Recognition for a People Who Faded as Japan Grew





The Ainu had lived on Japan’s northernmost island for centuries, calling their home Ainu Mosir, or Land of Human Beings. Here, they had fished, hunted, worshiped nature and established a culture that yielded “Yukar,” an oral poem of Homeric length.

But just as with America’s expansion West, the Japanese pushed north in the late 19th century in the first sign of their imperialist ambitions. Japanese settlers decimated the Ainu population, seized their land and renamed it Hokkaido, or North Sea Road.

And yet it was only a few weeks ago that the Japanese government finally, and unexpectedly, recognized the Ainu as an “indigenous people.” Parliament introduced and quickly passed a resolution stating that the Ainu had a “distinct language, religion and culture,” setting aside the belief, long expressed by conservatives, that Japan is an ethnically homogeneous nation.


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Randll Reese Besch - 7/4/2008

This is a good thing. I celebrate in spirit with the Ainu over their recognition, even if they do not have their land back.

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