I made a day trip to the museum/village from Sapporo, while also visiting Noboribetsu.I agree with other reviews on this site. The museum sections was interesting, as was the replica of an ainu village, however, nothing i saw there could make up for the sadness i experienced seeing 4 wild brown bears in some of the worst conditions i think i have ever seen bears kept in. These bears are in substandard conditions that is unthinkable. They can do nothing except barely turn around and sleep in these what i best describe as prison cells. Do not pay money to enter this place and support this cause. I actually read previous reviews and went to this place anyway, thinking "how bad can it be?" - well i found out. Sadly, this experience completely put me off visiting the Noboribetsu Bear park at the nearby town.
It's a short train ride from Noboribetsu, a 10 minute walk from Shiraoi station. The station staff was very helpful and gave me clear directions and a discount voucher to the museum. The museum is located right next to a lake and it was almost entirely frozen, making a great photo opportunity. You will see many Ainu houses, each has a different display. Some of them were closed because it was winter, but I did manage to see the interior of 2 of the houses and it was nice. The best experience was the 30 minute live performance by the museum staff, and it was amazing to see so many dried fish hanging from the roof of the house. There's a fixed time for the performance, so make sure you check the timing. The main museum was rather spooky and dark, and there was no one, not even a staff member. It was absolutely terrible to see large brown bears kept in tiny cages. There was no really reason to have these bears in the museum and to be caged up. There were Akita dogs in cages too, and they were not happy dogs. I would have rated it a good attraction if not for the cruelty to animals.There's a nice cafe right in front of Shiraoi station where you can have lunch or dessert.
The area is a bit small compared to the one in Sapporo. Not much to see here. There are few bears and and wolf/dog. There are some schedule show but in japanese.
It shows the origin of Hokkaido tribesmen way of living. Interesting that they could live peacefully with Samurai from Tokyo. Great shows that the performer could speak many languages. Delicious soft ice cream too!
The museum and shows were a great display of Ainu culture. I love learning about indigenous cultures, and there's a fine line between respectful and exploitative. This place did a good job at sharing the Ainu culture without making it feel like a human zoo. The only downfall was the way they kept their animals. The museum talks about how the Ainu revered the bear, and then you see them cooped up in tiny little cages. They were atrocious! They just kept frantically pacing back and forth. It made me very sad to see them that way, and I hope people can put enough pressure on this place to give the animals a better enclosure.
Go early for the shows; it can get very crowded; narration only in Japanese so it’ll help to read guide books in advance. A great place EXCEPT, I agree with earlier reviewers – I didn’t enjoy the caged bears and dogs.
Upon entering the Ainu Village, you can see black bears kept in unspeakable conditions in cages barely big enough to turn around in. I was extremely disappointed and heartsick to see wild animals kept this way. Even if this was once the custom of the Ainu peoples, they were only kept in cages temporarily until being killed for food or ceremony. These animals are clearly suffering.The cultural show with traditional song and dance, etc was good, but couldn't make up for the horrible sight of those bears.
I share the sentiment of many reviewers when it comes to this attraction:Yes, it is a good place to learn about Ainu culture.But to have caged animals on display - especially in such bad condition - is a BIG NO NO!!!For anybody who finds it upsetting, saddening or just plain wrong for the museum to cage the animals as it does now, I strongly urge that you voice it out to the museum folks directly!!!The museum has a website with multiple language options. It doesn't contain an email address but it does display a fax number. The museum also has Facebook & Twitter pages.So please, help the animals!!!
Our tour stop here was very good. Only significant problem is that during the presentation, the horrendous amount of translation in multiple languages is a detractor. I wish Japanese guides would use state of the art equipment for translation such as head sets (like they use in Europe) Our guide was across room and we could not hear her. We visited in summer so the bears and dogs were in the shade of their cages.