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Interesting Facts about Yukie Chiri, an Ainu Transcriber and Translator of Yukar



Yukie Chiri 120th Birthday Google Doodle

On June 8, 2023, search engine giant Google honoured a Google Doodle to celebrate the 120th birthday of Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵), an Ainu transcriber and translator of Yukar (Ainu epic tales). Here are some interesting and fun facts about Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵).

Here is a look at the life and work of Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵).

15 Interesting Facts about Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵)

Interesting Facts about Yukie Chiri an Ainu Transcriber and Translator of Yukar
Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵)
  1. During the Meiji era, Yukie Chiri was born on 8th June 1903 into an Ainu family in Noboribetsu, Hokkaidō.
  2. When Yukie Chiri was six years old, she was probably sent to live with her aunt Imekanu in Chikabumi, which is near Asahikawa. This was probably done to make things easier for her parents financially.
  3. Monashinouku, Imekanu’s aged mother, was an experienced storyteller of Ainu tales who spoke very little Japanese. Chiri consequently developed to be totally bilingual in Japanese and Ainu and had an experience with Ainu oral literature that was becoming less and more uncommon by that time.
  4. Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵) did well in school, especially in language arts, despite having to deal with bullying. However, like many people of her generation, she was plagued by an ethnic inferiority complex as a result of prejudice against Ainu.
  5. During Japan’s Taishō period, Yukie Chiri was in her mid-teens when she first met Kyōsuke Kindaichi, a linguist and scholar on the Ainu language. He had arrived to seek out Imekanu and Monashinouku while he was traveling through Hokkaidō in search of Ainu oral literature transmitters.
  6. Kindaichi immediately recognized Chiri’s potential when he met her, who was still living with Imekanu, and told her about his work.
  7. Yukie Chiri decided to spend the rest of her life studying, recording, and translating yukar after Kindaichi told her how important it was to him to preserve Ainu folklore and traditions.
  8. Indigenous groups of people known as the Ainu live in Japan’s northern regions. Chiri produced an anthology of epic Ainu tales known as yukar to ensure that their stories and culture were properly preserved when they were forced to relocate and integrate into Japanese culture in the early 1900s.
  9. Yukie Chiri (知里 幸恵) received blank notebooks from Kindaichi so that she could record whatever came to her mind about Ainu culture and language when she eventually returned to Tokyo. She decided to record the tales her grandmother recited, using romaji to communicate the Ainu sounds, and afterward translated the transcribed yukar into Japanese.
  10. Kindaichi eventually persuaded her to join him in Tokyo to help him collect and translate yukar. However, at the age of 19, she unexpectedly died from heart failure just months after moving to Tokyo and completing her first yukar anthology on the same night.
  11. The following year, Yukie Chiri’s anthology was released under the title Ainu Shinyōshū (A Collection of the Ainu Epics of the Gods). Even though her patron Kindaichi and series editor Kunio Yanagita probably took the late Chiri’s manuscript to press, they didn’t put their names anywhere on it; She is the sole author of the content and preface.
  12. Yukie Chiri’s book includes Japanese translations as well as the invaluable original Ainu written in Roman script. It is still the most important source for yukar today, and the period press gave it a lot of popular praise, giving Japanese readers a new respect for Ainu culture.
  13. Chiri Mashiho, her younger brother, later went to school with Kindaichi’s sponsorship and became a respected scholar on Ainu studies.
  14. Many readers started to respect the Ainu culture as a result of Yukie Chiri’s writings. Today, many people still cite Chiri’s anthology as the most reliable source for Ainu culture and traditions.
  15. To celebrate Yukie Chiri’s 120th birthday, Google featured a Google Doodle on its homepage on June 8, 2023. Google Doodle was illustrated by guest artist Yumi Koizumi.
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