politics

Japan to recognize indigenous Ainu people for first time

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By Toshifumi Kitamura

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Excellent news and long overdue.

The Ainu traditionally observed an animist faith, with men wearing full beards and women adorning themselves with facial tattoos before marriage. 

Uh-oh, tattoos again!

19 ( +24 / -5 )

What took so long?

15 ( +22 / -7 )

Nice!

16 ( +19 / -3 )

Good thing you waited until you almost completely wiped them out culturally and genetically first :/ good grief

13 ( +24 / -11 )

In 2018. Stunningly late. A resurgence in Ainu culture would be good for Hokkaido; similar resurgences have happened in other countries when native cultures come to be viewed as an asset and the people freed.

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between the Ainu and the Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures? I suspect they are related.

19 ( +25 / -6 )

Encouraging news

17 ( +19 / -2 )

The Ainu have long suffered oppression and exploitation, and the modern Japanese government in the late 19th century banned them from practising their customs and using their language.

Had the Ainu demanded apologies and compensation, you can be sure this bill would never have passed.

Aesop’s North Wind and the Sun come to mind. Give Japan time to come around and it will recognize the oppression and exploitation it’s people rendered in the Ainu people.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

The Ainu population is estimated to be at least 12,300, according to a 2017 survey, but the real figure is unknown as many have integrated into mainstream society and some have hidden their cultural roots.

Ditto Koreans, Taiwanese, Chinese, Ryukyuans, and countless other mixed heritage children, many of ours included. If you possess Japanese citizenship, presto, you're Japanese. The rest of your heritage goes unrecognized by the state.

Per Wiki:

Naturalized Japanese citizens and native-born Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic background are all considered to be Japanese in the population census of Japan, therefore no ethnicity census data is available. Japanese statistical authorities do not collect information on ethnicity, only nationality. As a result, both native and naturalized Japanese citizens are counted in a single group. Although official statistics show near homogeneity, one analysis describe the population as “multi-ethnic.”

One wonders why this is so?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

A m é n !!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One step closer for Japan to join the modern 21st century states.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

I'm sure I have a place at the opening of Tokyo 2020.

Good for Japan, better late than never.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

And it only took them 2000 years. Well, better late than never I suppose. Kudos to the GOJ for doing the right thing.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Decades? You spelled centuries wrong...

5 ( +11 / -6 )

The government simply wants to go for another World Heritage designation. They also want to avoid any boycotts or protests during the Olympics. The Japanese government is making all types of social and economic changes, so they won't embarrass themselves during the Games.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Fantastic. Now please respect their culture, including the tattoos.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between the Ainu and the Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures? I suspect they are related.

If you get a chance, I recommend a visit to the museum of northern people’s in (or around) Abashiri. I was stunned at the similarities in clothing design, decoration, etc., among not just the geographically close (well, relatively) Ainu and Inuit, but also the Sami of Finland. It got me to wondering how much and what came from having shared history (maybe) and how much and what came from having shared scenery, environment, and challenges. Fascinating place

9 ( +10 / -1 )

(Oops! First paragraph above was a Laguna quote)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Thanks, Beanie!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Ditto Koreans, Taiwanese, Chinese, Ryukyuans, and countless other mixed heritage children, many of ours included. If you possess Japanese citizenship, presto, you're Japanese. The rest of your heritage goes unrecognized by the state."

Japan is not alone; certainly it isn’t!

I have never heard of German-Ghanaians, German-Nigerian, French-Moroccan, French-Vietnamese, Spanish-Mexican/Guatemalan or Argentinian, Portuguese-Angolan, Portuguese-Guinean, Dutch-Indonesian, etc., as a state construct thus, officially recognised; and then given food vouchers on the back of such recognition; or places at University, whether they qualify or not!

Everyone is French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch et al.

Just because the great US of A recognises African-Americans (in order to best discriminate against them anyway!), German-American, American-Italian, it does not mean everywhere is or must be the same!

