ATSUMA, Hokkaido--A wooden canoe carved out by indigenous Ainu people five centuries ago has returned to the place where it was discovered in remarkably good condition.

The Ainu boat was stored at Tomakomai Komazawa University in Tomakomai, also in Hokkaido, for about a decade. It is expected to go on display at Atsuma town’s Karumai archaeological site research office.

Measuring 6.6 meters long and 60 centimeters wide, the 25-cm-tall canoe was found on the side of the Azumagawa river in Atsuma’s Ueno district in May 2007 with almost no damage. Only parts of its starboard and bow had been chipped.

The boat is believed to have floated down the river after erosion cut it loose. The canoe was likely built for rides in rivers, lakes and marshes.

The town had no place to keep the canoe at the time, so it asked the university’s Research Center for Ainu and Pacific Cultures to maintain and store the vessel.

Following preservation work, the research center examined the canoe and determined it is 500 years old and made of “katsura” wood.

The analysis also revealed the wood had been burnt and cut to make it easier to create the canoe.

The canoe, which shows how watercraft were created long ago, was put on public display and used as education material for students wanting to obtain curator licenses.

Michiaki Okada, an ethnology professor at the university who is also director of the center, helped carry the canoe from the university to the research office in Atsuma on March 29.

“I am happy that the canoe can return to its hometown to mark its 10th anniversary of storage,” Okada said. “Atsuma town has also many historic materials to show what Ainu culture was like. I want the town to set up a museum.”

Tetsuya Inui, a curator at Atsuma town’s education board, expressed his gratitude to the university.

“I appreciate Tomakomai Komazawa University for not only conducting the preservation work and determining the age of the boat but also for keeping it in good condition,” he said. “I want town residents to view it first of all. We want to use it for educational and research purposes as well.”

The town’s education board is looking to designate the canoe as a municipal cultural property as soon as possible.

The Kyoto Ikueikan academy took over from Komazawa University as the operator of Tomakomai Komazawa University on April 1. The school name has yet to be changed, and the research center is allowed to continue operations.

According to Okada, there was no link between the return of the boat and the change of the university’s operator. A decision was made to return the canoe after negotiations with Atsuma’s education board.