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The Ainu are an indigenous population of 24,000 to 50,000, living mainly in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan (Tsunemoto 1999:366). According to the 1999 survey, there were 7,755 Ainu households with 23,767 residents living in Hokkaido (Hokkaido 2000), and several thousands more lived outside Hokkaido (Yamakawa 1995:245). Many Ainu are “passing,” because they have been assimilated. Ainu and Japanese people have been intermarrying for the century. They are linguistically, culturally, and socially part of mainstream Japanese society.
According to the archaeological data, the first human inhabitants of Hokkaido lived on hunting, gathering, and fishing more than 20,000 years ago. The Ainu, like the Japanese, belong to the Mongoloid group. Hagiwara Kazurō developed an interesting “dual structural model” in 1990, which hypothesized that the Jōmon people from South East Asia settled in Japan first and developed Jōmon culture (ca. 8000 B.C.- ca. 400 B.C.) and were followed by people from North Asia who entered Japan through Korea, and developed Yayoi culture during Yayoi period (ca. 400. B.C.-ca. A.D. 300). Newcomers settled mainly in the western part of Japan. The Ainu and Okinawans are descendants of the Jōmon people (Ogasawara 1997:17).
Based on the patterns of pottery and archaeological evidence, the Satsumon and Okhotsk cultures dominated in Hokkaido and the northern parts of Japan by the ninth century. The Satsumon cultural sphere, which covers Hokkaido, the Kuriles, the southern half of Sakhalin and the northern part of Tōhoku, matches the later Ainu cultural sphere. Therefore, the Ainu might be identified with Satsumon culture. The Emishi, the eastern “barbarians” in the seventh-century expedition of Prince Abe no Omi described in the royal chronicle, Nihonshoki, probably refers to the unconquered and rebellious people, though some historians claim that the Emishi/Ezo were the Ainu.
The earliest description of the Ainu appears in the written documents of the fourteenth century. Therefore, the Ainu lived in Hokkaido by the fourteenth century at the latest. The Ainu lived on hunting, gathering, and fishing in the mountains and rivers of Hokkaido, the Kuriles and the southern Sakhalin. They caught salmon, their staple, in the river, and hunted deer, fox, bear, raccoon dog, and rabbit. They also collected edible plants in the mountains, and conducted small-scale agriculture in villages, kotan, consisting of two to six households and their surrounding lands. Rich resources from the river and mountains allowed some communities to produce a small surplus for trade. Local groups were incorporated into trade networks that extended both to the south and to the Asian continent through Sakhalin and the Kuriles.
Social organization was based on patrilineal and matrilineal kin-groups with clear social distinctions. The community leader, who was selected on the basis of both inheritance and ability, took a leading role in trade and mediated disputes based on custom. Larger regional, cultural, and linguistic groups also developed especially in Sakhalin and the Kuriles where the Ainu were in close contact with other northern peoples. Rich oral literatures such as yukar epics indicate that the Ainu had a complex and stratified society. They believed in the nature gods, and enjoyed harmony with nature. The important bear-sending ceremony (iyomante) was conducted for the rebirth for the bear in the mountains, home of the bear deities. Men prepared and conducted religious ceremonies while women play an important role in shamanism (Ohnuki-Tierney 1974; Ohnuki-Tierney 1999:240-245).
In the fifteenth century, the Ainu started to trade with Japanese traders, while keeping their traditional hunting and fishing activities. The exploitation of the Ainu by Japanese traders caused several large revolts but unsuccessful revolts against Japanese settlers. By the fifteenth century, the Japanese moved to the southernmost part of Hokkaido, and set up settlements to trade with the Ainu. The first war between the Ainu and Japanese settlers broke out when a Japanese blacksmith killed an Ainu boy in a quarrel. The Ainu, led by Koshamain, destroyed ten out of twelve settlements, but the revolt was suppressed by Japanese soldiers under the Kakizaki family in 1457.
The conflicts between Japanese settlers and the Ainu continued until the Kakizaki family made a deal with local Ainu, and established Japanese territory in the southernmost part of Hokkaido for a trade monopoly with the Ainu in 1551. The Kakizaki family changed its name to the Matsumae family in 1599. Their territorial regime in the southernmost part of Hokkaido was recognized by the Tokugawa shogunate, and was granted a trade monopoly with the Ainu in 1604. The Matsumaes established many trading posts throughout Hokkaido, the Ainu territory, and Japanese merchants took advantage of a trade monopoly to exploit the Ainu.
