Hokkaido (北海道 Hokkaidō) is Japan’s most northern region island and it’s closest prefecture neighbor is Aomori which is at the very northern part of the island of Honshu. Hokkaido was first ‘stolen’ from the Ainu people and made as a Japanese land mass in 1869 right after the beginning of the Meiji period.
It’s hard to describe the history and the current state of what Hokkaido is without explaining who first lived on this northern island of Japan before even the Japanese themselves occupied the land of what is now known as Japan. The Ainu people were the indigenous people that first inhabited the lands of Japan.
They are said to have come over from Russia long time ago when a frozen mass connected the island and Russia, and their ancestry has been said to stem back to the Jomon period, which is basically early man kind. I strongly recommend learning about the Ainu people, click here to learn more about Hokkaido the Ainu and where it’s been.
Hokkaido has been known as several names throughout history. Ezo, Yezo, Yeso and Yesso. It’s their second largest island of Japan and of course the most northern area of Japan before you get to the Kuril Islands and Russia. Hokkaido is separated from the island of Honshu of Japan by the Tsugaru Strait, but the two islands are now connected by an underwater railway called the Seikan Tunnel.
The main capital of Hokkaido is Sapporo, although there are several large cities in Hokkaido this is the only one that is ordinance-designated by the Japanese government. The Meiji period government had a tough decision to make when they came to renaming Hokkaido which was called Ezochi then.
They had a few choices when it came to renaming the island. They had Kaihokudo and Hokkaido, they of course decided to name the island Hokkaido, but they decided to write the kanji in a way to compromise between similar names then like Tokaido. But according to the Matsuura, the name Hokkaido was brought up because the Ainu people called the region Kai.
The food in Hokkaido is said to be some of the best seafood in the world. But the residents of Hokkaido have been able to manage growing crops on soil that’s been said to be hard to grow on because of all the activity with the volcanoes and the huge amount of volcanic ash that is in the area. But Hokkaido is known for garlic, potato’s and Japan’s largest grow area of corn.
It’s said that the seafood is so good though, that if you have any desire or liking of seafood, you should visit Hokkaido at least once in your life!
Hokkaido has a good amount of Earthquakes every year and also has active volcanoes such as:
But not everything in Hokkaido is a snowy mass or a volcano. The spring, summer and fall times of Hokkaido have a lot of beauty in them as well. In fact many come to Hokkaido during the summer months to come see the flower farms.
There are over 80 different flower farms or flower lands in Hokkaido that you can visit. Because of the unique summers Hokkaido has by not being too hot or too cold, it’s perfect for growing flowers, and because of this, Hokkaido has a huge tourist industry based solely off of Hokkaido’s flowers, and when the trees start to change in September for a festival called Momijigari. Click here to see the different Flower Lands in Hokkaido.
The wildlife in Hokkaido is extremely rugged being that it’s one of the roughest areas during the winter in the world. But, besides this rough wilderness it has more brown bear in the world then anywhere else in Asia. But it’s also known to have large amount deer and red crown crane that still live on the island. Some mountains will incur up to 400 inches of snow fall during the year and because of this Hokkaido is known for it’s snow sports.
Since it’s roots are in the winter, it’s not surprising to note that Hokkaido hosts several different festival during the Winter but host some famous Spring, Summer and Fall festivals as well:
|Sapporo Snow Festival||Asahikawa Snow Festival||Sounkyo Ice Festival|
|Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival||Obihiro Ice Festival||Otaru Yukiakari no Michi (Snow Gleaming)|
|Showashinzan International Yukigassan (Snowball Fight)||Sounkyo Hyobaku (Ice Waterfall) Festival)||Otofuke Tokachigawa Swan Festival Sairinka|
|Abashiri Okotsk Drift Ice Festival||Lake Akan Ice Festival “Fuyu-hanabi” (Winter Fireworks)||Mombetsu Drift Ice Festival|
|Sapporo Lilac Festival||Hakodate Goryokaku Festival||Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival|
|Non Key Land Moss Phlox Festival||Yosakoi Soran Festival||Hokkaido Shrine Festival|
|Sapporo Summer Festival||Pacific Music Festival||Otaru Ushio Festival|
|Lake Shikotsu Lake Water Festival||Hokkai Heso (Belly Button) Festival||Shiretoko Shari Neputa|
|Noboribetsu Hell Festival||Esashi Ubagami Daijingu Togyo Festival||Furano Wine Festival|
|Nemuro Crab Festival||Autumn Wine Festival||Momijigari (Leaf Watching)|
|Marimo Festival||Sapporo White Illumination||Hakodate Christmas Fantasy Festival|
Click here to learn more about these festivals.
The Japanese Version of an American Indian
I originally started writing this because I did a post on Hokkaido, and it’s hard to mention Hokkaido if you do not bring up the Ainu people and their culture, as most of Hokkaido has been shaped by these people and their past.
This is a new video below as the old one was deleted, it’s quicker and to the point. But do take a gander at the article to fill in any gaps the video may miss.
The Ainu (which means ‘human’) or also called the Aynu, Ezo, Emishi and Ebisu are indigenous people of Hokkaido, Japan. They are also said to be from the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin and Russia as well as the very northern area of Honshu which is mostly Aomori, Japan.
It’s said that there is only around 25,000 of these people left in Japan and in Russia. But some say there could be up to 175,000. But no matter the number, there is only around 2-10 native speaking Ainu’s left in the world! These people could very well be described as the Japanese version of an American Indian. They prayed to nature, felt that all things in nature had a spirit or god within it. From animals to plants to even objects, they felt all things had a basic energy amongst it that made it special. So the word Ainu is in opposition to these gods in their religion.
