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5 Hunting

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Ainu History and Culture

1●Ainu People
2●Eating Habits
3●Wild Vegetable
10●Religion/"Sending Spirits Back"
11●Life of the Ainu
12●Sacred Dances
13●Oral Literature
15●Ainu Museum


The Ainu hunted from late autumn to early summer. The reasons for this were, among others, that in late autumn, plant gathering, salmon fishing and other activities of securing food came to an end, and hunters readily found game in fields and mountains in which plants had withered. A village possessed a hunting ground of its own or several villages used a joint hunting territory (iwor) . Heavy penelties were imposed on any outsiders trespassing on such hunting grounds or joint hunting territory.


The Ainu hunted bear, Ezo deer, rabbit, fox, raccoon dog and other animals. Ezo deer were a particularly important food resource for the Ainu as were salmon. They also hunted sea eagles such as white-tailed sea eagles, raver and other birds. The Ainu hunted eagles to obtain their tail feathers which were used in trade with the Japanese.


The Ainu hunted with arrows and spears whose points were coated with poison. The poison, called "surku," was obtained from the roots and stalks of aconites. The recipe for making this poison was a household secret, differing from family to family. To enhance the effect of the poison, roots and stalks of dog's bane boiled juice of Mekuragumo, Matsumomushi, tobacco, and other ingredients were mixed. Furthermore stingray's deadly poisonous stingers or skin covering stingers were used.

Hunting Methods

Hunting was done with dogs by several hunters who got on well with each other. Before the Ainu went hunting for animals like bear in particular, they prayed to the god of fire and the house guardian god to convey their wishes for a large catch, and safe hunting to the god of mountains.

The Ainu usually hunted bear during the time of the spring thaw. At that time bears were weak because they had not fed at all during long hibernation. Ainu hunters caught hibernating bears or bears which had just left hibernation dens. When they went bear hunting in summer, they used a spring trap loaded with an arrow, called "amappo".

The Ainu usually used arrows to hunt deer. Also they often used traps, including spring traps loaded with arrows. Furthermore they drove deer into the river or sea and shot them with arrows.When aiming at a large catch, a whole village would drive a herd of deer off a cliff and club them to death.

hunting by arrow







Ainu Museum 3-4, Wakakusa-cho 2-chome, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido, JAPAN 059-0902

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