Frustrated by Japanese traders, Shakushain launched a war against the Matsumaes in 1669. The Ainu attacked trading posts and vessels, killing hundreds of Japanese. They almost conquered the Matsumae territory. However, the Ainu were eventually defeated, and the Japanese assassinated Shakushain. By the early eighteenth century, the Matsumaes, who were heavily indebted to Japanese traders, established the subcontract system to collect contractors’ fees when they traded in trading posts. As the final revolt, the Ainu killed 71 Japanese persons on Kunashiri and in the Nemuro area. The Matsumaes, with the help of local Ainu leaders, defeated them, and 37 Ainu were executed at Nokkamappu in 1789 (Walker 2001).
When Tokugawa shogunate confronted the Russian threat, it tried to assimilate the Ainu. The shogunate assumed direct control of Hokkaido in order to counter the Russian influence in the region in the 1790s. The shogunate established garrisons, and persuaded the Ainu to assimilate because the government needed to claim Hokkaido as a part of Japan. However, the government lacked the funds to enforce its assimilation policies, and after the Russian threat subsided, the shogunate restored the authorities with the Matsumaes in 1821. The Matsumaes prohibited the Ainu from assimilating. Japanese traders and settlers in the subcontracted trading posts exploited the Ainu through forced labor and resettlement. The Ainu were driven into destitution.
After the Russian threat and the 1854 Russo-Japan Treaty of Amity, the shogunate gained direct control over Hokkaido and reimposed the assimilation policies. An 1807 survey recorded an Ainu population of 23,797 (12,753 in the eastern Hokkaido, 8,944 in the western Hokkaido, 2,100 in Sakhalin) (Kayano 1994:26-27). Disease and starvation reduced this population from 26,800 in 1817 to 10,800 in 1854 (Keira 1997:339).
The Meiji government changed the name Ezochi to Hokkaido in 1869, and set up a local system of development commissioners. It called for the mass migration of ex-samurai and farmers in order to develop agricultural lands and colonize Hokkaido, the land of the Ainu in 1871. The Ainu constituted of 14.6 percent of the population (16,272 among 111,191) in 1873, and reduced to 0.54 percent (16,519 among 3,060,577) in 1936 in Hokkaido (Siddle 1996:59). The government registered the Ainu as “commoners” and forced them to take Japanese names in 1871. It also prohibited the Ainu from taking salmon and deer and from keeping their traditional customs, like tattoos. The land of the Ainu was declared “nobody’s land,” and incorporated into state-owned land in 1877.
The government set up the administration of Hokkaido, and gave away uncultivated land to Japanese migrants. The Ainu were deprived of their lands and their livelihood. The Ainu also lost their language, because their children had to attend Japanese school after the new school regulation of 1872. Because of poverty and discrimination, the enrolment rate of Ainu children was much lower than that of Japanese children. In the 1880s and 1890s, John Batchelor and other foreign ministers built several private schools for Ainu children.
The government began to pay attention to the humanitarian protection for the Ainu, the “dying race” and to worry about the influence of Christian missionaries upon the Ainu. The government treated these “inferior” and poor “dying” people paternalistically, and sought to make the Ainu into culturally “superior” Japanese. In 1899, the government enacted the Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Act, granted a piece of land for Ainu farmers, and guaranteed social welfare and school education for the Ainu. This Act was based upon the Dawes Act, which made some concessions to Native Americans. The lands granted to the Ainu were much smaller and less desirable than those that had been given to Japanese settlers. Moreover, the government claimed the right to reclaim land that had been left fallow for fifteen years. Eventually only 15 percent of granted lands were still held by the Ainu at the time of the 1946 land reform (Kayano 1993:34).
Ainu schools were intended to assimilate Ainu children, under the 1899 Hokkaido Former Primitives Protection Law and the 1901 Regulations for the Education of Former Aboriginal Children. By 1910, more than 90 percent of Ainu children attended elementary school (Ogawa 1997:10). Many of them went to segregated Ainu schools, where emphasis on learning the Japanese language took priority over learning science and social science. In 1937, segregated Ainu schools were abolished, and Ainu children were integrated in Japanese elementary schools. The century of Japanese education deprived Ainu children of the ability to communicate in their own language, and as a result, Ainu language is no longer a living language. Many Ainu who live in the urban areas and/or have a Japanese heritage because of intermarriage are indistinguishable from other Japanese.
