Obama given traditional garment by Hokkaido Ainu Association

Kyodo

The Hokkaido Ainu Association has sent U.S. President Barack Obama an Ainu traditional garment as a gift to mark his visit to Japan.

Tadashi Kato, director of the Sapporo-based association, came up with the idea in the hopes that Obama’s awareness of the Ainu people and culture could help address human rights issues.

Kato said he had hoped to hand the garment directly to Obama, but missed the chance due to the president’s tight schedule. Instead the association opted to send the gift, together with a letter addressed to Obama, to the U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo.

Kato was invited to attend a speech Obama delivered at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in 2009, and said he was impressed with the president’s remarks on the need to uphold human rights for different cultures.

The dark blue garment embroidered with light blue and bright red patterns was made by 10 members of an Ainu group from Yurappu now living in Yakumo, Hokkaido.

Although the process normally takes about six months to a year, the garment was completed in about a month starting in mid-March.