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A Journey of Cultural Exchange: Our Unforgettable Trip to Japan

As we embrace the beauty of autumn, we wanted to take a moment to share a remarkable experience that has deeply enriched our connection to Indigenous cultures.

In September, Andy and I along with a group from Haida Gwaii: artist and Hereditary Chief Idansuu Jim Hart, artist and cultural leader Christian White, artist April White, Haida Gwaii Museum Director Nika Collison and her daughter Kuuyaas travelled together on an unforgettable journey to Japan. We had the incredible privilege of engaging in a profound cultural exchange with the Ainu people, the Indigenous people of Japan. Our adventure took us to the breathtaking Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park in Shiraoi, Hokkaidō.

Upoypoy National Ainu Museum

During our time there, we had the honor of meeting and spending meaningful moments with their cultural leaders, talented carvers, and skilled craftspeople. The bonds we forged during this cultural exchange were truly special, and we are excited to share that plans for future meetings are already in progress.

We shared beautiful meals and bonding time with Ainu artisans such as Maki Sekine and Kohei Fujito. Maki reminded me so much of one of my beloved Elders from home and she blessed us all by giving us Ainu temporary tattoos. 🥰

Dinner with the Ainu artists and historians

I also had the privilege of presenting at an Indigenous Tourism Symposium at Hokkaido University in Sapporo on behalf of Indigenous Tourism B.C. as I sit on the Board of Directors.

Indigenous Tourism Symposium Japan


Our journey extended to Osaka, and included more cultural gems. We were graciously guided by Mr. Kenji Yoshida, the Director of the National Museum of Ethnology. 

Together, we explored the museum's treasures from across the globe and the following day we embarked on a fascinating tour of several temples in Kyoto—a real pleasure.

Kinkaku-ji Temple Kyoto


To top it all off, our entire group had the privilege of presenting talks and engaging in cultural sharing at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, further strengthening the ties to our Indigenous culture.

Canadian Embassy Tokyo Cultural Sharing

Andy and I had 4 days at the end of our journey to explore Tokyo, and were lucky to have made contact with Indigenous Chef Quentin Glabus of the Cree Nation in Alberta, who happens to live in Tokyo with his wife and son. Quentin generously offered to take us to his favourite Ramen house and tour us around Kappabashi which is known as ‘Kitchenware Town’. We were given an informative chef’s tour of the array of kitchen goods stores, where we marvelled at the craftsmanship of the Japanese knives.

Indigenous Chef Quentin Glabus, Erin Brillon and Andy Everson

As we reflect on this remarkable journey, we are reminded of the power of cultural exchange in fostering understanding, respect, and appreciation for the rich tapestry of Indigenous traditions worldwide. We look forward to bringing the essence of these experiences into our work at Totem Healing House and sharing them with you, our valued community.

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