The first organization of the Ainu in Hokkaido, the Ainu Association was formed as an extension of the Social Section of Hokkaido Administration in 1930, and tried to increase the amount of social wealth in Ainu communities. However, the Ainu still remained disproportionately unemployed and underemployed even in the 1960s, due to the century of poverty and prejudice. The Ainu Association changed its name to the Utari Association in 1961.
The Utari Association successfully lobbied for a social welfare project for the Ainu to improve their living standards, by building public houses and public baths in 1961. However, the 1972 survey of the Ainu revealed that the socioeconomic status and educational attainment of the Ainu were far below the national average. Less than half of Ainu children (41.6%) went to high school, compared with the national average of 87.2 percent. In 1979, only 8.8 percent of Ainu children went to higher education, compared with the national average of 31.9 percent (Hakkaido Minseibu 2000; Monbushō 2000a). The rate of welfare recipients of 1972 was 11.6 percent among the Ainu, compared with 1.8 percent in the average of the towns in which the Ainu lived (Hokkaido 2000).
The Utari Association, the largest organization of the Ainu, has about 4,200 Ainu households as members, 57 percent of Ainu households (Kōno 1996:160-161). The Utari Association, with the support of the Japan Socialist Party (since 1996, the Social Democratic Party of Japan) and the Japan Communist Party lobbied for social welfare projects for the Ainu, which resemble the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) for Buraku people. The Hokkaido Administration implemented the Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures from 1974 to 1980 with a budget of almost 12 billion yen, 41 percent from the national treasury (Siddle 1997:33). The Project was renewed several times and still operates, as of 2005. The Project has underwritten the construction of public houses and streets for the Ainu, and provided educational high school and college scholarships for Ainu children.
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The educational attainment of the Ainu is lower than the national average. Low educational attainment prevents the Ainu from achieving higher occupational and socioeconomic status. The lower educational attainment of Ainu children has been caused partly by Ainu parents who have lower socioeconomic status and who are themselves poorly educated. The 1974 Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures provide financial incentives to Ainu parents wishing to improve their socioeconomic status, in addition to high school and college scholarships for Ainu children.
According to a 1999 survey of the Hokkaido administration, 95.2 percent of Ainu middle school graduates went to high school, compared with 97.0 percent of all middle school students in the towns in which Ainu lived. Concerning the (junior) college enrollment, only 16.1 percent of Ainu children went to college, compared with 34.5 percent on the average in the towns in which Ainu lived (Hokkaido 2000), and the national average of 44.2 percent in 1999 (Monbushō 2000a). The educational attainment of Ainu children has remarkably improved. In 1972, less than half of Ainu children (41.6%) went to high school, compared with the national average of 87.2 percent, and in 1979, only 8.8 percent of Ainu children went on to higher education, compared with the national average of 31.9 percent (Hakkaido 2000; Monbushō 2000a).
The Ainu have assimilated into the low strata of Japanese society in Hokkaido. Very few Ainu, if any, continue to have a traditional Ainu life or speak Ainu on a daily basis. Ainu youths tend to take the same kind of job as Japanese youths, move to the urban areas, and take Japanese spouses. The 1999 survey of the Ainu by the Hokkaido administration confirmed that the socioeconomic status of the Ainu has improved, but remains below the national average. In 1999, there were 7,755 Ainu households with 23,767 Ainu in Hokkaido. The Ainu worked as fishermen and farmers in much higher portion than the average in the towns where Ainu lived, while the Ainu in only half rate of the average were engaged in the tertiary industry. Almost thirty percent (29.5%) of Ainu workers of fifteen years old or older were engaged in primary industry (8.4% in agriculture and 19.3% in fishery), compared with only 5.5 percent in areas the Ainu live (as of 1995). Another thirty percent (27.8%) belonged to the secondary industry (19.0% in construction and 8.5% in manufacturing), in comparison of 23.1 percent on average. The rest (35.4%) worked in the tertiary industry (12.3% in service industry and 10.5% in wholesales and retails), in comparison of more than seventy percent (70.7%) on average (Hokkaido 2000).
The household income of the Ainu was still far below the national average, despite the 1974 Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures. One third (31.0%) of the Ainu described their life as very difficult and 49.6 percent of the Ainu described their life as relatively difficult, because of the low income from the primary industry and/or insecure temporary employment. The number of Ainu households that received welfare in 1999 (37.2/000) was twice the average in the locals where Ainu inhabited (18.4/000), though the rate of Ainu welfare recipients has decreased from 115.7/000 in 1972 (17.5/000 in the average) to 37.2/000 in 1999 (Hokkaido 2000).
