Japanese Wooden Hokkaido Ainu Bear (22S89-1)

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This is an Ainu artisan hand carved wooden bear carving from mid.1900's. The Ainu are an indigenous people of northern Japan living and practicing their art and culture on the island of Hokkaido.

Being expert carvers as part of their way of life, it was a natural choice for them to supplement their livelihood by carving images of bears from wood. In the early part of the 20th century, the Ainu were forced to relocate to Hokkaido to cultivate the land and become farmers.  Due to the harsh winter conditions, they found it difficult in doing this and instead kept their way of life hunting and gathering. 

The bear was a big part of their life providing food and clothing for their basic needs.  The Ainu have always worshiped the bear as a diety which resulted in a perfect match of carving their image to honor them.  This started their artisan craft line of sculptures that began around the later 1940's just after the war and it has become an important part of their survival as a people.

This bear is shown holding a fighting salmon in its mouth as it looks for a quiet place to enjoy its bounty.