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Ainu eye political power

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By Kyoko Hasegawa

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© 2012 AFP

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Wouldn`t that put that cat amongst the pigeons! Good luck to him :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ainu men kept full beards while women adorned themselves with facial tattoos which they acquired before they reached the age of marriage.

This little sentence does put an interesting spin on the bans on tattoos at most onsen and hotels, and the recent push for all public servants to be clean shaven.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's about time minorities got rights in Japan.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I agree that Hokkaido should be given back to the Ainu and Okinawa back to the Okinawans.... The history of Japan is the history of aggressive expansion....

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Be proud of your wonderful cultural roots, Ainu people. I for one would vote for this party (if I had the right to vote).

5 ( +6 / -1 )

“If I’m elected, I’d like to work on introducing Ainu language classes in elementary and middle schools—I believe we will be able to recover our language.”

100% behind this guy, and I so go forward!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I am all for the folkloric clubs trying to keep memory of old traditions... but not at all with persons that try to reopen all the old wars of the past. My country has its share of such lunatics. First they create a party. Then groups of terrorists that put bombs on official buildings, on tourism installations, ransom their "fellows" and threaten them to force them to join the cause. FLNC, ETA...

boosting recognition for what was once a hunter-gatherer society in Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido.

Why seeing so small ? The Ainu used to have most of Honshu too. Claim everything North of Nagoya. And half of Russia too. And Mongolia, even the Chinese one... yes, half of China. And don't you want North-Korea back too ?

about 25 years ago ...“I realised the outrageousness of one ethnicity being deprived of its own language and culture by force,” he said.

But during 3 decades, he never had any issue with his life in Japan. And he still has none.

most of Japan’s 24,000 Ainu ...Earlier figures have pegged the number of Ainu at about 70,000 but the real figure is unknown since many have integrated with mainstream society and some have hidden their cultural roots.

Roughly, 24 000 persons think they had a grand-ma born before 1900 that was speaking Ainu dialect... which is a great family history. They'd surely be happy to see more Ainu culture shown around, but in what do they need a party ?

I for one would vote for this party (if I had the right to vote).

I would NOT. I'd like to see a Japanese Prime Minister whose great-grand-parents were Ainu, sure, or one with Okinawan, or Korean, or buraku, or Peruvian, or Swedish, or Canadian, or whatever origin... But not a PM of Ainu Party. No thanks. Like Obama, President of the US, he is a man with African and Hawaiian origins. That's totally great. But he represents all his compatriots, not one minority. Imagine the mess if he was the leader of a "party of the Blacks" or "party for independence of Hawaii".

This little sentence does put an interesting spin on the bans on tattoos at most onsen and hotels, and the recent push for all public servants to be clean shaven.

You are making the amalgam. In 19th century, working class Japanese men had tattoos as they often worked "half naked" as you can see in ukyo-e. The Ainu have given up their tattoo custom at the same period as "mainstream Japanese" did. Everybody has changed of grooming and dressing habits... Now, this mister Kayano works in some Ainu museum. He is free to sport long hair and a beard if he wishes, And his wife, daughters, nieces can tattoo moustaches on their face, Ainu fashion of 1850. He doesn't. Do you have the beard/hairstyle and clothes like your ancestors in 1850 ?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I'd like to see a Japanese Prime Minister whose great-grand-parents were Ainu, sure, or one with Okinawan, or Korean, or buraku, or Peruvian, or Swedish, or Canadian, or whatever origin... But not a PM of Ainu Party.

I think you're going too far.

It's fine to have minority parties representing indigenous peoples in any democracy.

How about the situation so far?... where political parties and PMs have chosen to ignore or even deny the existence of the Ainu as an indigenous people to be recognized and cherished... where's the all inclusive recognition that you so crave in that?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How about the situation so far?

There is no situation. I have friends of Ainu origins, an ex too, and the only thing they can complain is in 1890 their ancestors were treated unfairly. It's a pure issue of nostalgia... for a minority. Now, Hokkaido has its share of social problems. Some towns in economic distress. But it's not the Ainu being poor and the Nihonjin exploiting them. The rich like the poor are all Nihonjin with an estimated 0% to 25% Ainu blood (how can we check?) and all 100% Japanese citizenship. But it's not the Ainu people issue, that's a issue of a rural region's development. So what's the point of reclaiming the lands there ? Who should give what to whom ? That's why I tell you the guy is doing his PR on the "cause" and he is not in real life political issues. And that kind of thing :

Kayano, whose father was the only Ainu lawmaker in Japan’s history,

Ah yeah ? The only lawmaker using Ainu ethnicity for his PR, probably. There has been no survey to check if the other MPs had Ainu ancestors or not. Because this :

Fairer-skinned and more hirsute than most Japanese

... is a description of Ainu people in 1800. The Ainu born after 1900 could already not be distinguished from "most Japanese" unless they were in folkloric costumes. Browse the old photos of 1900, and you will see most Ainu were already having Asian rather than Ainu faces. So in 2012, who can tell ??? You see a hairy guy or a fair skinned girl in Tokyo, so you jump on them : "Oh, you're Ainu !".

where's the all inclusive recognition that you so crave in that?

