Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan

Ainu means “people” or “humans” in their language and refers to the indigenous people of northern Japan. Similar to Indigenous peoples around the world, in spite of assimilation policies and persistent discrimination, Ainu continue their culture and distinct identity with a flourishing of the arts, music and dance. Their continuous efforts finally achieved official recognition by the Japanese government in 2008.


Meet the Ainu: Indigenous Peoples of Japan.
Skype talk with Akan Kotan Ainu Women on January 28, 2016.

In our meeting with women of the Akan Kotan Village we learned that Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan who were not officially recognized by the Japanese government until 2008. Throughout the skype discussion, students and faculty were educated on the history, culture, gender roles and identity, and arts of the Ainu. As well as the political organizations and activities they have created to preserve their language, culture, and identity. The seven Ainu women, who gathered for this discussion at their tea house, are all performers of the arts. They played the Mukkuri, an Ainu musical instrument, spoke of the importance in performing their traditional music to not solely bring awareness of their culture, but create an interest and musical space for the upcoming Ainu generations. The discussion ended with a performance of a farewell song between the students and faculty, and the Ainu. Prof. Masako Kubota, who visited their village last year, led the discussion and translated between students and the Akan Kotan women. (By Masako Kubota and Wendolynne Perez)