The overrepresentation of Ainu in fishing, agriculture and the construction industry is caused mainly by their low educational attainment and the lack of social network for more highly paid and prestigious occupations. The improvement of educational attainment helps Ainu youths to obtain better jobs. Institutional networks through schools and the Utari Association compensate for the lack of social network among Ainu youths. Job training for youths as well as adults can be helpful in securing.
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In the late 1960s and 1970s, young Ainu activists who were dissatisfied with the assimilation policies of the Utari Association sought the recognition of Ainu ethnicity, and fought against discrimination. In 1972, the Ainu Kaihō Dōmei (Ainu Liberation League) was created by Yūki Shōji. The Buraku Liberation League (BLL) formally declared of its solidarity with the Ainu Liberation League when the two joined in the United Front against Discrimination in 1974.
Ainu activists enforced denunciation, negotiation, and legal suits against people and groups that practiced discrimination, and succeeded in abolishing the stereotype of the Ainu. They denounced a professor for his discriminatory remarks about the Ainu in lectures in 1977-1978. Also, they denounced the Japan Travel Bureau’s advertisement of “famed hairy Ainu,” and won a formal apology and a sensitivity training for Japan Travel Bureau’s employees in 1982. In 1985, Chikap Mieko, an Ainu woman, sued prominent ethnologists for using a photograph of her to depict a stereotypical Ainu in their ethnological book without permission, and arrived at an out-of-court settlement in 1988. The denunciation of monks in the temple in Hokkaido started in 1994 over the offensive anti-Ainu graffiti that appeared in the temple three times (Narita and Hansaki 1998). Protests and public condemnations of anti-Ainu language and behavior have discouraged the recurrence of discrimination and prejudice against the Ainu.
Young Ainu activists in the Utari Association spearheaded a movement to celebrate Ainu ethnic pride and cultural heritage. The official history of Hokkaido, written for the centennial celebration of the Meiji Restoration in 1968, ignored Ainu history. Outraged Ainu demanded the recognition of the Ainu ethnic identity. They also realized that Ainu language and culture were threatened with extinction. Since the early 1970s, the Utari Association under Kaizawa Tadashi led a cultural movement to have the Ainu write Ainu history. In 1972, Narita Tokuhei formed the Yai Yukara (Our Own) Research Group to study Ainu culture and history. Kayano Shigeru established the Nibutani Ainu Cultural Museum with his private collection of Ainu handicrafts.
By the late 1970s, the Ainu had created the term “Ainu Moshiri” (“mother earth”) as a symbol of their ancestral land. Ainu activists created annual memorial ceremonies for Shakushain, who had taken up arms against Japanese settlers in 1669, and for the victims of Nokkamappu. Since 1982, the Ceremony to Welcome the New Salmon, the Ashiri Chep Nomi was reintroduced. In 1982, Kayano Shigeru opened a nursery school with subsidies from prefectural and municipal administrations and his personal savings to teach Ainu-language in Nibutani of 500 inhabitants, almost 80 percent of whom are Ainu people (Kayano 1994:160). Twelve Ainu language schools have been opened, and Ainu language courses are offered in some universities. Ainu language schools and annual ceremonies for Ainu heroes and Ainu heritage remind the Ainu of their ethnicity, and reinforce their ethnic pride. However, in reality, many Ainu culture and traditions survive only in the museum and ceremonies, while Ainu language is far from a commonly spoken one.
Since the 1970s, Ainu activists have participated in the international indigenous people’s movements. In 1976, the Ainu theater group, Yukaraza, performed Ainu epics at the UNESCO cultural festival in Paris. For the first time, the Utari Association attended the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1987. Giichi Nomura, Executive Director of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido (Hokkaido Utari Kyōkai), petitioned the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities to investigate the indigenous and cultural rights of the Ainu in order to replace the out-dated 1899 Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Law (Nomura 1993: 85-86). Ainu representatives also assisted in the revision of the ILO Convention 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Populations in 1988 and 1989. In 1992, the Ainu received an international recognition when Giichi Nomura addressed the U.N. General Assembly in the inauguration ceremonies for the United Nations International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. The Ainu from Nibutani hosted an international gathering called “Nibutani Forum 1993” with 22 indigenous peoples from 12 countries (Kayano 1993:57). In the 1980s and 1990s, Ainu cultural and ethnic movements, along with the media attention that they have received, have helped the public to appreciate the Ainu heritage and culture.
