Yearbook Japan, 2019, vol. 48, pp. 370–416

DOI: 10.24411/0235-8182-2019-10016

“Ainu Divine Songs Collection” (Ainu Shin’yoshu) by Chiri Yukie

E.G. Tyurleneva

Abstract. “Ainu Divine Songs Collection” or “Ainu Shin’yoshu” is a selection of the song epos of Ainu, compiled in 1922 by young Ainu girl Chiri Yukie (1903–1922). Ainu are not numerous people living in Hokkaido. The name of these people came out of the word “ainu” that means “a man” of Ainu in their native language. In the old times, Ainu had been living in Sakhalin, Kurile islands and the south of Kamchatka peninsula, but this article focuses on Ainu living in Japanese island of Hokkaido, their folklore and culture.

“Ainu Shin’yoshu” is the compilation of 13 songs belonging to the genre kamui yukar, which means “songs of the gods”. In particular, it contains 11 songs about gods of nature and 2 songs, belonging to the genre oina, about human-god named Okikirmui. Kamui is a variety of Ainu’s gods. Nevertheless, kamui is not only a cult of nature. They are spirits whose existence in heavens does not differ from men’s life on earth. However, when they descend to the men’s world, they take the shape of animals, plants or other natural phenomena. The songs in “Ainu Shin’yoshu” are set out on behalf of the gods. They contain passages from these gods’ lives. We can understand Ainu’s idea of life, observations of the world around them, and their comprehension of their beings from their epos.

Chiri Yukie recorded the songs of her people in order to preserve their traditions. On the grounds of her foreword, and the fact that the songs were recorded in both, Ainu’s and Japanese languages, it can be supposed that the goal of her work was to introduce Ainu’s traditions and their way of life to Japanese audience. At her time the discrimination and an active japanization of Ainu was an actual problem.

Keywords: the Ainu of Hokkaido, Аinu shinyoshu, epos of the Ainu, kamui yukar, songs of the gods, Chiri Yukie (1903–1922).

Author: Tyurleneva Ekaterina G., master of the Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies of RSUH. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Contents of the issue: Yearbook Japan, 2019, Vol. 48.