Ainu Culture

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Ainu culture is a culture created by the Ainu people from around the 13th century (late Kamakura period) to the present. Today, most Ainu people live a superficially similar life to Japanese people in Japan, partly due to cultural assimilation. However, while some people hide their Ainu identity, the Ainu consciousness is still alive and well in more than a few people of that lineage. The Ainu way of life is respected as Ainupuri. The unique Ainu patterns and oral literature (Yukar) have been selected as Hokkaidō Heritage. For more information on the differences between the previous era's Satsumon culture and Ainu culture, see the section on "Emishi".


The term "Ainu culture" has two meanings. One is a Cultural anthropology perspective, referring to the cultural forms held by the Ainu people as an ethnic group, which includes both the culture held or created by the modern Ainu and the culture held by their ancestors. The other usage, from an Archaeology perspective, refers to the cultural forms created by the indigenous peoples of Hokkaido and the northern Tohoku region after they left the Satsumon culture period.

The mainstream theory is that this means that a completely different ethnic group did not enter Hokkaido at the end of the abrasive culture period and form the Ainu culture. This is similar to the situation in which the Japanese maintained the Heian culture until the 12th century, and then shifted to the Kamakura culture in the 13th century. In other words, the bearers are the same, but the cultural style has changed. Although there was not as much of a cultural break as the change from the Jomon to the Yayoi period, the cultural customs differed greatly from the Abramian period, and it is believed that this was due to the harmony with the Okhotsk culture. This refutes the Koropokkuru controversy that there were first inhabitants before the Ainu, but there is no solid evidence for any of the theories, and this is still a sensitive issue, as the Y haplo gene is not present in the Jomon, but is found mostly in the coastal regions of the continent.

The problem here is that the term "Ainu culture" can mean both "the culture of an ethnic group" and "a cultural style that existed at a certain time in history. Although the Ainu still exist as an ethnic group, it cannot be said that they have retained their culture in the archaeological sense, since modern Ainu do not live in Chise and lead a fishing and gathering lifestyle. However, modern Ainu are the descendants of the people who were responsible for the archaeological Ainu culture, and the cultural styles preserved by modern Ainu are also qualified to be called Ainu culture.

In 2007, Takuro Segawa pointed out the existence of this problem and proposed that the "Ainu culture" from the Middle Ages to the early modern period (in the archaeological context) be called "Nibutani culture" after the Nibutani site, one of the most important archaeological sites in Hokkaido.[1]

In this section, the "Ainu before the modern era" section will focus on "Ainu culture" in the archaeological and historical sense, while the "Ainu in the modern era" and "Ainu in the contemporary era" sections will focus on "Ainu culture" in the cultural anthropological and sociological sense.

Ainu before the modern era

In archaeological terms, Ainu culture is marked by material cultural features such as iron pots, Lacquerware bowls, Ikupasuy, Bone tool hunting tools, hooked harpoons for salmon fishing, and extended burials [2]. The Ainu culture is also known to have had regional differences. According to Mamiya Rinzō Mamiya's "Hoki Bunkai Yōwa", the Sakhalin Ainu adopted cultural elements that suggest influence from Okhotsk culture, such as the use of dog sledding and skiing. In the early modern period, they retained cultural elements found in the Okhotsk culture in Hokkaido, such as the production of earthenwares and the use of pit-houses during the winter. The shape of the Body armor also differed from the Hokkaido Ainu, with a unique combination of chest and waist armor [3].

The Sakhalin Ainu are also notable for their Mummy making. Mummy making is not practiced in the Okhotsk culture area, nor in the Ainu culture of Hokkaido [4]. However, in northern Japan, the mummies of three generations of the Northern Fujiwara, who are said to have controlled northern trade in the late Heian period, exist in Hiraizumi.

Social structure

It is thought that the Ainu lived in Kotan (village) (small village, usually 5 or 6 houses) units when the Ainu culture was first established. Later, around the 15th century, the region became more culturally and politically integrated due to trade and conflicts between the Ainu and the Japanese, and by the 17th century, the Japanese had established a number of hunting and fishing settlements (ior) around rivers called Sodaisho or Sotomyo. The Lord mayor of Japan was a powerful Lord mayor who politically integrated a large area comparable to the Provinces of Japan and Commandery (China). However, after the Shakushain's revolt, which was partly caused by the division of the region into separate ior, the political unity of the Ainu region was dismantled with the shift to the place contracting system. After the Battle of Shakushain, there was a shift to a place contract system and the Ainu's unified regional political union was dismantled.

In recent years, the theory that Ainu society was a social polarization with extreme uneven distribution of wealth has been presented. Based on literature and the results of Archaeological excavations, Takuro Segawa has pointed out that early modern Ainu society was divided into four classes: the Kamoi (chiefs), the Nishipa (lower class), the commoners, and the Utare (slaves), with wealth concentrated in the Kamoi. The Ainu were sometimes enemies of the Japanese.

