The small riverside village of Nibutani (二風谷), northern part of Biratori Town (平取町), is a traditional heart of Ainu culture in Central Hokkaido. A famous Ainu cultural leader Kayano Shigeru (1926-2006) was born and raised in this village, he made an effort to improve ethnic status. Today Nibutani (meaning Jungle in Ainu) is difficult to visit by public transport, but you will feel the Ainu spirit here.
Location 60km east of Tomakomai
Population (Biratori) 4800
Highlights Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum
Tourist Information Biratori Tourist Association (平取観光協会): biratori-kanko.jp
Bike Rentals Historical Museum of the Saru River (see below)
01 AINU CULTURE
Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum
二風谷アイヌ文化博物館 / 55 Nibutani / 9am-4.30pm / Closed Mon 16 Nov-15 Apr, 16 Dec-15 Jan (for a month) / ¥400 / Wi-Fi / www.town.biratori.hokkaido.jp/biratori/nibutani/
One of Hidaka’s ‘must sees’, the Ainu culture museums contains huge collection of crafts, livingware, dugout canoes, folk arts, cloths, as well as recorded folk songs, videos and photos donated by Kayano Shigeru. There are several Ainu’s restored chise (traditional thatched houses) and craft shops around the museum. The website is a good resource.
02 AINU CULTURE
Kayano Shigeru Nibutani Ainu Museum
萱野茂二風谷アイヌ資料館 / Tel 01457-2-3215 / 61 Nibutani / 9am-4.30pm 16 Apr-15 Nov / ¥400
Located in the east of the village, this small private museum showcased unique livingware of Ainu and overseas ethnic peoples collected by Kayano Shigeru. The Ainu’s restored thatched houses set on the front garden with more than 100 species of Hokkaido trees.
03 LOCAL HISTORY
Historical Museum of the Saru River
沙流川歴史館 / Saru-gawa Rekishikan / 227-2 Nibutani / 9am-4.30pm / Closed Mon / FREE
Adjoining the Ainu culture museum, this semi-underground lakeside museum focuses on the history of Saru-gawa and its basins, with archaeological materials of Biratori. Free bike rentals are available here.
04 HISTORIC BUILDING
Historical House of Munro
In 1930, Scottish doctor Neil Gordon Munro (1863-1942) established clinic here, he researched and filmed the traditional culture while providing medical services until his death. About 500m south of Central Nibutani is Munro’s wooden house, built in 1933. Today this place is used as an institute of Hokkaido University and not open to the travelers, but you can walk in the garden.
にぶたに湖 / (沙流川)
The artificial lake Nibutani-ko was formed by the 1997 Nibutani Dam on Saru-gawa, one of Ainu’s most important cultural places. You can walk around the lakeside promenade and on the dam.
06 ONSEN & SLEEPING
Biratori Onsen Yukara
びらとり温泉ゆから / 92-6 Nibutani / Day bathing 10am-10pm / ¥500/ biratori-onsen.com
The modern onsen Yukara is a good place for soak or stay after a stroll. Nonguests can use their onsen (10am-10pm). The restaurant Tomato (11am-9pm) serves Biratori beef steak and set meals. It is about 1.5km north of the village center. There are several local buses to the onsen from Biratori direction.
Discovering Nibutani’s Ainu Culture
DURATION 2 HOURS | TIMING MID APR–MID NOV
START: 01 Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum
↓ 1min walk
03 Historical Museum of the Saru River
↓ 5min walk
02 Kayano Shigeru Nibutani Ainu Museum
↓ 3min walk
FINISH: Drive-in Yu-kara (lunch)
Nibutani’s main bus stop is the Shiryokan-mae (資料館前) close to the Ainu culture museum.
Basically local buses to the Shiryokan-mae with require a change at Biratori (平取) stop. For Biratori, Donan Bus runs from Tomakomai, Tomikawa Station (富川駅) and Shizunai Station (1hr 50min) on the Thoroughbred Road Hidaka. For the Shiryokan-mae, there is also a daily direct bus from Tomakomai Station (1hr 35min).