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Anticipating the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics & Paralympics
The dynamic traditions of upopo
~upopo yan rimse yan~
Producing a breathtaking stage that showcases the living heartbeat of an Indigenous nation in Hokkaido, Northern Japan and beyond.


According to Debo Akibe (general director), “Ainu culture has the essence that translates directly to world peace because its philosophy is rooted in a deep respect for all animate and non-animate beings. These beings are filled with presence of kamuy." There are three main stages within “upopo yan rimse yan.”
The curtain opens to a fierce takusa to drive away bad spirits, followed by gentle uekap welcome dance filled with happiness, and concludes with a solemn prayer ceremony or kamuynomi. These are the welcome scenes that showcase how the Ainu people greet their guests.
2.kanto or wa yakusak no arankep shinep ka isam
The next stage expands upon the Ainu knowledge system that “everything has a divine purpose.” This includes our respect towards nature and the birds, and the care towards our everyday tools. Our everyday lives are filled with songs and play.
Everything has meaning within the minutiae of the everyday. Everything is filled with a depth of meaning, including the rustling of the trees and the fluttering of feathers amongst birds.
3.urespa mosir
The last stage refers to the gentle land that co-nurtures the world, and urespa means to “grow together.”
The dances here represent the Ainu knowledge system of mutual respect towards nature and our intention to work hand-in-hand to co-support and co-create a world where each and every being under the sun grows together.
upopo yan rimse yan
“Upopo yan rimse yan” represents a dynamic expression of Ainu heritage that is created from the unprecedented exchange and collaboration of traditional practices between Ainu practitioners within and beyond Hokkaido.
This multi-faceted stage space remains true to the essence of traditional upopo and rimse, even as it is produced in collaboration with Shinnosuke Fujima (classical Japanese dance) and Hideaki Takahashi (musician). This reflects Akibe’s (general producer) vision of a stage that respectfully incorporates the beauty of the universe and the diversity in Japan.

1 takusa rimse
A dance to purify and ward off bad spirits (Kushiro region)
2 uekap
A welcome dance (Asahikawa region)
3 kamuynomi
A ceremonial prayer to the gods (all regions) that is usually held during various events. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the gods to request for protection before starting an important task.
2.kanto or wa yakusak no arankep shinep ka isam
4 mukkuri/mukkur
Mouth harp. A musical instrument used by the Ainu (all regions) to express our tonal impression for emotions, a scenery or nature, and to represent sounds of animals.
5 sarkiusnay
A dance to express a scenery or landscape (Obihiro region). Reeds grow in profusion around most Ainu kotans and this is a dance to express the motions of the reeds in the wind.
6 eri rimse
A dance to pray for a bountiful harvest or a fruitful harvest year (Obihiro region). Commonly called the millet-planting dance, this dance expresses movements from the sowing to the harvesting of millet. Also understood as a dance to wish for a plentiful year, the stepping movements represent the planting of millet seeds into the earth.
7 ku rimse
Arrow dance (Kushiro and various other regions). This dance is believed to originate from the story of a hunter who went into the mountains to hunt for birds. He became enraptured by the beauty of the birds and was caught in the dilemma of whether he should let his arrows fly. In the end, he decided not to shoot. This dance is performed during festive events and ceremonies, including iyomante, as an offering to the gods.
8 ku rimse & emus rimuse
Performed by men holding swords, this dance occurs during ceremonies and has the function of warding off bad spirits and calamities. This majestic and lively dance from Akan is usually performed as an offering to the gods during rituals and ceremonies, including iyomante. The sword is infused with spiritual power that has the ability to ward off bad spirits.
9 huttare cuy
The dark hair dance, also known as a dance that expresses the swaying of pine trees in a stormy night. Since the dance is physically demanding, it is sometimes called the competing heartbeat dance.
10 cikap upopo
Crane dance (Asahikawa region). Cikap refers to birds and specifically, it is referencing cranes in this dance, while the word upopo can refer to “dance” in the Asahikawa region. According to legends, a kotan elder went into the snowy mountains to hunt when he came upon cranes in their nesting spot. This dance expresses the motherly love of the cranes towards their chicks while nesting.

3.urespa mosir
11 ihunke
Lullaby (Tokachi, Makubetsu regions). Ihunke means “making soothing sounds to pacify babies.”
12 sarorunkamuy rimse
Crane dance (Kushiro regions). This dance replicates the chirping, singing and mating dance between female and male red-crowned cranes in love.
13 essa ho ho
Round dance or poro rimse (Kushiro region). This is a large group dance performed in a circle. Also known as a “dance match” between dancers as they compete to keep up with changing movements in the round dance.
Online performance
Since 2015, Hokkaido and the Hokkaido Ainu Association have been preparing to promote Ainu culture locally and globally upon the Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics 2020 stage.
The Olympics and Paralympics are a celebration and a peaceful gathering of diverse ethnicities and races. Given the fact that the world will be focusing all its attention on this event, this is a rare chance for us to let the world know about the existence of the Indigenous Ainu in Japan.
Ainu culture embodies the ethos of world peace, with its deep respect to all elements in the universe and the belief that kamuy resides in all things. We hope to convey the spirit of the Ainu people to the rest of the world and this virtual performance represents our efforts to do so.