The Ainu were sometimes hostile to the Japanese, but even among the Ainu, they were not monolithic, and sometimes conflicts broke out between groups using weapons. In particular, the conflict between the Menasunkur Ainu (the eastern group) and the Sumunkur Ainu (the western group) was fierce, and there were fierce battles that resulted in many deaths. Shakshain, the chief of the Menasunkuru clan who challenged the Matsumae clan, also fought and killed Onivici, the chief of the Sumunkuru clan. Other inter-tribal battles were fought, sometimes involving extensive travel.

Legal system

Disputes between Kotan (village) were decided on the merits in open discussions called "charangke" to prevent them from escalating into violence. [5] The debate took place in Chashi|Chashi.

In addition to this, the custom of Trial by ordeal before God remained strong, such as the "Simon", which was a pact to settle the matter.

When a crime occurred in the Ainu society, the village chief himself brought the defendant to justice at his own discretion. In general, Criminal conversation was punished by ear shaving or nose shaving, and Theft was punished by caning with a club (weapon) called a shuto, or by cutting the Achilles tendon. As the Ainu have never had a strong unified government, their laws and punishments have been greatly influenced by the authorities and the region, and if the village chief was mild, he was given lenient treatment, while if he was cruel, he was severely punished. There was no capital punishment for the Hokkaido Ainu, but for serious crimes such as murder, some sentences were difficult to survive, such as being banished from the kotan after the Achilles tendon was severed. In the Sakhalin Ainu society, murderers were sentenced to be buried alive along with the bodies of their victims. [6][7].

There is a theory that this kind of system was not understood by the Japanese, whose court system was developed during the Edo period and who established a modern judicial system after the Meiji Restoration, and that this led to contempt for the Ainu.


Prior to the modern era, the Ainu's livelihood consisted of a combination of hunting, fishing, gathering (forest and marine), farming, and trading to secure the goods necessary for their livelihood. The Chum salmon was called the Kamui-chel Lady's fish or Sipe (original food), and was regarded as the center of Staple food. and dried them as preserved food. This was not only important as a self-sufficient food source, but was also one of the main products that needed to be secured in large quantities for trade with the Japanese.

Farming was also practiced, but it was not the mainstay of their livelihood. However, this is not because farming was impossible (farming was widely practiced during the Abramite culture, and many traces of fields from the Ainu culture have been discovered, such as the Takasago shell mound in Tōyako, Hokkaido, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Usu in 1663). It is also thought that the Ainu specialized in trading with the Japanese, and that this may have led to a form of livelihood that allowed them to obtain large quantities of trade goods such as salmon, animal skins, and raptor feathers [8]. The cultivation of Echinochloa esculenta has been practiced since ancient times, and it was used to brew Nigori sake called "tonoto" for rituals. In addition, Foxtail millet (munchiro) and Proso millet (mengku) were also cultivated. These were called chisassuyep when cooked into rice, and sayo when cooked into congee. Starch collected and preserved in bulk from the Bulb (scale) of the giant lily (Tulais), and the residue after collecting the starch, fermented and dried, was also one of the staple foods, and because of this tradition of starch use, when Potato was introduced, it was immediately accepted. It was accepted.

As the Battle of Shakushain, which was caused by the Shoba Chigyo system, ended in defeat, and the location contracting system was established, people were mobilized to work as servants for the location contractors (Japanese merchants who also acted as administrators), as well as to sell handicrafts and work at fishing grounds.[9]

= Religion

The pre-modern Ainu religion is categorized as animism. They believed that animals, plants, tools, natural phenomena (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), and pestilence all had their own spirituality, and that these things were inhabited by spirits called "ramak. The world was divided into the present world (Ainu Mosii company) and the world inhabited by lamats (Kamuimoshiri company), and lamats were believed to be inhabiting various things and coming to Ainu Mosii with some kind of role. It was interpreted that Ramak would return to Kamuimoshishin after fulfilling his role.

Also, the Ainu gods were not absolute transcendents, and when Kamui acted unjustly, the Ainu would protest.

The Iomante, the best-known Ainu religious ritual, was not found during the Abramian period, but was found in the Okhotsk culture, which existed adjacent to the Abramian culture during the Abramian period. It has been speculated that it was probably introduced into the Ainu culture from the Okhotsk culture sphere via the Tobinitai culture. On the other hand, archaeologist Takuro Segawa, in light of the fact that Wild boar bones and Dogū clay figurines resembling wild boars, which are not native to Hokkaido, have been unearthed at sites from the Jomon and Zoku-Jōmon period In light of the fact that bones of wild boars and clay figures resembling wild boars have been unearthed, we can conclude that "there existed a ritual in the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon period in which wild boars were raised for a certain period of time and their souls were sent away. The Jomon people of Hokkaido and the following Jomon people also introduced wild boar cubs and imitated this ritual, and eventually the wild boar was replaced by the Brown bear, which is the Iomanthe. The Ainu do not have Idolatry, nor do they have a culture of making idols.

This Iomanthe has the meaning of "entertaining Ramak, who has come to Ainu Mossi Lai to deliver bear meat and bear fur in the form of a bear, with a grand feast and many souvenirs to return to Ramak's world.

The Ainu ritual is called Kamuinomi, and is performed to various gods, but when starting Kamuinomi, the first prayer is to the fire god Kamuy-huci. This is an act of rooting for the other gods through the fire gods who are close to humans. Also, wooden money called Inau, which is processed from white wood, is used for the Kamuinomi. The rituals are basically performed by men, and women are responsible for the preparations.

