Ainu Spirits SingingThe Living World of Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yoshu

Ainu Spirits SingingThe Living World of Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yoshu

Sarah M. Strong

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824835125

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


Indigenous peoples throughout the globe are custodians of a unique, priceless, and increasingly imperiled legacy of oral lore. Among them the Ainu, a people native to northeastern Asia, stand out for the exceptional scope and richness of their oral performance traditions. This book provides a study and English translation of Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yoshu, the first written transcription of Ainu oral narratives by an ethnic Ainu. The thirteen narratives in Chiri's collection belong to the genre known as kamuiyukar, said to be the most ancient performance form in the vast Ainu repertoire. In it, animals (and sometimes plants or other natural phenomena) assume the role of narrator and tell stories about themselves. Along with critical contextual information about traditional Ainu society and its cultural assumptions, the book brings forward pertinent information on the geography and natural history of the coastal southwestern Hokkaido region where the stories were originally performed. It also offers the first extended biography of Chiri Yukie (1903–1922) in English. The story of her life, and her untimely death at age nineteen, makes clear the harsh consequences for Chiri and her fellow Ainu of the Japanese colonization of Hokkaido and the Meiji and Taisho governments' policies of assimilation. Chiri's receipt of the narratives in the Horobetsu dialect from her grandmother and aunt (both traditional performers) and the fact that no native speakers of that dialect survive today make her work all the more significant. The book concludes with a full, integral translation of the text.