4 ( +11 / -7 )

If you get a chance, I recommend a visit to the museum of northern people’s in (or around) Abashiri. I was stunned at the similarities in clothing design, decoration, etc., among not just the geographically close (well, relatively) Ainu and Inuit, but also the Sami of Finland. It got me to wondering how much and what came from having shared history (maybe) and how much and what came from having shared scenery, environment, and challenges. Fascinating place

Sounds great, if I ever am lucky enough to go north, I'll have to check it out.

I recommend the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura for those a bit more southern. Fascinating place.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's about fraken time!!

S

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Great news! finally our dumb gov recognizes human rights! baby steps though, So will our gov also recognize other minorities here such as Burakumin too??

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin

They also have a sad history here..

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Although I doubt our gov would grant them tribal native lands, like they do in say America with the Native American Indians and Australia with the Aboriginal peoples for example.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Its because we are the native people of Japan, where as in the west, anglo saxons invaded foreign native lands, which make up the colonial era of those countries. Hence the difference on why the law wont change to grant them native land titles to the Ainu peoples.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

@Kenji Fujimori

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Kenji Fujimori, thanks interesting, and as we often see.. Aso Taro's real character reveled

In 2001, future Prime Minister of Japan Tarō Asō, along with Hiromu Nonaka, was among the LDP's chief candidates to succeed Yoshirō Mori as prime minister of Japan. During a meeting of LDP leaders at which Nonaka was not present, Asō reportedly told the assembled group, "We are not going to let someone from the buraku become the prime minister, are we?"

>

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Kenji Fujimori

Although I doubt our gov would grant them tribal native lands, like they do in say America with the Native American Indians and Australia with the Aboriginal peoples for example.

Granting the Ainu tribal lands would be extremely interesting. I think a strong case could be made based on archaeological evidence, place names and historical records as far as Hokkaido is concerned. Parts of northern Tohoku, too.

However ...

Are there indigenous people in the rest of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu? I suppose that most of the people whom we commonly call “Japanese” are that indigenous people. It’s likely that Kenji is one of them given his name though names tell little of the story.

So, will Kenji be eligible some day for some of his tribe’s traditional land based on his ethnicity? Will I, as a non-Japanese, have land which I have bought here seized in the future in an indigenous people’s uprising? Before you say that’s too bizarre to contemplate consider signs in shop windows that say “We don’t serve non-Japanese”.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As much as I hate to write this, the government is only doing it so they can try to use it to claim the 4 islands owned by Russia.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Nice move by Abe Cabinet. Japan is a nation proud of the groups that make it great, and does not have racial conflict as in West. Ainu people are respected, and provide culture and many words of Tohoku and Hokkaido. I hope they will be showcased in Tokyo 2020!

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

The LDP has been taken over by globalists like Mr. Suga. Recognizing an ethnic minority as an indigenous people could undermine the Japanese national identity and divide the nation.

-15 ( +1 / -16 )

The LDP has been taken over by globalists like Mr. Suga. Recognizing an ethnic minority as an indigenous people could undermine the Japanese national identity and divide the nation.

Nonsense. The Ainu deserve recognition, that's hardly going to divide the nation. And a reminder that globalist is an anti-Semitic slur, which harms your curious statement even further.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

If Ainu women have facial tattoos before marriage, what happens after marriage? They are removed somehow?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Sounds painful either way...

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Tatoos don't have to be permanent.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Recognizing an ethnic minority as an indigenous people could undermine the Japanese national identity and divide the nation.

Wrong. Recognizing an ethnic minority makes Japan stronger. Having the Ainu, Ryukyuan and Japanese ethnic groups living in harmony for centuries, shows just how strong the Japanese Nation is. This will be shown beautifully in Tokyo 2020, with cultural performances.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Nonsense. The Ainu deserve recognition, that's hardly going to divide the nation.

Actually that is exactly what it does. The discrimination against the Ainu was originally caused by government and wrongs done in the past canno be undone by the government or anyone else. The best thing government can do is to leave people alone and allow them to make their own future.

And a reminder that globalist is an anti-Semitic slur, which harms your curious statement even further.

Globalism is not an anti-Semitic slur. That’s a ridiculous statement. The historical roots of globalization are Western European - principally English and Spanish. Jews aren’t blamed for colonialism- the Brits and Spainiards are

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Lo.....ng after the GENOCIDE !!!!

