(Sept 13) As the town’s only business is tourism, most of the street space in Akanko is devoted to hotels, restaurants and (most of all) souvenir stores. Gift-giving is very important in Japanese culture, so it would be unthinkable to come back from vacation without a suitcase full of miyage (souvenirs) for one’s friends and family.
This store specializes in memorabilia from Studio Ghibli films. (About 90% is for Totoro, which I guess is to be expected.)
A T-shirt slogan.
(Better late than never I guess.)
The Ainu are famous woodcarvers, so given the size of the local Ainu population it is not surprising that many of the souvenir shops feature carvings, and in some cases the actual carvers.
This guy specializes in tiny little owls and squirrels.
The carvings tend to be aimed more at appealing to Japanese tourists than expressing the traditions of Ainu culture. Some of them are probably mass-produced. The hand-made ones are more expensive and not as slick-looking.
Tourist-bait carvings include ultra-cute foxes, family crests, Buddhas, lucky gods and cranes. There are lots and lots of carvings of bears and owls, both sacred to the Ainu, but even these are often on the cute side.
The “Ainu Village” is a section of the shopping district with an all-Ainu theme.
I ordered a yakku setto at this Ainu diner (“yakku” being Ainu for “deer”.) This turned out to be a venison stew with local vegetables, plus a bowl of rice cooked with beans.
This sign on this store shows a koropokkuru. In Ainu legends these were little people who are usually shown using a butterbur leaf as an umbrella.
(The creature on the other side of the sign appears to be a koropokkuru bear.)