Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Japanese Aborigines

Meet the Ainu:
An aboriginal man … in Japan? The 1920s photo to the left is that of a chief of the Ainu, an indigenous people of the island of Hokkaido, whose tradition and culture was completely different from that of the Japanese.

The Ainu was virtually destroyed during the Meiji Period in an attempt to (forcibly) assimilate their people into the rest of Japan.

Scribal Terror blog has a neat synopsis about the Ainu People:

The Ainu inhabited an island called Ainu Mosir before the Japanese colonized it, changed its name to Hokkaido, and "decimated" the population. The origins of the Ainu were a subject of speculation until genetic studies determined that they were “the descendants of Japan’s ancient Jomon inhabitants, mixed with Korean genes of Yayoi colonists and of the modern Japanese.”

The New York Times reports (via Japundit )that just this year, Japan has finally recognized the rights of the indigenous Ainu. This recognition was apparently timed to coincide with Japan's hosting of an international conference of indigenous peoples on the island of Hokkaido (formerly the home of the Ainu) but it comes a little late for this rapidly disappearing culture.

Link | Photo: Old Photos of Japan

I remember how surprised I was when I first learned that Japan had an Aboriginal people group. I had always assumed the Japanese were indigenous to the island. During one of my trips to Japan, I visited the Osaka Human Rights Museum and learned more about the history of the Ainu. Sadly, there are many parallels between their experience and that of the Native Americans in the United States.

Read Wikipedia's entry on the Ainu to learn more about this people group many don't even know exists and this online Smithsonian exhibition on Ainu history, culture, and art.

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