The bodies of the dead are buried in a cemetery in the mountains away from the kotan. The cemetery is not located across the river from the village because carrying the body over the river is considered "disrespectful to the water god. The grave markers are wooden stakes called Irurakamui (gods who carry them) and Kwa (staffs), made of wood that does not decay easily, such as Styphnolobium japonicum and Syringa reticulata. In Shizunai, Hokkaido, male grave markers are Y-shaped and female grave markers are T-shaped. The concept of a "cemetery" is said to have existed around the mid-17th century. There are considerable differences between the grave system of the Abramite culture, where burials took place around or inside the house.

In the settlement of Shikotan Island near Hokkaido, where the Tishima Ainu, who had lived close to the Russia (in Uramori and Shinchi counties), migrated during the Meiji (era), churches were built and Russian Orthodox Church Russian Orthodox Church. [10] In addition, Russia is a Bakumatsu period to the beginning of the Meiji period. There are also reports that the Russian Orthodox Church proselytized to the remaining Sakhalin Ainu and others who had acquired Sakhalin from Japan through the Unequal treaty in the Bakumatsu and early Meiji periods. However, there were very few converts, and only a few converts were reported. In addition, converts to the Russian Orthodox Church were ridiculed as "Ntsa Ainu (Russian Ainu)" by other Ainu.

On the other hand, the southern part of Sakhalin, which was returned to Japan territory by the Treaty of Portsmouth signed in 1905 as a result of the victory in the Russo-Japanese War|Russo-Japanese War, has seen 336 of the Sakhalin Ainu who emigrated to Hokkaido in the early Meiji period return to their homeland. In addition, Buddhism was spread to the Sakhalin Ainu along with Japanese language education. However, it is reported that many Ainu still followed the ancient beliefs of Kamui. In addition, since the Meiji (era)-era, missionaries such as John Batchelor (missionary)-John Batchelor, who wanted to evangelize the Ainu, were allowed to spread Christianity in Japan with some conditions.

According to an interview with Ainu conducted by Hokkaido University in 2012, the Ainu today have Buddhism in Japan as their family religion. [11].


Before modern times, Ainu dwellings were unique dugout pillar buildings called chise. The basic structure consisted of dug-up pillars, a roof thatched with bark or Phragmites australis, and walls with few openings also made of bark or reeds, but the details differed from region to region, for example, from Oshima Peninsula to [Shiraoi District, Hokkaido Shiraoi District, Hokkaido, the Thatched "ki-kitai-chise", from Shiraoi Peninsula to Shiraoi District, Hokkaido, the reed-thatched "shiariki-kitai-chise", from Shiraoi to Tokachi Province, and the Kunashir Island, and the bark-thatched "Yaara Kitai Chise" distributed from Tokachi to Kunashir Island. The maximum area of a chise is thought to be about 100 square meters. The dwellings built on flat land are distinct from the pit dwellings that were the main type of dwelling from the Jomon to the Abramites. Although pit dwellings were preserved among the Ainu of Kuril Island and the Ainu living in the north, there is only one site in Hokkaido where flat-land structures and pit dwellings are mixed, the Sapporo k528 site, which is believed to be from the Ruben period.

The interior of a chise was usually a square room. There was a furnace inside, and a window on the back of the upper part in front of the furnace for the kamui ( god) to enter and leave. On the outside of the chise, there was an epereset (a cage for keeping cubs), a pu (a pantry), and an ashinlu (a latrine). A few to a dozen of these chisees gathered together to form a village called a "Kotan (village).

A few to a dozen of these chisees gathered together to form a village called a "Kotan (village)". In addition to chisees, Ainu villages often had spaces called Chashi. Chashi are thought to have been built between the 16th century and 18th century. There are many unanswered questions about the purpose of their construction, but some say that they were defensive fortresses, some say that they were treasuries for the wealthy, some say that they were sanctuaries for ceremonies, and some say that they were places for people to watch. So far, more than 500 chashi sites have been found in Hokkaido.


Before the modern era, the Ainu prized as treasure some of the items they acquired from other cultures through trade. The Ainu treasures included swords such as the Ainu sword, silverware, Chinese silk fabrics (Ezo brocade), lacquerware, and feathers of birds of prey, but most of these items were acquired through trade.

The most prized item by the Ainu was a metal tool called a "hoe. These were made of Iron or Brass plates about 1 to 2 millimeters thick, processed into a V-shape, and decorated with lacquer, leather, or silver Plating fittings. This is thought to have been some kind of spell tool, and was valued not because of the high cost of the raw materials or the difficulty of manufacturing and processing, but because of the powerful spiritual power that was thought to reside in this object. Treasures other than the hoe-shaped objects were circulated among influential Ainu people as rare goods, just like the stone coins of Yap Island, but the hoe-shaped objects were never given away to others, and when their owners died, they were hidden in hidden places such as behind rocks, lost and decayed. Segawa|2007|pp=61-65}}.

In 1916, four of the seven hoe-shaped objects found in Kakuda Village, Yubari County (now Kuriyama, Hokkaido) are preserved in the Tokyo National Museum.