Hokkaido was originally called Ezo by the native Ainu, and in 1869 1 year after the Meiji period began, the new government changed the name as Japan incorporated Hokkaido as a Japanese controlled land mass. 30 years later the Japanese government passed a law/act that labeled these Ainu peoples as ‘former aborigines’ which immediately made them legal Japanese citizens, and further denied them the status of claiming that they are indigenous.
Once this happened their lands of Hokkaido were then distributed to the Wajin which literally means ‘Wa people’, the Wajin are names given to the dominant native ethnic group of Japan, so immediately this brought about a racial discrimination into the culture, from those ‘original’ Japanese and the newly appointed Ainu. This push for reclamation of the Ainu lands was to said to accomplish a few different challenges that the Japanese government wanted to settle.
1st they said it was a means to defend Japan from a quickly expanding Russia. 2nd it would fix the ever growing unemployment rates for the former samurai class. The Japanese government also took Hokkaido to help with natural resource gathering for their ever expanding capitalist economy.
What ever the reasons were in the beginnings of the Japanese and Ainu’s relationship it’s been tough. Many revolts took place while the Japanese continued their attempt at controlling these native people and their way of life by trying to merge them into their culture and once they finally did in 1899 they were forced to learn Japanese and adopt Japanese customs, but before all this was ever to take place the revolts of the Ainu people were heard several times in Japanese history.
In 1336 during the Muromachi period, the Japanese and Ainu began their first disputes which eventually lead into the Koshamain’s Revolt in 1456 when a man named Takeda Nobuhiro killed the Ainu leader Koshmain. From the start of the Japanese and Ainu political and social upheaval it took 672 years (June 8th, 2008) to finally come to a decision to formally recognize the Ainu people as indigenous to Japan, which finally gave them the rights to practice their way of life yet again and to hault all discriminatory acts towards their group. The Japanese government stated:
“The government would like to solemnly accept the historical fact that many Ainu were discriminated against and forced into poverty with the advancement of modernization, despite being legally equal to (Japanese) people.”
The origins of the Ainu people were said to have descend from the Jomon people who lived in Japan during the Jomon period (14,500 to 300 BC). So it’s fair to say that through legend and historical data these Ainu people lived in and amongst the Japanese country for tens of thousands of years before the children of the Sun ever arrived.
So simply stated, in the end, you can rightfully say the original settlements and civilizations of Japan were of Ainu descent, and with that, I’d say the change of heart in 2008 by the Japanese is an honorable one to recognize that. You can find more information about the Ainu culture and history by checking these links out:
Aomori 青森市 is the capital city of the Prefecture Aomori in Japan. It’s also the northern most part of the Tohoku region of Japan. Aomori can be translated “Green Forest”. Aoi being ‘Blue or Green’ and Mori as ‘Forest’. Settlement has been dated to possibly as late as 5500 to 4000 BC. The land form of Aomori was said to be created around the Cenozoic Era, Paleozoic Era and the Mesozoic Era. It was said to be at the bottom of the sea and over the many many years of volcanic eruption from Mt. Iwaki, Mt Osore and from the Hakkoda Mountains the land mass finally appeared.
Aomori was not called Aomori until after 1624 in the early Edo period. It was noted that during these days there was green forests near the current city on Honcho in Aomori. This was used as a landmark for ships that came into the ports that were being constructed at that time. The eastern side of Aomori prefecture is called ‘Nanbu’ the western side is called ‘tsugaru’. In 1495 to 1575 there was a a civil war between the Nanbu clan which controlled most of Aomori, Akita and Iwate regions in Japan. In 1590, a vassal of the Nanbu clan started a rebellion his name was Oura Tamenobu, he quickly became the lord of the area and then soon after called himself Tsugaru Tamenobu at this same time Nanbu Nobunao was becoming the lord of the Nanbu region in Northern Japan.
During the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868), these two regions finally merged and became what is now called Aomori prefecture. These events strongly influenced the Matsuri/Festivals that are still taking place today in Aomori. Such as the Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri, Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and the Goshogawara Tachineputa Matsuri which are held yearly in August. These matsuri have a long history.
Many individuals claim that these matsuri begun when Tsugaru Tamenobu commissioned a huge lantern and ordered it to be taken to Kyoto in 1593. With that, there is a few interesting differences between the matsuri in Nanbu region and Tsugaru region. Neputa and Nebuta matsuri of the tsugaru region is to be said to be the brave festival/matsuri as it’s held in the night. Where as the Nachinohe Sansha Taisai matsuri is very elegant and it takes place during the day time. These are the historical matsuri that have taken place in the past and have been passed on until today.
Almost ten years after the Meiji Era begun, Aomori begun to start the first apple farm/cultivation in Japan, and still even today Aomori is the main apple production of Japan. This site here has a great amount of information regaring water ways, trains, highways and airports and a bit more about the mountain ranges, click here to check it out.
For additional information about Aomori you can check out:
You can click here to check out other areas of Japan.
Aomori Nebuta Festival
Goshogawara Tachineputa Festival
Hachinobe Sansha Taisai Festival
I broke the cities into their original regions from when the two clans had control over the Aomori prefecture. I mixed up the sides, but the left side of the Aomori was controlled by the Tsugaru clan and on the right side of Aomori the Nanbu clan.
|Nanbu & Shimokita Region (right side)
||Tsugaru Strait (left side)
Tatehana Morning Market + Aomori Apples