Ainu "ward against evil" designed products popular, including masks and ballpoint pens

Cotton masks embellished with Ainu design embroidery

Products featuring traditional Ainu designs are becoming popular in the Sapporo area. One reason is thought to be the July 2020 opening of Ainu culture revival hub “Ainu Culture Preservation Society (Upopoy)” (Shiraoi Town, central Hokkaido). Another reason is possibly the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus generating a rise in interest for designs with imbedded “warding off evil” symbolism, differing with region and product type.

Cross Hotel Sapporo in Chuo-ku, Sapporo City has been selling cotton masks embroidered with Ainu designs (800 yen per mask) since the end of December, with a product stock limit of 100 masks. Sapporo resident and Ainu pattern designer ToyToy created the design.

The India grown cotton used in these masks has been certified as a “Fair Trade” product, part of a movement to promote the fair trading of products from developing countries, and the entire production process takes place in India, including the material sewing and design embroidery. The Cross Hotel Sapporo project coordinator explained the design, saying, “The design expresses our wish for safe travels for the wearer and protection against things like the coronavirus.”

MVP CREATIVE JAPAN (Chuo-ku), a company that develops “universal design” products, started selling ballpoint pens called “RATCITARA” featuring an Ainu design (2,200 yen per pen) in November. Companies including “TRbiz” (Kita-ku) worked on the conversion of designs and patterns into data, and the Shiraoi Ainu Association provided editorial supervision. In addition to Upopoy, these pens are also available at Daimaru Fujii Central (Chuo-ku).

MVP CREATIVE JAPAN President Oumi Emi reports selling approximately 50 pens already, and said, “The design is a pattern that was used on headbands given as gifts to wear for the hunt or in battle. When these pens are given as gifts, we want the feeling of well-wishing to powerfully shine through.”


Cross Hotel Sapporo