In the Middle Ages, the Ainu traded dried salmon, bear and sea animal pelts, and raptor feathers for Japanese luxury goods such as silk fabrics and lacquerwares. In order to secure salmon as trade goods, there were also villages that specialized in salmon fishing as their livelihood. This kind of trading economy was established around the middle of the 9th century and was inherited by the Ainu culture.

Before the 13th century, the Ainu had expanded to the mouth of the Amur River and Lake Kisi. In the "Preface to the Book of Genesis" cited in the Genbunrui, there is a description of the Ainu attacking the Nivkh people around the 13th century and later fighting the Mongol Empire. Some believe that this was to abduct the raptor feather collectors that existed in Nivkh [12]. The Mongol Empire invaded Mongol invasions of Sakhalin in response to appeals from Nivkh and the Gilemi, who lived from the lower Amur River basin to Sakhalin, causing conflicts based on trade. The Yuan invasion forced many Ainu to leave Sakhalin, but the trade using the Amur River continued.

It is thought that the luxury goods brought by the Japanese were possessed by the wealthy as treasures, and that pedantic consumption of these goods secured Collateral (finance) their authority within the tribe.

The Abe clan of the Heian period, the Northern Fujiwara clan, the Oshu Fujiwara clan, and the Ando clan, which had a navy in the Middle Ages, were among the Ou clan's Primorskaya Oblast Primorskaya Oblast in the Middle Ages, which was carried out by the Ando clan and other powerful Ou clans with naval forces. The Matsumae clan, through the intermediary of the Ainu, traded Japanese iron products and lacquerware in Ezo (Sakhalin and Sōya District, Hokkaido) for silk fabrics, iron products, and glass beads, including official Qing dynasty uniforms, brought by the visiting Primorsky people. They also exchanged iron products, glass beads, and other items.

Oral Literature

The Ainu have a tradition of oral literature called Yukaㇻ (Yukara). Yukaㇻ temporarily declined after the modern era, but a movement to preserve it is now underway.


Men wear a tepa (a Fundoshi) and then a jacket. Women wear a kind of chastity belt called a laungkuk or Upso間違っkuk on the lower abdomen, and a T-shirt-like undergarment that covers the upper body to the knees, and then a jacket. Depending on the temperature of the weather, they may also wear a Tekumpe, Hood (headgear), or Kyahan. During ceremonies, men wear Sapanpe (Crown) on their heads, and women wear Matanpushi (a Embroidery-embroidered headband). Sakhalin Ainu women wear hetmuye, a headdress made of cloth wrapped in a ring, on their heads during rituals.

Ainu costumes are similar in tailoring to kimonos, but they have tubular sleeves and no gussets. Also, there is no lined kimono; all costumes are single-layered.

There are two types of jackets: grass skin jackets such as tetalahe and utarbe made from Urtica thunbergiana fiber, and haori-like jackets made from fur, earless seal skin, salmon skin, or itou skin (animal skin In addition, a strong bark garment called atusi, which is made from fibers from the bark of Ulmus laciniata| halibut and Tilia japonica| linden trees, has become common since the 17th century. In addition, a large amount of Cotton clothing was brought in by the Japanese, and Kosode|Kosode and Haori|Jinwaori became established as ceremonial clothing. Silk costumes were also imported from China through the Shantan trade, and were worn in various ways. The silk costumes were sold to the Japanese as "Ezo Nishiki". Silk costumes were sold to the Japanese as Ezo Nishiki, and atusi were also brought outside of Hokkaido and processed into clothing.


The trinkets of the Ainu people|Ainu are mainly metalware, such as Ninkali (Earring|Earring), Leㇰtumpe (Choker|Choker), Tamasai (Necklace|Necklace Necklace), and Tekunkane (Bracelet|Bracelet).

In the Ainu culture, where hunting and gathering were the mainstays, farming was only a secondary element, and the development of metalware technology was limited. Therefore, rather than blacksmithing, which involved extracting, forging, and smelting metals from ores, craftsmen developed techniques to modify, repair, and reuse existing metalware. The majority of these items, with the exception of the ninkari, were made exclusively for women, and like the makiri (small swords for men) and tashiro (mountain swords), which were given male privileges, the kegai (sewing needles) and chishipo (needle cases), which were used for clothing, food, and shelter, and the sho (iron pots) and menokomakiri (small swords for women), which were used for food, were also given strict female privileges. They were also given strict female privileges.

At the center of the necklace tamasai pierced with glass beads was attached a metal plate called a shitoki. The name of this shitochi can be seen in Wakan Sansai Zue|Wakan Sansai Zue, vol. 19. In the fourth year of Emperor Tenmu|Emperor Tenmu, it is written that it was decreed that a round rice cake called "Shitoki" be offered, and there the name "Shitoki" is given as "Gokagami kore ya".[13]


Ainu women's traditional tattoo patterns]. Tattoos were an important symbol of the gods associated with the belief in spirits.

