About the traditional ceremony “Chipsanke”

Chipsanke means “boat unloading” in Ainu language, and is a ceremony to unload a boat made by an ancient technique into the river to give it a new life. In Nibutani, Hiratori Town, it is held as a traditional event every August to deepen understanding of Ainu culture among many people.

Chipu means “we” or “opu” and refers to a wooden boat made of hollowed-out tree trunks. At that time, Nibutani was a farming village with about 50 households, and most of the arable land was located on the opposite bank of the Saru River, which is one of the largest rivers in Hokkaido. At that time, bridges had not yet been built, and for many farmers whose arable land was on the other side of the river, chippu were a daily necessity to transport people and goods.

In Chipsanke, the boat is placed in front of the altar on the riverbank, and an inau (ritual utensil) is placed in a hole in the face of the boat. First, the participants report to the river god that they have built a boat, and thank the mountain god for giving them the materials for the boat. Then, to the boat, they say, “From this day on, please live in harmony with human beings as a new god. Through your power, women and children will be able to cross the river. We ask that you will bring them safely across the river.

For the Ainu, who believed that the gods inhabited the natural world and man-made objects, and that each came to this world from the land of the gods to be useful to mankind, and lived their lives with respect and care, the chipsanke was also considered an important ritual to pray to the gods by putting their souls into boats.

*The “p” in Chipsanke, Chipu, and Chipunanka are all lowercase.
Citation: Kayano, Shigeru . The Folk Tools of the Ainu People. Suzusawa Bookstore Co.