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Could it not be fortuitous timing to suggest that - Friday's bill to recognize the country's ethnic Ainu minority as an "indigenous" people for the first time, after decades of discrimination against the group - be construed as offing the Government of japan a political means to an end.

An opportunity to link the repatriation of Ainu, 1956 Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration, and the sovereignty of the disputed Island chain?

Scott Harrison thesis pdf can be downloaded to the left of the link below.

The Indigenous Ainu of Japan and the "Northern Territories" Dispute

https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/handle/10012/2765

A wonderfully detailed history of the Ainu and culture........

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/ainu-japan/

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Belated weasel attempt by the govt for only 2 reasons - world spotlight on Japan this year with the World Cup and teams full of indigenous players, and 2020 Olympics - which will be used to showcase "Our multi-cultural history, and love and respect for our indigenous brothers and sisters". Barf.

The first wink of recogniton was only in 2008, just before the World Indigenous Conference was held in Sapporo and the soon to follow G-8 summit in Hokkaido.

In that instance, decades of resistance by the LDP to recognize the Ainu, was suddenly forthcoming due to outside pressure and shame.

Ditto 2019.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I don't care how long it's been; I'm just glad to hear the Ainu are getting acknowledgement from the government today. I'm not going to behave like some people do over the comfort women issue: It seems the Japanese government once again is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Government PR stuff before final extinction.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Good for them.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Mr Noidall - I agree. Celebrate the recognition.

But don't try and make it a "Oh how Big we are moment".

This is 2019, and the govt should be commented on for it's dreadful dragging of it's feet on this.

To not do so, would be dismissing all the people who have suffered and worked so hard for recogniton for eons and giving accolades to those "wonderful politicians who love the Ainu". Yeah sure - but I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one.

Reality is - the hard core of the LDP right were opposed to any recogniton and award of rights for fear of claims or suits against the govt ( land rights, cultural / language rights etc). And of course they didn't want to break that big myth of the 100% homogenous country - the pure.

Acknowledging the presence of "others" admidst our realm would de-stabilize society.

This is not my opinion. all is well documented. Many books and articles exist.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"indigenous" Japanese people... does that mean, they're really more Japanese than the usual bunch here ? And if so, is this an admission that the majority of Japanese aren't really Japanese at all, but merely immigrants from overseas like us Foreigners ! Wow... the worm has turned.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I hope to see a language revival of the Ainu language (an isolate language). Maybe classes can be offered like they are for Hawaiian, Cornish or Maori.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between the Ainu and the Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures? I suspect they are related.

The excellent magazine Kyoto Journal: Perspectives from Asia had an extensive article on this subject many years ago. The answer is yes. However, since then more research in the field may have uncovered further connection.

As KJ often has back issues, anyone interested in the question could check their website and contact the editors of subscription department to find out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Better late than never! Congratulations to Ainu people. At last recognized by Japan government.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

savethegaijinFeb. 15  04:16 pm JST

Good thing you waited until you almost completely wiped them out culturally and genetically first :/ good grief

No person of American (both North and South) Australian, New Zealand, South African, Canadian et al heritage are qualified to be typing nasty comments about Japan on this issue. While Japan may be late in doing this, when you examine their history and what they did to their aboriginals, it pales in comparison to the outright genocide perpetrated by other "civilized" nations against their own aboriginals. And it's not just the hypocritical West, take a look at what China has done to the Tibetans and Uighurs in modern times.

I

5 ( +12 / -7 )

Long overdue, but better late than never. They also need to enforce discrimination laws, too.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

"savethegaijinFeb. 15  04:16 pm JST

Good thing you waited until you almost completely wiped them out culturally and genetically first :/ good grief"

Yer rite; forcing the Ainu to assimilate was tantamount to genocide; their species was nearly wiped out!

We in the West were far candid with "our locals"

Rape, enslavement, murder and segregation (cultural, social & racial), prohibitions of inter-marriage. That's how we dealt with those native infidels.

Japan should have learnt from us.

Good grief!!!