One of the best known is the tattoo around the mouth of adult women. It is thought to resemble a Beard|beard, but some believe it resembles the mouth of a sacred snake. First, the mouth of a woman of her age is wiped clean and disinfected with hot water infused with the bark of Alnus japonica|alder. The woman's mouth is cleaned with hot water infused with the bark of Alnus japonica|alder and disinfected. The tip of a mantis (small knife) is used to make fine scratches, and soot is rubbed in. Because the procedure is quite painful, the tattoo is applied in small increments, several times. Philipp Franz von Siebold went to the Ainu village of Hiratori, Ryusha-gun, Hokkaido, and found that "Ainu tattooing is done only on women, and begins with multiple horizontal wounds made with a small knife just above the upper lip of girls as young as seven or eight years old, where the soot is rubbed in. It starts with a small knife to make multiple horizontal wounds just above the upper lip of a girl who is only 7 or 8 years old, and imprinting soot there. It looks like a mustache, but the ends go upward at the corners of the mouth. Once the tattoo around the mouth is done, the back of the hand and forearm are tattooed. Once a woman is married, she is no longer tattooed. [14]}

In the case of men, there were also various tattooing customs in different regions. In some areas, men got tattoos on their shoulders, and in other areas, men got tattoos on their hands on their paddles, which were said to improve their archery skills and make them better hunters.

The custom of tattooing was seen as strange by the Japanese, and was banned by the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration government. The Meiji Restoration and the Edo Shogunate enacted a ban on tattoos in October 1871, but it was not very effective because Ainu women at the time believed that if they did not have tattoos, they would incur the wrath of the gods and would not be able to marry. Therefore, in September 1876, the law was changed to imposing punishment and suppressing religious freedom. Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German physician and naturalist who was living in Japan at the time, recorded that he was asked by the Ainu people, who were bewildered by the Meiji government's ban on tattoos, if he could approach them to object to the ban. Siebold recorded that the Ainu people, who were baffled by the Meiji government's ban on tattoos, asked him if he could speak out against the ban.

In modern times, some Ainu women paint their mouths black as body painting|face painting, especially at important events. [15]

The custom of tattooing flourished in Japan during the Jōmon period|Jōmon and Yayoi period|Yayoi (until around Yamatai|Umataikoku) and fell into disuse in Japanese society with the Yamatization (Yamato Court). It remained a custom in Emishi|Ezo, but disappeared as they assimilated into Japanese society. In Amami-Ōshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island|Amami and Ryukyu, the custom remained until the Late modern period|modern era. The custom of tattooing women's faces has been revived among the Māori people of Indigenous peoples in modern-day New Zealand, but tattoos specific to the Ainu people have been limited to fakes painted on during events. However, tattoos unique to the Ainu people are only Fake|Fake painted during events, and have not yet been revived as a full-fledged traditional custom.


The Ainu did not use a written Calendar|calendar, but instead had an Oral tradition|Orally handed down calendar.

  • Paikal (spring) Hunting for Kimun Kamui (Ussuri brown bear|Ezo brown bear), which has awakened from hibernation. Forage for Makayo (Petasites japonicus| butterbur), Pukusa (Allium ochotense|Gyoja garlic), and Chirai (Sakhalin taimen|Itou).
  • Saku (summer) Collecting and processing tulep (bulbs of the giant lily), soaking nipesh (Endodermis|endocarp of Tilia japonica|linden) and ack (halibut skin) in hot springs (or ponds if not available) to remove the fibers.
  • Chuk (autumn) Fishing for Kamui chep (Chum salmon|salmon).
  • Mata (winter) Hunting for yuk (Yezo sika deer|Ezo deer), moyuk (Ezo raccoon dog), and isopo (Rabbit|rabbit).


The Ainu did not have a writing system|characters throughout their history, and traditions were passed down orally, but it has been confirmed that during the Meiji period, the tying rope was still in existence, as was the straw calculation in Okinawa. In Asia, it is known as the Fuxi|Fuxi Xi knot, and in the Americas, the Quipu|Keep (Inca). The Ainu could not count, and there was a funny story about a Japanese man who said he was going to receive ten salmon, and he would take one at the beginning, followed by one, two, nine, ten, and so on, until he finally took another one at the end. However, this is not true.

However, this is not true. Ainu society did interact with the Japanese and other cultures that had writing. However, there is a view that the Japanese, such as the Matsumae clan, did not pass on the written language to the Ainu for political reasons, fearing that their misdeeds would be written down, as well as a view that the Ainu did not accept the use of the written language from them for cultural anthropological and ethnological reasons. pp. 232-233 ISBN 978-4-0615-9750-1</ref>. For this reason, the Ainu did not record themselves in writing or compile books until schooling was made compulsory after Meiji (era)|Meiji. Therefore, to understand the pre-Meiji culture of the present-day Ainu, we must rely mainly on books written from a Japanese perspective.

Currently, the Ainu language has been devised to be Transcription (linguistics)|transcription using Katakana|Katakana of Japanese language|Japanese or Romanization of Japanese|Roman alphabet.

The Ainu script is sometimes referred to as the Hokkaido characters|Hokkaido variant script found on ancient artifacts in Hokkaido, but academics do not support the theory that the Ainu had a script.

Musical Instruments

Traditional Ainu musical instruments include Palalaiki (Balalaika).

In addition, there are studies that suggest that Genzo may have been a. In addition, Ueda Akinari, a Japanese scholar of the mid-Edo period, painted a self-portrait of himself playing.