Foreign residents like us, that's another discussion. But for the minorities of Japanese nationality, in 2012, they have total recognition. The Ainu have it at least since 1945 (when the US for instance still had a racial apartheid regime, the Ainu could sit down in the bus...). The Okinawans since the 70's (as from 45 to mid 70's, the US authorities restricted their rights). So for rights, it's done. For being represented on the political scene, they are like everybody.

where political parties and PMs have chosen to ignore or even deny the existence of the Ainu

The 2 big parties (that are not even distinct) deny roughly everybody's existence. You can demonstrate one year and Noda doesn't notice you. And there are dynasties of politicians from the same small 1% elite since Kamakura jidai... and that's the general issue of Japanese politics. But even inside these parties and at the local level, things are changing. We have a buraku mayor in my city. He was governor too. We had a woman governor (not an ethnicity, but in Japan rare enough to mention it). They are not the ideal persons, but the individuals don't matter. That's the start of Japanese mainstream politics opening to diversification. They need, more women MPs, more young people, more people from different social classes, origins... And they need the variety inside each party, not fighting. I think that would mess it up if the political stage was recuperated by lobbies (there is already a religious one, Komeito).

It's fine to have minority parties representing indigenous peoples in any democracy.

Can you name even one positive example ? Then the definition of democracy, in my culture, is indigenous people don't exist. We are all of one people, of the human race, of different nationalities, no other difference.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

How about the situation so far?

There is no situation. I have friends of Ainu origins, an ex too, and the only thing they can complain is in 1890 their ancestors were treated unfairly. It's a pure issue of nostalgia... for a minority. Now, Hokkaido has its share of social problems. Some towns in economic distress. But it's not the Ainu being poor and the Nihonjin exploiting them. The rich like the poor are all Nihonjin with an estimated 0% to 25% Ainu blood (how can we check?) and all 100% Japanese citizenship. But it's not the Ainu people issue, that's a issue of a rural region's development. So what's the point of reclaiming the lands there ? Who should give what to whom ? That's why I tell you the guy is doing his PR on the "cause" and he is not in real life political issues. And that kind of thing :

Kayano, whose father was the only Ainu lawmaker in Japan’s history,

Ah yeah ? The only lawmaker using Ainu ethnicity for his PR, probably. There has been no survey to check if the other MPs had Ainu ancestors or not. Because this :

Fairer-skinned and more hirsute than most Japanese

... is a description of Ainu people in 1800. The Ainu born after 1900 could already not be distinguished from "most Japanese" unless they were in folkloric costumes. Browse the old photos of 1900, and you will see most Ainu were already having Asian rather than Ainu faces. So in 2012, who can tell ??? You see a hairy guy or a fair skinned girl in Tokyo, so you jump on them : "Oh, you're Ainu !".

where's the all inclusive recognition that you so crave in that?

Foreign residents like us, that's another discussion. But for the minorities of Japanese nationality, in 2012, they have total recognition. The Ainu have it at least since 1945 (when the US for instance still had a racial apartheid regime, the Ainu could sit down in the bus...). The Okinawans since the 70's (as from 45 to mid 70's, the US authorities restricted their rights). So for rights, it's done. For being represented on the political scene, they are like everybody.

where political parties and PMs have chosen to ignore or even deny the existence of the Ainu

The 2 big parties (that are not even distinct) deny roughly everybody's existence. You can demonstrate one year and Noda doesn't notice you. And there are dynasties of politicians from the same small 1% elite since Kamakura jidai... and that's the general issue of Japanese politics. But even inside these parties and at the local level, things are changing. We have a buraku mayor in my city. He was governor too. We had a woman governor (not an ethnicity, but in Japan rare enough to mention it). They are not the ideal persons, but the individuals don't matter. That's the start of Japanese mainstream politics opening to diversification. They need, more women MPs, more young people, more people from different social classes, origins... And they need the variety inside each party, not fighting. I think that would mess it up if the political stage was recuperated by lobbies (there is already a religious one, Komeito).

It's fine to have minority parties representing indigenous peoples in any democracy.

Can you name even one positive example ? Then the definition of democracy, in my culture, is indigenous people don't exist. We are all of one people, of the human race, of different nationalities, no other difference.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

There is no situation. I have friends of Ainu origins, an ex too, and the only thing they can complain is in 1890 their ancestors were treated unfairly. It's a pure issue of nostalgia

I'm sorry, you are just wrong on this issue...