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The majority of the Ainu joined in the movement led by the Utari Association, for the enactment of a new Ainu law to replace the 1899 Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Law. Most articles of the 1899 Law were no longer in effect, and the use of the term “dojin” (primitive natives) in the name of the Law carries a derogatory connotation. Under the 1899 Law, the Ainu were deprived of their traditional ways of life, language, and pride.
In 1981, the Utari Association began researching a new Ainu law, and adopted “the draft proposal of the law concerning the Ainu” in 1984. The draft made provisions for: 1) the elimination of socioeconomic discrimination and prejudice; 2) political representation at national and local levels; 3) ethnic education for Ainu children; 4) the promotion of Ainu culture and heritage; 5) the promotion of agriculture, fishery, forestry and commerce; 6) the establishment of the Ainu Foundation for social welfare; and 7) the establishment of the National Committee for Ainu policies (Siddle 1996:196-200). Many Ainu reasserted their ethnic identity through the campaign for the New Ainu Law.
In 1984, the Hokkaido government established the Utari Mondai Konwakai (Utari Affairs Council), which included Ainu representatives. In 1987, the Council approved the draft of the Utari Association, except for the political representation of the Ainu, which they thought might be unconstitutional. The Hokkaido Assembly unanimously passed the proposal in July, and sent it to the National Diet. The National Diet also established a committee to examine the bill. The process was painfully slow, and in 1997 the Law for the Promotion of the Ainu Culture and for the Dissemination of and Advocacy for the Traditions of the Ainu and the Ainu Culture (the New Ainu Law) was enacted. Meanwhile, Kayano Shigeru became the first Ainu elected representative to the Diet in 1994.
The 1997 New Ainu Law guarantees only the cultural rights of the Ainu. It does not guarantee representation in national and local legislatures. It does not mandate legal sanction against discrimination, or compensation for the indigenous people’s confiscated lands and resources. Under the New Ainu Law, the Japanese government promises to promote and preserve Ainu culture and heritage, and to educate Japanese people about the Ainu. In June 1997, the government established the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture. The government subsidizes the promotion and transmission of Ainu indigenous culture and heritage in schools, museums, culture centers, and annual festivals. The Ainu receive public subsidies to preserve and transmit their culture. The promotion of Ainu culture strengthens Ainu identity and pride among the Ainu, especially among the children. Instruction in Ainu culture at school and in the community teaches Japanese people understand the Ainu and their history, so that the Japanese will treat the Ainu with greater respect. The Utari Association continues to manage the Utari Social Welfare Project with the Hokkaido Administration in order to raise living standards and educational levels of the Ainu.
Despite the New Ainu Law, the Ainu are rapidly becoming Japanese. Almost all Ainu have attended Japanese schools, lived in Japanese communities, and married with Japanese people for a century. The Ainu language and traditional way of life are vanishing. Only few children study Ainu language in community-based language classes. Most Ainu children are “passing” urbanite Ainu children from the generations of intermarriage, and do not have a chance to learn Ainu language because their parents no longer speak it. According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs, there may be a dozen people who speak Ainu language, and 20 who are qualified to teach it; all of them are elderly (Nihon Keizai 1997b:128). Without the everyday practice of Ainu language and tradition, the Ainu may choose to declare their identity on the basis of their voluntary allegiance to the collective memories of Ainu heritage. Ainu culture and heritage are and will be transmitted to the rising generation of the Ainu through school education, museum, and annual festivals.
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The Japanese government finally recognized the Ainu as an “ethnic minority” in the 1991 periodical report for the Human Rights Covenant. Japan ratified the Human Rights Covenants (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) in 1979, and committed to the promotion of the human rights in Japan. The 1980 first periodical report to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) did not recognize the Ainu as minority people, stating, “Minorities of the kind mentioned in the Covenant do not exist in Japan.” Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone also declared that Japan was a “mono-ethnic” society in 1986, for which he was castigated by the Ainu. The Ainu, angered by the government’s ignorance of the Ainu, attended the 1987 United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The second periodical report to the Human Rights Commission mentions the Ainu who “preserve their own religion and language, and maintain their own culture.” Finally, in the 1991 third periodic report, the Ainu are regarded as an “ethnic minority” who lived in Hokkaido before the Wajin (Japanese).
