Japan Today reports about an Ainu Revival Parade in Hokkaido.
Combining modern J-Hip-Hop and traditional Ainu garb and dance, young persons troupe Ainu Rebels is hoping to instill pride in local indigenous peoples and awareness of the cultural heritage the Ainu hold.
The article details some of the mixed progress being made since the official recognition by the Japanese government of Ainu as “an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture”. Discrimination, awareness and native pride still remain large issues. The governments committee on Ainu futures only contains one self-identified Ainu member.
Positive developments have been the positive response amongst the nation’s youth about cultural awareness. Apparently ethnic is “hip”. I’m not sure if this entirely great news, but maybe it is something? I’m also unsure about the increase in ethnic minorities amongst popular entertainers, it leans towards exploitation and fad movements, rather than anything more solid. I’d be more impressed if statistics were produced detailing increased literacy levels in Japanese language amongst minorities, college acceptance rates, or numbers in fields such as science, health, politics, engineering and education.
Below the fold I’ve included a short summary of my very limited and malinformed Ainu knowledge.
For some real information please visit The Ainu Association of Hokkaido’s English website.
Ainu are the indigenous peoples of northern Japan (Hokkaido). They are one of three major native minorities of Japan (Ainu, Ryukyuans from the southern islands, the invisible Burakumin – Zainichi Koreans might make a fourth major group, but are not indigenous).
“Ainu” is the Ainu word for “people” – some groups prefer the term “Utari” (comrade) as a less derogatory term. They are clearly separate from the dominant Yamato Japanese that dominate the islands today. Ainu had a distinct language, animistic spiritual culture, native dress and hunter lifestyle. Considered the “pale long-beared barbarians from the North”, the Yamato and Ainu peoples relationship was never consistently friendly, however, the Ainu were generally recognised as a seperate indigenous peoples prior to the 20th century.
The rise of Japanese Facisim and Imperial Japan saw aggressive supression and assimilation efforts exerted on the Ainu. Like other peoples under Japanese rule, they were first to register under Japanese style names, and often discriminated against for jobs, public events and services, and roles of public office.
Standing out due to their paler complexion, pronounced noses and cheeklines, overstated facial hair, and other characteristics, discrimination continued even after the adoption of western-style democracy in Japan. The governments long standing proto-official stance that Japan has-always-been-and-will-always-be a mono-ethnic nation without any minorities left no avenue of recourse against discrimination. Many Ainu were discouraged from keeping tradition, dispossessed of native lands, language was not kept, and many tried to hide their origins by marrying into Japanese families
Image credit: Ainu Rebels and Wikimedia Commons Public Doman archive. Mashed by ZayZayEM in GIMP, 2008.