Taking the role of a guide and energizing Lake Akan with a "circle dance"

Tatsuo Yamamoto

Tatsuo Yamamoto

Lake Akan Ainu Theater Ikor Dancer

Tatsuo Yamamoto

Born in Tokushima Prefecture. After working as a stage dancer in Tokyo, he moved to Lake Akan with his family in 2020. He has been involved with the production of Lost Kamuy, often playing the role of the Hokkaido wolf. He is planning to open his own dance studio and shop where he plans to sell whole foods, organic vegetables, and other products.

Discovering the charm of Lost Kamuy

Tatsuo Yamamoto’s first encounter with the Akan Yukar Lost Kamuy performance in the Lake Akan Ainu Theater Ikor was in 2019. After watching it as a member of the audience, he found himself strongly moved by the message it tried to convey.

For Tatsuo, the message was that everything in this world is equally precious and has an important role to play, whether it’s a person, an object, or a part of nature. Every person is different, and we all have something that only we can perform. Having previously worked overseas both as a dancer and choreographer, he strongly wanted the world to see Lost Kamuy and understand this message.

What he seeks to convey on stage

Tatsuo has since moved his base of activities from Tokyo to Lake Akan. His decision to move was motivated by several things that only Lake Akan could offer: Ainu ideology passed down through generations, the rich nature, and stage performances held every day. As fate would have it, he later became involved with the production of Lost Kamuy for its third year on stage.

Since its first show in 2019, Lost Kamuy has made changes to its staging and choreography every year. For the third year, Tatsuo made changes to the show’s first 10 minutes. One of these changes was turning the dance of the Apehuci Kamuy (fire deity) into an improv performance. Tatsuo explained, “Using the same dance every time makes the part too formulaic at a point when it should be emotional to resonate with the audience. So I decided to make it an improv where the dancer can physically express what they feel at that moment.”

The ideology of the Ainu provides hints for a mentality of grasping the true nature of things and understanding the essential things in life. Tatsuo’s first encounter with Lost Kamuy as a spectator gave him the message that “everything in this world is equally precious and has a role to play.” Now that he is part of its production, he wants to share this message and make the show into something that truly touches the hearts of the audience.

Revitalizing Lake Akan through a “circle dance”

Tatsuo also serves as a guide for the Ainu tour programs in Lake Akan. He believes that by taking the role of a guide, he himself can get to understand the nature and culture of Lake Akan more deeply. It also gives him more opportunities outside the stage to share Ainu ideology and the charm of the place he calls home.

Since the spring of 2023, besides his work as a guide and stage performer, Tatsuo has been helping with the promotion of Lake Akan as a sightseeing destination. Part of this is his plan to open his own shop and dance studio. His vision for Lake Akan is to be a place where everyone works hand in hand in community building. Everyone is on equal footing with an equally important role to play, an approach which Tatsuo likes to call “circle dancing”.

Tatsuo sees his work as a guide as one of his roles. Though he is still relatively new to Lake Akan and has just begun to take on this role, he speaks of his vision with a kind of vigor and energy that makes you believe that such a bright future for Lake Akan is not so far away.