The Ainu used traditional patterns to decorate their clothing and tools. It is thought that these patterns may have existed at the time of the establishment of Ainu culture around the 13th century|13th century. [16] There was also an influx of designs in the exchange with northern peoples such as the Nivkhs, such as the spiral pattern.

In particular, the "aishiroshi" engraved on arrowheads had a role similar to that of a Mon (emblem)crest.


Since the Ainu did not have iron making technology (technology to produce high purity iron from iron sand or iron ore), they mainly obtained iron for their ornaments and various tools from the Japanese. Swords such as Ainu swords are also Japanese sword|Japanese swords purchased from the Japanese. However, they could not manufacture advanced iron products.

Although they could not manufacture advanced iron products, they knew how to repair iron products, and there were blacksmiths who restored iron products Some of these blacksmiths settled in villages, while others traveled from village to village. However, with the massive influx of iron products from Honshu in the early modern period, the need to reuse old iron products diminished, and these blacksmiths are thought to have gradually disappeared. [17].

The Dugout canoes were used for fishing and trading. In addition, there was a culture of decorating woodwork, such as sword sheaths. In addition, Kibori kuma|wooden bears were carved by Yoshichika Tokugawa in 1923|1923 at a farm in Futami District, Hokkaido|Nikkai-gun Yakumo, Hokkaido|Yakumo-cho, which was settled by the former Owari Domain] It was not a traditional craft, but Ainu participated in it because it provided cash income.

Ainu in modern times

Japanese-style policy by the Edo shogunate

From the beginning of the Edo period, Ezo including Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and Chishima, was divided into about 80 places, which were known to vassals and became the domain of the Matsumae clan for a long time, but in 1799, the Eastern Ezochi was given to the Tokugawa shogunate However, in 1799, the Eastern Ezochi was given to the Tokugawa shogunate, and with the Matsumae family's Yanagawa Domain (Mutsu) in 1807, the Ezochi and Wajinchi became natural domains. In 1821, all of Ezochi and Wakinchi were restored to the Matsumae domain, but when Hakodate was opened in 1855, it became a natural domain again in 1856, leaving a part of Wakinchi in the southwestern part of Oshima Peninsula.

During the Matsumae domain, it was a rule that the Ainu should "not be influenced by the Culture of Japan", and the Ainu did not use the Japanese language, Kasa (hat), Mino (straw cape), or Zori (sandals). Mino (straw cape), Zori (sandals), or other Japanese style clothing. [18] However, when the territory came under the direct control of the Edo shogunate, the ban on wearing hats, coats, and sandals, which had been forbidden by the Matsumae clan, was lifted. At the same time, the Shogunate recommended changing their hairstyle, clothes, and names to the Japanese style. However, it did not become very popular.

Uniform application of civilization and its impact on Ainu culture

In 1869|1869, the Hokkaidō Development Commission|Kaitakushi was established by the Meiji government. In 1869|1869, the Meiji government established the Hokkaidō Development Commission|Kaitakushi, which created family registers (Jinshin family registers) for Ainu living in Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Northern Territories in the same way as for Japanese. The Meiji government created family registers (Jinshin family registers) for the Ainu living in Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Northern Territories, just as it did for the Japanese. The pioneers provided the same school education, including language, as the Japanese, and the laws that were enforced (the order to cut hair and remove swords, and the order requiring the name of the commoner's family name) were uniformly applied to the Ainu, just as they were to the Japanese. As part of the Civilization, traditional Ainu culture such as Tattoos and Iomantes were banned, along with traditional Japanese culture such as Chonmages and obi swords, in the name of Modernization. In addition, in 1875, the Meiji In addition, in 1875, the Meiji government concluded the Karafuto-Chishima Exchange Treaty with Russia, and the Karafuto Ainu who had chosen Japanese nationality moved to Hokkaido, In addition, in 1875, the Meiji government concluded the Karafuto-Chishima Exchange Treaty with Russia, and the Karafuto Ainu who had chosen Japanese nationality moved to Hokkaido, while those who wished to remain remained there. On the other hand, the Chishima Ainu were persuaded by officials of Nemuro Prefecture to move to Shikotan Island due to problems with the supply of daily commodities and for reasons of national defense ("Chishima Cruise Diary"). [19].

Isabella Bird|Isabella Bird also visited Hokkaido during her travels in Japan from June to September 1878, and left a description of Ainu life and customs at the time in Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.

Hokkaido Old Native American Protection Act

In 1899, the Hokkaido Law for the Protection of the Former Native People of Hokkaido was enacted, and with the establishment of Ainu schools, Ainu children were required to attend different schools than their Japanese counterparts. The Meiji government also promoted Japanese language education for the Ainu. However, the Ainu language and culture were not taught in these schools, and the Ainu culture was negatively represented, further destroying the Ainu culture in the early modern period. In 1937|1937, the Hokkaido Law for the Protection of the Former Native People of Hokkaido was amended, and Ainu schools were abolished.

Although there were researchers of Ainu culture, prejudice persisted, with even Kyōsuke Kindaichi|Kyōsuke Kindaichi, who left behind a vast amount of material on the Ainu language and culture, viewing the Ainu as a people to be destroyed. In the end, this situation continued until Japan's defeat in World War II.

