The Ainu are an indigenous group of people who reside in the northern island of Japan and the islands off the southeast coast of Russia (Hokkaido, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin). Current estimates of the total population range from 25,000 to 200,000. Because of different physical characteristics between the Ainu and other Asian people, anthropologists thought they were of Caucasian descent. Now most anthropologists think they descend from the early Jomon culture in Japan. Although the Ainu were conquered by the Japanese in the ninth century, they retained some of their separate culture. In 1899, the Japanese government declared the Ainu “former aborigines” and took steps to assimilate them into Japanese culture. It was not until 2008 that the government recognized them as a distinct cultural group. This legislation did not provide funding to preserve the Ainu culture but there are now attempts to develop an Ainu museum and to preserve their distinct language.
The following books in the Library collection tell more about the history of the Ainu and their culture:
Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (FRPAC)
Together with the Ainu—History and Culture
Sapporo, Japan : Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (FRPAC), 2015
Heard call number DS832.T64 2015 (English version)
Heard call number DS832.T64 2015b (Japanese version)
This booklet provides an excellent introduction to the history, language, religion and daily living of the Ainu. It also includes some discussion of government steps to preserve the culture. Very well illustrated.
Fitzhugh, William W. and Chisato O. Dubreuil, editors
Ainu : Spirit of a Northern People
Washington, D.C. : Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution 1999
Heard call number DS832.A55 1999
This extensive collection of essays has sections about origins of the Ainu, history, collections held in museums all over the world, religion, culture, food, clothing, and possibilities for the future. Heavily illustrated.
Munro, Neil Gordon
Ainu : Creed and Cult
London : Routledge & Kegan Paul 1962
Heard call number BL2370.A5 M8
This book provides lengthy descriptions of the Ainu religious beliefs including those related to daily life in the home, building new houses, and other feasts and rites.
Hilger, M. Inez
Together with the Ainu : A Vanishing People
Norman, Oklahoma : University of Oklahoma Press 1971
Heard call number DS832 .H53 1971
This book describes daily living in the Ainu culture. Numerous photographs of the Ainu involved in the activities described.
Good sources of information on the internet:
Wikipedia, “Ainu People.” wikipedia.org Accessed May 17, 2019.
Fogarty, Philippa, “Recognition at last for Japan’s Ainu,” BBC News, June 2008. news.bbc.co.uk Accessed May 17, 2019.
Jozuka, Emiko, “Japan’s ‘Vanishing’ Ainu will finally be recognized as indigenous People,” CNN April 2019. cnn.com Accessed May 17, 2019.
W., Sarah, “The Ainu: Reviving the Indigenous Spirit of Japan.” tofugu.com Includes historical and modern photographs. Accessed May 17, 2019.