3 ( +9 / -6 )

*No person of American (both North and South) Australian, New Zealand, South African, Canadian et al heritage are qualified to be typing nasty comments about Japan on this issue. While Japan may be late in doing this, when you examine their history and what they did to their aboriginals, it pales in comparison to the outright genocide perpetrated by other "civilized" nations against their own aboriginals. And it's not just the hypocritical West, take a look at what China has done to the Tibetans and Uighurs in modern times.*

It's Japan we are looking at here, not other countries.

Japan has made a bold step.w ell done people power in Japan.(unusual though that is).

It is no use pointing at other countries errors when Japan itself is in perpetual decline.

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

I think they call this papering over the cracks, in reality history shows that nothing will actually happen, the Ainu will be no better off and still subject to discrimination. See in 5 years time what real significant change/improvement in their lot has occurred.

Once international scrutiny moves elsewhere watch them rowing back faster than an Olympic rowing team!

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@OssanAmerica and @Pepping_Tom

If this article were about any of those countries, I'd have much more to say about their own histories. But it's not, so I didn't. Not sure what's confusing about that?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Cogito Ergo SumFeb. 15  09:06 pm JST

Lo.....ng after the GENOCIDE !!!!

There was never any "genocide" of the Ainu people. The battles that were fought between Ainu and Wa-jin were with swords, bows and spears on both sides. Contrast that to British colonizers with firearnms against African tribes in South Africa, or Aborigines in Australia. Now that is what you can call genocide.

Another point to consider is that most Ainu today are extremely intermixed with the majority Japanese, to the extent that they are in a great many cases indistinguishable. Genocide and inter racial/ethnic marriages are mutually exclusive, for obvious reasons. In the United States, it wasn't until 1967 that the last State laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage was struck down.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The complaints the Ainu have against the Japanese government are legitimate. It doesn't matter what happened to other native peoples across the world in this context. If someone cuts off your hand I doubt it's a comfort to you that someone half a world a way had their entire leg cut off.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

savethegaijinToday  07:19 am JST

The complaints the Ainu have against the Japanese government are legitimate. It doesn't matter what happened to other native peoples across the world in this context.

Yes does. And those things didn't just "happen" to other native peoples. Somebody did something to them.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/what-canada-committed-against-first-nations-was-genocide-the-un-should-recognize-it/article14853747/

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/27/evidence-of-250-massacres-of-indigenous-australians-mapped

https://www.history.com/news/native-americans-genocide-united-states

https://allthatsinteresting.com/kenya-genocide

Japan may be late in officially recognizing their indigenous people but it's far far better to be late, than to be early after committing acts of genocide on them as other nations have. This recognition should be celebrated and is a step forward for both the Ainu people and the Japanese as a whole. Ainu are Japanese in nationality and have always been so recognized.

Read this if you want to see how Japan compares to other nations:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_indigenous_peoples

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Kenji FujimoriFeb. 15 06:54 pm JST

Its because we are the native people of Japan, where as in the west, anglo saxons invaded foreign native lands, which make up the colonial era of those countries. Hence the difference on why the law wont change to grant them native land titles to the Ainu peoples.

One word for you, sir: Jomon.

The Yayoi and Yamato came later...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Japanese government introduced a bill Friday to recognize the country's ethnic Ainu minority as an "indigenous" people for the first time, after decades of discrimination against the group.

Lots of things to question here.

Does “Ainu” refer to a political entity, a race (a homogenous genetic population) or a culture?

Definitely not the the first. Probably not the second if genetic homogeneity is the standard (genetically homogeneous populations are rare if any still exist). That leaves culture. At first glance it seems that this law is meant to address the preservation of culture through lifestyle rather than through the collection of artifacts in museums which already exist.

How far will it go? One of any lifestyle’s main components is language. Does the law recognize the use of the Ainu language in the Diet or in official documents? Will elementary and middle school classes be conducted in Ainu or is the language so far down the road to extinction that education in Ainu is impractical? Is an education in Ainu even desirable to people who identify as Ainu?

Religious beliefs are also a component of culture (though dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant in the West). Will Ainu be allowed to sacrifice bears as their ancestors did?

The article mentions the Ainu of Hokkaido. Will claims to traditional lands be extended to Tohoku. Historical accounts verify that they were there, too. Ainu chieftains allied with ... other indigenous people (call them the Yamato people before the 8th c. and Japanese after?) in local conflicts.

