• SnowDogTeam

The Ainu Traditional Livelihood -Clothing

Updated: Sep 7

Ainu culture has evolved with history. This section highlights the Ainu people’s traditional, clothing of 100 to 200 years ago. Their current daily lives in terms of food, clothing and housing are almost the same as those of most people in Japan. However, in line with a growing recognition of Ainu’s traditional culture and a movement to restore various aspects of it in recent years, some Ainu people are proactively attempting to learn their traditional culture and pass it onto the next generation.


For instance, they increasingly wear their own traditional clothes at rituals and other formal occasions, which creates a growing demand for greater production of their traditional clothes. In terms of the traditional diet, some Ainu people use traditional ingredients to prepare new cooking-style dishes, and some use non-traditional seasonings.


As for housing, consideration has been given to housing design so that places specifically designed for meetings and ceremonies often contain a hearth and other features involved in rituals.


Outline of Ainu clothing!


Hide and fur clothes

Various hides and furs both of land animals like bears, deer and foxes as well as sea mammals like seals, sea otters and fur seals are used to make clothes.

Hide and fur clothes

(Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum, Biratori Town collection)



Fish skin clothes

Pieces of salmon, trout and other fish skin are patched together to create clothes with tighter sleeves and a wider hem than other clothes, and is similar to a western style one-piece dress.


Fish skin clothes

(Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum collection)


Bark clothes

Fibres from the inner bark of one kind of elm and Japanese linden trees are woven into textile fabrics for dress-making, which are called attush. The elm is said to be the best suited for dress-making among the various materials because it has very soft fibres.

Bark clothes (Sakhalin)

(Ainu Museum collection)


Grass clothes

Nettle tree fibres are woven into textile fabrics. These fibres are thinner and whiter than those of the elm tree.


Grass clothes

(Botanic Garden, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University)


Clothes made of cotton

Old cotton clothing and remnants of precious clothing obtained through early trade practices were used to make these clothes that were found in many areas and called by different names in the Ainu language.


Cotton clothes

(Ainu Museum collection)


Pattern making

The patterns on the clothes, which are characteristic of the region of origin, are made by patchwork and embroidery.


Embroidered patterns apparently serve as a charm against evil spirits, which was believed or not, depending on the people and the region. Some seniors who know the past well believe that thorny patterns have a special meaning, but others say they don’t.




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