Kayano Shigeru (1926-2006) was an inheritor and preserver of Ainu culture. As collector of Ainu folk utensils, teacher of the prominent Japanese linguist Kindaichi Kyōsuke, and recorder and transcriber of epics, songs, and tales from the last of the bards. He was also a fierce fighter against the construction of a dam in his village that meant destruction of a sacred ritual site as well as of nature. In addition, Kayano was the compiler of an authoritative Ainu-Japanese dictionary, a chanter of old epics, the founder of a museum of Ainu material culture as well as of an Ainu language school and a radio station. He was the first (and so far the only) National Diet member to address the assembly in Ainu. Kayano was also an inspiration behind today’s appreciation of Ainu culture in which young people, Ainu and non-Ainu of various nationalities, join to celebrate aboriginal cultures and their contemporary development. That includes recent youthful attempts to create new forms that combine traditional Ainu oral performances with contemporary music and dance. “Ainu Rebels” which formed in 2006, for example, is constituted mostly of Ainu youth but also includes Japanese and foreigners. They are a creative song and dance troupe that draws on Ainu oral tradition adapted to hip hop and other forms, as well as engaging in artistic activities that combine traditional Ainu art with contemporary artistic elements.
The following piece by Kayano Shigeru, published in 1999 as a children’s book with Saitō Hiroyuki’s illustrations, is an adaptation-translation from an old kamuy yukar dramatizing a contest of strength between the goddess of the wind and the demi-god Okikurumi.
I am Pikatakamuy,
Goddess of the Wind from the land of the gods.
I have the power to fly through the sky
and raise winds at will,
a gentle waft
a strong gust
or a stormy blast.
In the land of the gods,
or in the land of the humans,
women need be good at embroidery.
I lived at my house in the land of the gods,
and passed my days
I stopped my hand that held a needle
and chanced to look
across the land of the humans.
A village caught my eyes.
It was a big village of the Ainu.
How cheerful the village looked!
All the people of the village
were busy working.
Children and little dogs ran about joyfully.
My old habit began again:
All right, I’ll dance the dance of the winds
and scare the humans—
so I thought.
Once I felt like playing tricks
there was no restraining myself.
Right away, I donned
layers of particularly beautiful
that I had embroidered,
then, with a swoop
I flew up to the sky.
I flew and flew across the sky-
and on landing on a lofty mountain,
“Blow wind, blow wind—”
and began to dance my dance,
my wind-stirring dance,
my storm-hurling dance.
Then, as usual,
from the tips of my hands,
from inside my sleeves,
fierce winds began to blow,
they blew from the mountains out to sea,
raising fearful large waves.
The large waves,
upon the village of the Ainu.
The raging winds
made me so happy
day and night with no rest
for six days running
I danced on.
When I finished dancing
and looked at the village of the Ainu,
it was clean and bare,
not one thing was left.
Yet I found—
one house was still there all alone.
It was the house where a young man lived.
Upset and upset,
at once, I danced more fiercely than before.
When I finished dancing,
I looked carefully and there it was,
the house, not yet blown away.
Upset and upset, I thought of trying one more time,
but too tired to dance again, with nothing to do
I went home to the land of the gods.
When I came home,
again I passed my days
After days had passed, one day
I recalled the events in that village
and looked that way. To my surprise
the village, which I thought I had blown away,
was just as before.
Having rebuilt the houses,
all villagers lived cheerfully.
Vexed and vexed to see this,
donning at once my wind-stirring robes
and storm-hurling gowns
I flew to the top of the mountain
and danced powerfully
the wind-stirring dance, the storm-hurling dance.
From the tips of my hand
from the sleeves of my robes
piercing winds began blowing
sand storms swirled around the Ainu village
creating such turmoil
it was as if the sea was turning upside down.
Day and night for six days,
as I sent the winds,
the gods of the trees began wailing
so as not to be blown down,
big trees broke with snaps
while those that did not break
flew away, pulled up by the roots.
While dancing the wind-stirring dance
the storm-hurling dance,
I glanced at the village of the Ainu.
The village had blown off, leaving
a bleak, empty wasteland.
Yet, believe it or not,
all by itself, the young man’s house
still stood there
as before the storm.
Appalled by this
I gave up trying to blow the house away,
went home to the land of the gods
and passed my days embroidering.
suddenly at my door
a young Ainu appeared.
How daring of him to come to my door
before I, a goddess, realized it—
I was vexed by the horrid Ainu.
But he smiled sweetly and said,
“Pikatakamuy, goddess of the wind,
thank you for showing us your delightful dance.
As a token of gratitude, let me show you
the dance of the Ainu.”
The moment he said this—
the young man came into my house,
and started to dance his dance.
Then from the tips of his hands
from the sleeves of his robe, began blowing
strong, strong, piercing winds,
things fell from the shelf,
ashes and fire rose from the fireplace,
the house shook, the ceiling tore apart,
and in moments a mere framework
was all that was left of the house.
“Pikatakamuy, goddess of the wind,
The dance of the Ainu is not done yet,
I will show you another.”
Taking from his pocket
a fan, he danced.
On the fan was a drawing
of cold winter clouds
and as he fanned,
cold, cold winds blew at me;
when he fanned harder,
snow and hail danced around,
grains of ice pelting against me.
In the blink of an eye, my robes were torn,
my entire body was
covered with bruises.
My body was cold as ice,
I thought I was freezing to death.
Then the young man said,
“Pikatakamuy, goddess of the wind,
the dance of the Ainu
is not done yet.”
With this he flipped his fan.
Now there was a drawing
of a burning red sun.
This time, each time he fanned
there was dazzling light
and a hot, hot wind.
It was hot, so hot, my eyes went blind,
my skin scorched and charred,
it was so painful
I could think of nothing.
Falling like a rag,
I lost my senses.
After a while when I came to,
the young man approached me and said,
“Pikatakamuy, why did you
so devastate the village of the Ainu?
Because of you so many humans
lost their lives.”
“I thought, Pikatakamuy,
of killing you as I should have.
But you are the goddess of the wind in the land of the gods.
So I only punished you while keeping you alive.
If you make such strong winds one more time
know that I won’t forgive you then.”
This said, the young man fanned me
with his fan.
Strangely, each time he fanned,
bruise after bruise on my skin
As the young man fanned me with his fan,
my robes that were like tattered cloth flipped and flapped
into the beautiful robes they were before.
No, not only that, as he fanned around him,
my shattered house pulled and heaved
into the fine house that it was before.
“Who really are you?
Please let me know your name.”
When I asked,
“I am Okikurmi,”
the young man answered briskly.
“What? So you are Okikurmi!”
I was stunned to learn his name.
No wonder he was so strong.
Okikurmi is none other
than the strong, strong, wise youth, who went
from the land of the gods to the land of the Ainu.
I send no strong winds
toward the Saru River
by which Okikurmi lives;
I only send
In these words,
Pikatakamuy, the goddess of the wind
told us the story
of Okikurmi and the village of the Ainu.
Okikurmi, who punishes this evil god, is the guardian god of the Ainu, also called Ainurakkur (“humanlike god,” “Ainu” meaning “human”), who teaches skills of livelihood to humans. He lives in the village of the Ainu, teaches how to live, encourages the gods to protect the Ainu, and occasionally, as in this story, punishes gods who play wicked tricks. Through Okikurumi, Ainu have expressed their ideal human image.