Traditionally, bear carvings were produced exclusively for such religious objects as prayer sticks (ikupasuy) and men's headdresses; only the Sakhalin Ainu made full-figured bear carvings (inoka), which they used as fetishes to promote fertility among bears. In the early 1920's economics forced the Ainu to carve bears for tourists. During the twenties and thirties bear carving advanced rapidly, and Umetaro Matsui emerged as the premier artist in a highly naturalistic manner. His work won many awards and in 1938 he was chosen to carve a bear for Emperor Hirohito. Following this official recognition, many Japanese began to acquire Ainu bear carvings as souvenirs.
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