The beginning of Ainu cultural studies

A dictionary of the Ainu language was published by John Batchelor (missionary), an English missionary, and Shujiro Ekuho (Japanese) (1849-1924), who became a teacher at the Harukoto Ainu School established in 1891, compiled the "Ainu Zasshiroku" (Ainu Miscellaneous Records). The Ainu language has been studied and documented academically. Major researchers include Yukie Chiri, who recorded and translated Yukar|Yukara, Mashiho Chiri, and Kyōsuke Kindaichi (1882 - 1971). In the study of Sakhalin Ainu culture, Bronisław Piłsudski, Lev Sternberg, and Taroji Chitoku are known.

Ainu poets

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ainu poets such as Yaeko Batchelor, Hokuto Iboshi, Moritake Takeichi, and others appeared on the scene, and began to express the situation of the modern Ainu in the field of literature such as Tanka. Their works continue to influence Ainu thought to this day.

Modern Ainu

Progress in the study of Ainu culture

The Ainu Shigeru Kayano|Shigeru Kayano and others, who later became members of the Diet, promoted the study of Ainu culture and the collection of materials, leading to the construction of archives and museums in various locations.

Traditional Culture Revival Movement

Since the late 1970s, the revival of Ainu traditional culture has gained momentum, and Iomantes have been held in Biratori, Hokkaido|Hiratori-cho, Shiraoi, Hokkaido|Shiraoi, and Asahikawa|Asahikawa. Also, in 1983|1983, a ceremony to send the spirits of Blakiston's fish owls was held at Lake Kussharo|Lake Kussharo. In Sapporo, 1982|1982, the Ashiricep Nomi ceremony was held to welcome the salmon run in the Toyohira River|Toyohira River, and other movements to revise the Ainu spiritual world were seen one after another in the early 1980s. As for traditional dance, there are 20 preservation societies in Hokkaido, and 17 of them were designated as List of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties in 1984 under the name of "Ainu Traditional Dance". Also, in 1997|1997, the "Act on the Promotion of Ainu Culture and the Dissemination and Enlightenment of Knowledge about Ainu Tradition" was enacted. Kayano Shigeru, who became a member of the National Diet, worked to preserve the Ainu language by asking questions to the Diet in his native language, Ainu, and compiling an Ainu dictionary. "The Ainu traditional dance was registered as Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009|2009. In addition, not only Japanese but also Koreans and other people are involved in the preservation of Ainu culture.

Activities to restore the traditional Ainu boat, the Itaomacip|Itaomacilight, have begun, and in Nibutani|Nibutani, the Tiwassanke (boat-unloading ceremony) has been held. There is also a group in the Shiretoko area that is building Itaoma fish tapes as a tourist resource.

The Ainu Association of Hokkaido, the organization that oversees the Utari, holds an annual Ainu cultural festival.

Active representation of Ainu history has also begun, and a memorial service for Shakushain is held in Shinhidaka Town every year on September 23. Although she did not emphasize her Ainu identity, Sunazawa Bikki gained international recognition as a sculptor.

Cultural confusion

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to incorporate cultural elements from outside the adjacent cultural sphere and to interact with indigenous peoples from other regions. Oki (musician)|OKI, a Multiracial people of Ainu and Japanese descent, has brought Tonkori, a traditional instrument of the Sakhalin|Kabuto Ainu, into Reggae, Dub music Tonkori, a traditional Ainu instrument, into Reggae|reggae and Dub music|dub music, and is known worldwide as a musician of so-called world music. The Ainu Rebels, formed by the Sakai siblings, who are also half Ainu and half Japanese, have released works that combine Hip hop music such as rap with traditional Ainu dance and Ainu languages poetry.

Exchange activities with indigenous people in other regions have not been uncommon in recent years. The Sapporo-based group Ainu Art Project performed music and dance with the Tlingit tribe of North America in 2000|2000, and participated in the annual International Canoe Festival in Maui, Hawaii. Maui in Hawaii. Also, in 2007, Haruzo Urakawa and other Ainu from Kanto held a Native Hawaiians Kamuinomi for traditional canoeing in Yokohama.

Public Support

  • In 2010, Sapporo University|Sapporo University started a program called "Ureshipa Project" for Ainu people|Ainu. The main pillars of the project are a scholarship program for Ainu children, including tuition exemptions, and classes on Ainu culture and communication. [20]
  • The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is implementing the "Ainu Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Project" for Small and medium-sized enterprises that are developing businesses that target Ainu culture. Cite webpage. [21]
  • Agency for Cultural Affairs|Agency for Cultural Affairs has a subordinate organization, the Ainu Culture Promotion and Research Organization, which works to promote the Ainu language and to pass on and revive Ainu culture.
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Japan) has been conducting the Ainu Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Measures Project since 1976 to improve the income and living standards of Ainu people engaged in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. [22][23]

"Ainu Privilege"

A rumor began to circulate between 2014 and 2015 that the Ainu people were enjoying preferential treatment for various vulnerable groups by taking advantage of their position as victims of rape by the Japanese. In response to this rumor, Comics artist Yoshinori Kobayashi argued that "Ainu are not indigenous to Hokkaido," citing "the fact that the Ainu people did not call themselves 'Ainu' during the period of colonization. In response to Kobayashi's opinion, the critic Tsunehira Furuya|Keihira Furuya wrote, "If the logic that 'because an ethnic group does not call itself "Ainu", it does not exist' holds true, then it would be impossible to say that there are Native Americans in the United States (or Indigenous peoples of the Americas|Indians) do not exist in the United States. [24].