The 1997 verdict of the Nibutani dam case by the Sapporo Regional Court recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people. Kayano Shigeru and Kaizawa Tadashi, who refused to sell their lands in Nibutani, where nearly 80 percent of population is Ainu brought a lawsuit against the government, which enforced the construction of dam over the objections of the Ainu. The dam was completed in 1996. The 1997 verdict declared that the construction of the dam against the intention of the Ainu, an indigenous people had been illegal, based on Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, although the completed dam could not be destroyed (Hanazaki 1998:7-12; Creighton 2003). After the court decision, a supplementary resolution in the Diet recognized the indigenous status of the Ainu, though the New Ainu Law did not mention this status.
The government promotes ethnic education for Ainu children, which is guaranteed by the 1994 Rights of the Child and the 1997 New Ainu Law. Ainu children have the right to learn their culture and language as minority children (Article 30, the Rights of the Child). Ainu children may go to community-based Ainu language classes. More textbooks and dictionary for Ainu languages have been published.
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Japanese tend to look down on the Ainu as an inferior people, and to stereotype them as a hairy and primitive people. According to the 1999 Hokkaido survey, 12.4 percent of the Ainu responded that they had experienced discrimination within the past six to seven years, and another 48.4 percent responded they had Ainu acquaintances who had encountered discrimination. These incidents occurred at school (46.3%), in marriage (25.4%), at work (9.5%), in social relations (9.5%), and by the government (1.5%). They were ridiculed and rejected by others, lost marriage prospects, and were harassed because of their appearance. If discrimination against the Ainu is to end, the Japanese should understand Ainu culture through social and school education, enlightenment activities, and communication (Hokkaido 2000).
The Hokkaido Board of Education and the Hokkaido University of Education have taken the initiative in promoting Ainu studies and education. The Hokkaido Board of Education began to produce teaching materials for Ainu history and culture in 1984, and in 1992, published a handbook, “Guidelines for the Teaching of Ainu History and Culture,” for every high school in Hokkaido. In 1987, the Utari Association asked the Hokkaido University of Education to offer a course in Ainu history and culture, and in 1991 the five campuses of the University offered 17 courses that were wholly or partially devoted to Ainu history, culture, and language. Both the Ainu and Japanese scholars are actively writing about Ainu history and culture (Myojin 1993:258-260).
Japanese students learn Ainu history and culture as part of the regular social science curriculum in elementary, middle, and high schools. Since 1978, social science textbooks for middle school have included Ainu history and cultures. Middle school history and civics textbooks describe Ainu history and culture from the perspective of the Ainu. A popular history textbook for middle school portrays the Ainu as the victims of Japanese exploitation and discrimination (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a).
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1457 The revolt of the Ainu led by Koshamain is crushed by Japanese soldiers under the Kakizaki family.
1551 The Kakizaki family establishes Japanese territory in Hokkaido for a monopolistic trade with the Ainu.
1599 The Kakizaki family changes its name to the Matsumae family.
1669 The revolt of the Ainu led by Shakushain is suppressed.
1789 The final revolt by the Ainu.
1850 The shogunate gains direct control over Hokkaido and imposes the assimilation policies upon the Ainu.
1869 The Meiji government renames Ezochi as Hokkaido.
1899 The Former Aborigines Protection Act is established.
1930 The Ainu Association is formed.
1987 The Utari Association attends the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
1997 The Former Aborigines Protection Act is replaced by the Law to Promote Ainu Culture and Disseminate Knowledge of Ainu Traditions.
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The Ryūkyū Islands are composed of a chain of 60 islands of the Okinawa, Miyako, Yaeyama and Senkaku groups in the south of Kyushu. As of 2004, the population of Okinawa Prefecture is 1.36 million. In 2001, 49,000 Americans, 26,000 of whom were soldiers and 23,000 of whom were family members, were living in the Ryūkyū Islands, where 75 percent of the U.S. military bases are concentrated (Okinawa-ken 2004). Approximately 300,000 Okinawans live in other parts of Japan (Taira 1997:142), and another 300,000 live overseas. Okinawa, a poor prefecture, sent 75,000 Okinawans during the prewar period and 18,000 Okinawans during the postwar period to Hawaii, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentine, Peru, Bolivia and so on (Nakachi 1997:439-440).
