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ceremonial equipment / ikupasuy

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Carved ceremonial stick made of wood. The central section of this prayer stick has been carved with 11 cuts which go through the entire body of the stick.

  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 1900-1910
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 31.9 centimetres
    • Width: 2.7 centimetres
    • Depth: 0.5 centimetres
    • Weight: 16 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Ikupasuy are ceremonial sticks used by Ainu men when making offerings to the gods and spirits. They are used in libation ceremonies when millet beer or sake is used as an offering. The central section is always decorated, here men can use any design they want. Animal and floral designs are popular but some sticks also have narrative and abstract design. At each end Ikupasuy have simple designs which represent the patri-lineage (male blood-line) of the man to whom it belongs. These designs are very important as they tell the gods and spirits who is making the offering. The female equivalent would be their secret woven grass belts the designs for which were handed down from mother to daughter. On the underside Ikupasuy are often (but not always) are carved with various symbols called ‘shiroshi'. A common ‘shiroshi' represents the orca or killer-whale (the long thin dorsal fin of this creature metonymically stands for the whole whale in the design). The pointed end of the stick is called the ‘tongue' of the Ikupasuy. In the past scholars mistakenly called these ceremonial and very important elements of Ainu material culture moustache sticks or moustache lifters.


  • Location

    Not on display

  • Associated events

    • Used at: Japan-British Exhibition (1910)
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    This collection was bought from the RAI, but they acquired it from the 1910 joint Japanese-British exhibition held at White City. This exhibition included an Ainu village with five men, four women and a child from the Ainu village of Nibutani. The Ainu left 234 objects behind - other items now in Horniman, Liverpool, Pitt-Rivers and Cambridge - ref. Kreiner, Joseph 1999 The European Image of the Ainu as Reflected in Museum Collections. In Fitzhugh William and Dubreuil, Chisato (eds) Ainu Spirit of a Northern People pp 125 - 131.

  • Department


  • Registration number


Carved ceremonial stick made of wood.



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Object reference number: EAS99093

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