From the Asia-Pacific Human Rights website:

The Ainu people are still struggling for the full recognition and acceptance by the Japanese society of their culture and language, and for the recognition in law of their rights as an indigenous people.

From the Japanese government's own website(!):

...during the Meiji Period these traditions and culture that were a source of pride to the Ainu people received a decisive blow making it difficult to say that they are being preserved and transmitted today.

and

Because of this, in July 1997, the Ainu Culture Promotion and Dissemination of Information Concerning Ainu Traditions Act was enacted to promote a policy for the realization of a society where the Ainu people's racial pride in their culture is respected.

The 1997 law is a start but just a start.

Ainu representation in government would be great.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The Ainu were only recognized as a indigenous group in 2008.. in terms of Japanese aggressive expansionism, be it militarily or politically, Japanese militarism, must be discerned through the political maelstrom created through the implementation of the Imperial Japanese constitution. It was either be a colonial power, or be a colony of another.. The nations of the Orient, had already become a colonial estate, by the time Japan began its Japanese militarism. Certainly, by WW1, this ideology was becoming old.. But in terms of the Ainu population.. it reminds me of the indigenous Aborigines, the black arm-band history, conjured up by political expediency.. I only hope, that people remember their past, though its beauty, and not our own self-deduced barbarity.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@smithinjapan

100% behind this guy, and I so go forward!

How about learning the language and showing how much you really care?

As a member of a minority myself, I'm all for recognition, keeping the langauge and culture alive etc. As for representation, I think a certain number of seats based the precentage of the total population is fair.

Permanent recognition of your culture - great

Fighting against injustice (in real life, not your great grandaddy did something to my great grandaddy) - great

Using your minority as a reason to control/inconvenience the majority - no way

Look at places where the minorities get along fine with the rest of the population as an example.

As for introducing the Ainu language, I'm fine with introducing to areas with a sizable Ainu poplulation as an optional subject, available to all students, regardless of who happened to be their parents.

In short, I'm 100% okay with Ainu people retaining their culture, just like I'm 100% okay with the Yamato people retaining their culture.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have had a long interest in the Ainu of northern Japan. However, creating a political party based on their minority status is the wrong move. Seek change by influencing government but not by reinforcing separatism.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Wolfpack

+1

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I'm a big supporter of Mr. Kayano. There's no excuse for Ainu classes not being available in Hokkaido for children who want to learn about their ancestors. Japanese (Yamato) people have been woefully neglectful about learning Ainu; even today some of the best work on the language is by outsiders: John Batchelor, who lived among the Ainu, made the first dictionary of the language, and today the Danish scholar Kirsten Refsing is one of the leading authorities on Ainu.

@Frungy - You might be interested in the tattoos that Okinawan women used to give themselves until about 1900 or so. They were complex patterns on their hands and wrists, and each island had its own distinctive style. Depending on which island you're on, they're called hajichi, haidichi, paizichi, etc., and while they were banned after Japan annexed Ryukyu in the late 1800s, some people continued to get them and so very occasionally you'll meet an elderly woman who has them.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

But Kayano, whose father was the only Ainu lawmaker in Japan’s history, has his sights on more than just reviving his ethnic group’s traditions and all-but-extinct language.

He wants the Ainu to be granted their traditional homeland of Hokkaido island—now a popular spot for skiing and wilderness-seeking tourists

People want the benefits of living under a 1st world nation with a transport system the envy of the world, they want everything that goes with being a citizen of Japan, but they also want their own patch. How about you have Hokkaido, but all the infrastructure is taken away.

And by the way, we were all indigenous once so saying that the world's indigenous people are all downtrodden and mistreated is one that must be indicating some kind of convenient timeline to coincide with certain groups' existence as hunter gatherers.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@ThonTaddeo

Japanese (Yamato) people have been woefully neglectful about learning Ainu

But why should they? And, even more importantly, why would they? Have you?

If the Ainu people want to learn about their language and culture - fine. It's up to them and I wish them well.

If non-Ainu people, including you and the Yamato Japanese, want to learn about the language and culture - fine. It's up to them and I wish them well.

Me, I've never lived in an area with an Ainu population and probably never will. Should I insist that all Dutch learn Frisian? If so, which dialect? I'm assuming the Ainu to be taught in Japan is Hokkaido Ainu? How do non-Hokkaido descendants of Ainu feel about this?

How about how the Russians treated the Ainu? Are you going to demand "justice" for them too?

As Lew Archie says above, should they give up their modern conveniences to be more authentic? No more cars, supermarkets and heating?

