Marae style pā dreamed for Ainu, by Ainu

By Aroha Mane , Jessica Tyson

Ainu living in Tokyo hosted their annual festival in Yokohama on the weekend. The festival was an opportunity to celebrate their culture and show their gratitude to their supporters. It’s was also a chance to fundraise for a marae style project they hope will strengthen their community.

For Ainu, the growth of the future generations is determined by the actions of today.

Tsubasa Okitsu who affiliates to the Ainu village of Tokapei Unkur told Te Ao, “Today’s event in a festival for Ainu living in Tokyo. It’s also an event to show our gratitude to our supporters.”

The Ainu and Māori connection has inspired the Ainu to set up a venue similar to a marae.

“Our leader Akemi Shimada has previously visited New Zealand, she connected with Māori and their marae. Akemi was very impressed with the sense of community that a marae has. So she started this movement herself. However this is only Akemi’s vision, it doesn’t necessarily mean Ainu living in the wider Tokyo region support this idea.”

The Ainu marae initiative is only in its early stages.

“It’s not at a stage where we know what the structure will be or how much it will cost. These details are still being discussed. For a long-time Tokyo Ainu have been trying to set up this place, we’ve tried with the Government for decades but to no avail. Akemi saw that Māori had done it independently, so the goal now is the get an Ainu space by Ainu for Ainu, without government assistance.”

Regardless of the challenges, a name for their marae has been chosen.

“We already have a name, it will be called Chasi Yaka. It means our fortress, an important place to pray and protect. So this is the name that we have given it already. This is also the name of our organisation.”

Through this marae they hope their goals will be achieved.

“Akemi and I have similar aspirations for the future of Ainu. We want our people to be proud, financially independent and innovative for all issues pertaining to Ainu. Even though not all Ainu share our vision, Akemi and I are connected regardless of our generations. I hope our future generations will be the same.”

A meeting place created by Ainu, for Ainu. Aspirations waiting to become a reality.