There’s more to this matter than meets the eye. It will define civil rights not only for the Ainu but for everyone living in Japan.

(One wonders if this will produce a Japanese version of Elizabeth Warren some day.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One word for you, sir: Jomon.

Yes, some believe that Ainu culture is a descendant of Jomon culture, but it is just as likely that other cultures in the Japanese archipelago also were offshoots. Those other cultures most likely were exposed to still other cultures, likely from Korea, which produced the Yamato culture.

I hope, sir, you are not making a case for “cultural purity”?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

AgentXToday  08:32 am JST

One word for you, sir: Jomon.

The Yayoi and Yamato came later...

The Jomon were already in the Japanese archipelago likely from 10,000 BC. The Yaoi came later from the Korean Peninsula. But the Yamato are not people who immigrated. They are the mainstream "Japanese" who are a mix between the Jomon and Yaoi and any other ethnicities, cultures that may have been absorbed.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"If this article were about any of those countries, I'd have much more to say about their own histories. But it's not, so I didn't. Not sure what's confusing about that?"

I was merely answering a quote from another illustrious JT "expert".

In a similar vein, I would like to paraphrase you, Sir:

"Not sure what's confusing about that?"

3 ( +7 / -4 )

@Pepping_Tom

Not really sure what you're getting at, I didn't mention genocide. In fact forced assimilation is a pretty darn good way to explain it. I take it then that you are all in favor of the forced assimilation of indigenous peoples then?

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Ossan - "...Read this if you want to see how Japan compares to other nations:..."

Who's comparing? Who?

The comment made by myself and others reffering to the LDPs "johnny-come-lately" response to the domestic issue of recognition of the existence of an indigenous group's identity and culture, seperate from mainstream Japan. I proffered one reason for the announcement - perfect timing as the international spotlight will shine on Japan as it has never done before. As I mentioned earlier, under the first spotlight in 2008, international pressure and the prospect of shame created a hasty recognition. In the ensuing decade essentially nothing happened, until the realization that the World's spotlight will once again shine. Quick!!! Browny points in abundance with trillions of foto ops and oohs & aahs. So a good dollop of cynicism is warranted.

The fact that Europeans slaughtered or caused the death of and cultural destruction of millions of indigenous people world wide is surely a topic of great importance to be discussed - and those heinous actions should be under the scope.

But this article is focussing on the LDPs only recent acknowledgment of a seperate cultural ethnicity in Japan.

" But whattabout the....." is merely a deflection.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Well come on down voters - discuss. Angles & opinions on topic welcomed.

I'm waiting.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"Not really sure what you're getting at, I didn't mention genocide. "

Reading and comprehension, or comprehension and reading?!

Which one is which?

Confused.com!!!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The Jomon were already in the Japanese archipelago likely from 10,000 BC. The Yaoi came later from the Korean Peninsula. But the Yamato are not people who immigrated. They are the mainstream "Japanese" who are a mix between the Jomon and Yaoi and any other ethnicities, cultures that may have been absorbed.

A rare occasion that I agree with you completely. The point being that there were people living for many thousands of years on honshu before the Yayoi, and consequently the emergence of Yamato. Something skimmed over in Japanese history lessons.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I dont think mentality changes in japan. despite the adaption to western civilisation the way of thinking is still the same . the ainu people will continue to be oppressed in japan. it will be just less visible.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am curious to know if the Ainu are any more “indigenous” than the typical Japanese (Yamato)? Are they not both “indigenous” to differing areas within modern day Japan?

If it is true that all humans are descended from the first humans originating in a certain region of Africa, pretty much no one outside of that particular area are indigenous to their current location. How far back does your clan have to inhabit a piece of land for it to be considered indigenous? Seems like this is all a discussion over the place in society for people whose ancestors were on the short end of the Darwinian stick.

From my standpoint we are all indigenous peoples. Placing one set of people on a different hierarchical scale seems absurd. Why don’t we just leave each other alone and call it a day?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan wants those islands from Russia. That's why thy had to recognized Ainu people's indigenous rights

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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