Ainu Culture

Topics: Japan, Ainu people, Hokkaidō Pages: 4 (1395 words) Published: March 25, 2008
Sirokanipe ranran piskan Konkanipe ranran piskan. This Ainu poem is about an owl deity. It roughly translates to “Fall fall, silver drops, all around fall fall, golden drops, all around” (Selden). The Ainu worshiped all aspects of nature as gods, believing animals were spirits temporarily visiting the earth. The Ainu are an ancient people of nature, living in close communities and are now a minority of Japan. The Ainu used to live in Honshu, Japan’s main island, but have since been limited to a smaller area by the Japanese. They now dwell mostly in Russia’s Sakhalin and Kuril Islands and Hokkaido (Peoples of the World). Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island. It is 32,247 square miles, measuring twice the size of Switzerland and making up one-fifth of Japan (Selden). Hokkaido is decorated with beautiful coasts, mountains, lakes and rivers. There are two major mountain ranges in Hokkaido, the Kitami in the north, and Hidaka in the south (Selden).

One estimated population of Ainu is 25,000 (Selden). The exact number is and will most likely remain unknown due to intermarriage between Ainu and other ethnicities. Also, large numbers of people are unaware of or hide their heritage to avoid racism and discrimination (“Ainu People”). Most Ainu speak Japanese, leaving the Ainu language nearly forgotten except for the very few fluent and partial speakers (Selden). The Ainu are believed to have originated in the Asian mainland, Siberia and the Southern Pacific (Selden).

In the nineteenth century, the Japanese government wanted Hokkaido to be economically developed (Selden). The Japanese in the south began moving up into the Ainu territory, disrupting what had been a peaceful co-existence between the two cultures. The Ainu showed little resistance at first, but several wars did break out (“Ainu People”). There was little victory for the Ainu, and the Japanese took most of the land. Now, however, some of the Japanese want to protect what is left of the culture (Peoples...
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