences a rare opportunity to fully experience the wider contemporary cultural fabric of Japan.

Alongside over 250 objects, twelve in-depth video interviews provide an intimate visual and oral backdrop to the exhibition's four central themes, which are further brought to life with displays of contemporary Ainu works and film:

  • Ainu Language – Members of the community in Nibutani are particularly dedicated to ensuring the continued life of this largely oral language, named as critically endangered by UNESCO.
  • Society and the Environment – This section touches on topics of environmental conservation, contemporary agricultural practices, the largely unknown world of Ainu cuisine and the consultation with members of the Ainu community on major land construction projects such as the recently completed Biratori Dam. 
  • Ainu Textiles, Song and Dance –Through displays, film and hands-on workshops, visitors can discover the importance of song and dance in Ainu culture – not performed for the benefit of others but taking place as part of community life. Richly embroidered robes worn for certain ceremonies tell the story of Ainu textiles and crafts.
  • Woodcarving and Tourism – Japanese domestic tourism in the 1960s and 1970s inspired the growth of the Ainu woodcarving industry in Nibutani, an area which was already famed for its delicately carved wooden trays, household utensils and hunting weapons. Today, Nibutani ita (carved trays), together with Nibutani attus (woven bark textiles), are the only officially designated 'Traditional Crafts' of Hokkaido. Visitors will find a range of these objects on display, including a specially commissioned piece by Kaizawa Tōru, whose work can also be seen in the British Museum.   

Sam Thorne, Director General & CEO at Japan House London, said:

"We're thrilled to have welcomed so many visitors to this landmark exhibition, made in collaboration with the Ainu community in Biratori. Our sold-out events series focused on themes of language, food and music, and has been a special way of animating and expanding out from the exhibition."

Look ahead to the 2024 programme at Japan House London:

Spring Exhibition 

Design Discoveries: Towards a Design Museum Japan 

May – September 2024

Japan is synonymous with exemplary design and yet has no dedicated national museum of design. Leading Japanese designers from different disciplines were asked, "If there were a permanent Japanese design collection, what would you put in it?". Their diverse responses are the subject of an exciting new exhibition opening at Japan House London in the spring, following successful shows at the National Art Center in Tokyo and at partner sites in Los Angeles and São Paulo.

Seven major Japanese creators, from filmmakers to architects and fashion designers, present their chosen national treasures, spanning 10,000 years from a variety of locations across the country. Each choice represents something from a specific prefecture, and the exhibition presents the background story of each example of design, its specific connection to the region, and in-depth perspectives from the experts who chose and researched the objects.

Autumn Exhibition

Food Samples

October 2024February 2025

Food samples are the replica food models found outside restaurants in Japan to advertise what is on offer inside. The production of these replicas was developed more than a century ago and requires great attention to detail. Specialist craftspeople work across Japan on this art form in workshops of varying size.

In Autumn 2024, 47 new replicas will be commissioned by Japan House London to explore food sample culture, one from each of Japan's prefectures. The exhibition will feature regional dishes from across the country whilst exploring the history, current use and future of the art form.

Notes to Editors

About Japan House London

Japan House London is a cultural destination offering guests the opportunity to experience the best and latest from Japan. Located on London's Kensington High Street, the experience is an authentic encounter with Japan, engaging and surprising even the most knowledgeable guests. Presenting the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology, it deepens the visitor's appreciation of all that Japan has to offer.  Last year, Japan House London marked five years of bringing the best of Japan to the UK and beyond. Part of a global initiative, there are two other Japan Houses, one in Los Angeles and the other in São Paulo.

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