Sure, they've been mistreated - long ago. Same as most people in the world at one time or other. If they're being mistreated right now, they have my total sympathy. There's minorities around the world, right now, who are getting much worse treatment than the Ainu are. They still have my sympathy but it's up to them to revitalise their culture. They're lucky than a lot of people in that they still have one. Most "modern" people lost theirs, they have my sympathy too.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@ReformedBasher

what are talking about? it would be great if the Ainu's different language would be recognized and supported, in Holland the "Friesen" speak their own language in their "prefecture" and signs are in 2 languages, The problem is that Ainu culture has been surpressed for so long that it maybe too late for the current Ainu to get in touch with their cultural heritage as most have been assimilated in to the Japanese way of life.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Dennis Bauer

in Holland the "Friesen" speak their own language in their "prefecture" and signs are in 2 languages,

Yes, not the entire country.

it would be great if the Ainu's different language would be recognized and supported

Have I said different? Please read my post, cafefully this time...

I have stated clearly that I support ANY people retaining their culture/language but not forcing it on anybody else. I doubt Mr. Kayano want's all of Japan to learn it either, just those of Ainu descendancy and any others who wish to.

But, no, the usual knee-jerk fold insist that the whole country learns it? (you may be different). That does not make sense.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Cos

Foreign residents like us, that's another discussion. But for the minorities of Japanese nationality, in 2012, they have total recognition. The Ainu have it at least since 1945 (when the US for instance still had a racial apartheid regime, the Ainu could sit down in the bus...). The Okinawans since the 70's (as from 45 to mid 70's, the US authorities restricted their rights). So for rights, it's done. For being represented on the political scene, they are like everybody.

Say it isn't so... white people trying to "educate" Japan were racists after the Japanese already recognised their own minorities? Noooooo!!!!! :-)

As for us "gaijin", we come because we choose to. And ev4en though some whine about almost anything, we have a pretty good deal on most counts.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@choiwaruoyaji

Is there a law from stopping Mr. Kayano getting voted in?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“If I’m elected, I’d like to work on introducing Ainu language classes in elementary and middle schools—I believe we will be able to recover our language.”

Good luck, but I doubt you'll have much success. Just look at the meager results from English language education in this country despite massive amounts of time, energy and money poured into it.

The Ainu born after 1900 could already not be distinguished from "most Japanese" unless they were in folkloric costumes.

There are still some people who retain typically Ainu facial features. Just an anecdote, but I visited a recreated Ainu village in Hokkaido. We got there right as it was closing, the two Japanese guys were working in the office were not friendly at all, but one Ainu guy came out and gave us a lot of free educational pamphlets and booklets, etc... His face was Ainu, and his manner was very different from the other two.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Stranger

Glad you had a good experience. Maybe pride was the key?

How did you know their race though? Did they tell you?

I like to think I'm a committed anti-racist. It's always easy to label people as this or that. I've got friends of several races as I'm sure you have too. Even though there's people I don't like as well, bringing race, or anything else, into question is not only silly, it's a sign of history repeating itself. We must learn to respect and live with each other or we are doomed. It's that simple.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do they still treat the " ETA 穢多/ Burakumin (部落民 " differently in Japan ? What chance you think the Ainu has ? Just saying

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My brother-in-law is burakumin and has as good a life as any other Japanese. So do a lot of zainichi Koreans. Discrimination? Depends on the individual, getting less common as time goes on.

My aunt before I left Australia told me never to sleep with a Japanese woman. Unfortunately she was too late. I even married a couple of them.1st one's parents were equally disgusted their daughter would marry a gaijin. WIll the shame never end? I really don't worry about people like that they are an endangered species.

TImes are changing. Before you accuse the mainstream Japanese of being biased, do you want to be seen the same way?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, Hokkaido to Ainu and Okinawa to Okinawans. Also all the other islands back to whoever owned them before. Japanese population is shrinking so they don't need all this land.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My brother-in-law is burakumin

Surely clearer if you say "my wife is burakumin" Or do you mean your sister is married to him? I have still seen plenty of below the surafce discrimination (comments, slight maltreatment) of burakumin, zainichi, nissei and the like. May not bother us gaijin too much, but can still be really hurtful for those on receiving end.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I only hope the Ainu people are conducting awareness classes in the community halls, have school clubs, celebrating with festivals, lectures by Mr. Kayano and other leaders, etc. Don't rush to the Diet without the young in tow. I'm all for supporting the ply of indigenous groups, their customs, traditions, folklore, even tattooed faces, there's beauty in every known culture that it's respective country should embrace. I don't see why an old tribe can't function among the at times very archaic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe that minorities that was force to be one should recover what was forceful taken from them. Their culture, native speech, freedom from their dictators, and their own land. Unfortune, that many do not believe this nor truly act for the good of others and thus live of the itami of the misfortunate. Que lastima

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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