IOR regeneration problem

In the Ainu culture, there was no concept of private ownership of land, but instead, there were settlements and fishing grounds where the kotan had the right of membership, and the biological resources needed by the kotan were basically procured from the settlements of the kotan. These areas are called ior, which is translated as "traditional living space". In addition to being a place to procure biological resources, ior is unique in that it is closely related to Ainu spiritual culture, including rituals.

However, since the Meiji era (1868-1912), due to government policies that lacked an understanding of Ainu culture, the lifestyle and culture of the Ainu based on Ioru has been destroyed and has been lost to this day. In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the restoration of the Ioru.

In 1996, a private advisory body to the Chief Cabinet Secretary identified the revitalization of ior as one of the policy issues to be considered, and formulated a proposal to revive ior as a place for the Ainu to pass on their traditional culture in the form of a park. In 2000, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Hokkaido Bureau, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Hokkaido, the Organization for the Promotion of Ainu Culture and Research, and the Hokkaido Utari Association jointly established the "Council for the Promotion of Ainu Culture" to discuss measures to promote Ainu culture, including the revival of ior. In 2002, seven sites were selected as candidate sites for the revitalization of ior.[25]

However, there are some who point out the lack of usability of the reclaimed ior system selected in this way, and it cannot be said that ior reclamation is necessarily going smoothly.。[26]

Candidate Sites for Ioru Revitalization

  • Core Ioru - Shiraoi Town[27]
  • Regional Ior - Sapporo City, Asahikawa City, Hiratori Town, Shizunai, Tokachi, Kushiro

Related Works

  • Harukoro - A manga about the growth of an Ainu girl named Harukoro. Written by Kei Ishizaka.
  • Samurai Shodown - A fighting game. The main character Nakoruruis an Ainu.
  • Golden Kamuy - A manga work by Satoru Noda (artist), set in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the late Meiji era. It has also been made into an anime.


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  2. Segawa 2007, p. 15.
  3. Segawa 2007, pp. 190-191.
  4. Segawa 2007, p. 195-199.
  5. Yosuke Mori. "Charanque" (PDF). Shiraoi-cho. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  6. "Rekishi to Folk Ainu", Sarashina Genzo, Shakai Shiso-sha, 1968, p133
  7. "Illustrated Ainu", Tsunoda Yoichi, Shinkijinsha, 2018, p197
  8. Segawa 2007, pp. 46-47.
  9. 『鈴木重尚 松浦武四郎 唐太日記』(嘉永7年(1854年刊行)に、弘化3年当時の状況の一部の記述が見える。
  10. Shinichi Furoku. Institute for International Languages and Cultures, Ritsumeikan University (ed.). /RitsIILCS_19.1pp.43-55Fumoto.pdf "Conversion Policy of the Ainu of the Northern Kuril Islands" (PDF). Ritsumeikan University. Retrieved 2019-03-18. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  11. Yoshihide Sakurai (2012). "Religious Attitudes of the Ainu People and Issues of Cultural Transmission". Report on the Actual Condition of Life of the Ainu People in Hokkaido. Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University (1): 97–104.
  12. Segawa 2007, p. 146.
  13. "Wakan Sanzai Zukai Vol. 18 and 19". Kyushu University Digital Archive. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  14. Heinrich von Siebold (1996-02-01). Small Siebold Ezoimihonki. Heibonsha. pp. 41–41.
  15. Association of Ainu People Living in Kanto - Rera no Kai
  16. Hokkaido Utari Association
  17. html html Life of People in the Abrasive Era I "Blacksmiths"
  18. "Mogami Tokunai, "Ezo-kuni fuzoku jinjo no sassa"". Ainu Folk Information Center Activity Magazine. 2007-10-17. Archived from the original on 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  19. Toshiyuki Akizuki, Japan and Russia over the Kuril Islands, pp. 227-231 ISBN 978-4832933866
  20. "Ulesipa Project implemented". Sapporo University, Faculty of Culture. Archived from the original on 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  21. htm "Fiscal 2013 Subsidy for Promoting New Business Activities "Ainu Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Promotion Project"}". Ministry of Economy, Trade and IndustrySmall and Medium Enterprise Agency. Retrieved 2013-03-29. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  22. "Ainu Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Measures Project". Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Japan). Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  23. "Ainu Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Measures Project". Hokkaido. Retrieved 2013-08-18. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  24. "Who are the monster "discriminatory hoaxes" roaming the net preying on now (Kyohira Furuya) @gendai_biz". Gendai Business. Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  25. "Nittan vol. 15". Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  26. "大盛り北海道 - 毎日jp(毎日新聞)". 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  27. "Regeneration of Traditional Living Space (Ioru)}". 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2021-10-18.

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