The birth rate in Okinawa is 1.82, the highest in Japan, compared to the national average of 1.36. The life expectancy of women in Okinawa is 86.01 years old; the national average is 84.62, as of 2000. The per capita annual income in Okinawa Prefecture was 2,183,000 yen in 1998, only 70 percent of 3,104,000 yen of the national average, the lowest prefecture, and the lowest since the 1972 return of Okinawa. In 2002, the rate of unemployment in Okinawa was 8.3 percent (5.4% nationwide), the highest (AS September 4, 2003). In that same year, the unemployment rate of 15 to 29 years old was 48.0 percent, well above the national average of 37.8 percent (Momose and Maedomari 2002:30).
Okinawa’s economy is based on public works, tourism, and the United States military presence. In 2000, a record 4.6 million tourists came to Okinawa, and Okinawa generated 460 billion yen a year from the tourist industry. But about 70 percent of revenues go to large travel agencies from the mainland (Momose and Maedomari 2002:36). The number of visitors to Okinawa rose from 400,000 in 1972 to 1.5 million in 1975 with the Marine Expo of 1975 in Okinawa, and to 4.1 million in 1998. More than 80 percent of the major resort hotels are owned by mainland interests and even at the construction stage, local firms are involved only as sub- or sub-sub-contractors. Even in areas of high concentration of tourist facilities, such as Onna Village which can accommodate 10,000 visitors, only 12 percent of employees in the hotels are local people (McCormack 2003:101).
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The Okinawans and the Ainu are direct descendants of the Jōmon people from South East Asia, hunters, gatherers, and fishermen (ca. 8000 B.C.- ca. 400 B.C.). The ancestors of the Japanese people were agrarian Yayoi people who immigrated from North Asia through Korea (ca. 400. B.C.-ca. 300 A.D.). There were four ruling dynasties: Shunten (1187-1260), Eiso (1260-1349), Satto (1349-1406), and First Shō (1406-70). The second Shō dynasty, beginning with Shō En in 1470, lasted more than four hundred years, until its last king, Shō Tai abdicated to make way for the Meiji state in 1879. In 1372, King Satto began paying tribute to the emperors of China. After the Satsuma’s invasion of Ryūkyū in 1609, Ryūkyū became its vassal until 1712, when Ryūkyū restored the royal title. Ryūkyū paid an annual tax to Satsuma while continuing as China’s tributary state. After the Meiji Revolution in 1868, in 1872, Japan claimed Ryūkyū as its province, while China refused to recognize Japan’s rights to the territory. In 1879, Ryūkyū became Okinawa Prefecture. After Japan’s victory over the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, China renounced its claim to Ryūkyū.
The population of Okinawa increased from 150,000 in 1881, to 396,000 in 1914, and to 476,000 in 1940. By 1935, 15 percent of the population had emigrated to Japanese mainland such as Osaka and Tokyo or overseas to Taiwan, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Mexico, Cuba, Malaya, Micronesia, the Philippines, Hawai’i, and the Americas. By 1938, 72,789, 12 percent of the population had emigrated from Okinawa to overseas, such as 20,118 to Hawaii, 14,830 to Brazil, 11,311 to Peru and 16,426 to the Philippines. Okinawans also emigrated to Japan’s overseas colonies such as in Taiwan, Manchuria, China, the Korean peninsula, Singapore and Kainan Island. In 1940, 9.97 percent of the population of Okinawa prefecture was living overseas as emigrants. After 1946, more than 180,000 of an estimated 332,000 Okinawans and their descendants living abroad were forcibly repatriated. In 1948, Okinawans began moving in droves to Argentina, and then to Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Paraguay until the late 1960s when the economic prosperity of Japan reduced emigration rates. Of about 200,000 Nikkei now living and working in Japan, about one-third, or 60,000, are of Okinawan ancestry, of which about 70 percent are from Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia (Nakasone 2002:17-18; Sellek 2003:75-79).
In December 1944, 590,000 people were living in Okinawa prefecture, including 490,000 living on the main island, in addition to almost 100,000 Japanese soldiers. On March 23, 1945, the Battle of Okinawa started (Fujiwara 1987:21-28). On April 1, the U.S. military invaded the main land and launched a ground war, conquering Okinawa on July 2. The Battle of Okinawa caused 188,000 deaths including 66,000 soldiers from mainland Japan, 28,000 soldiers and army/navy civil workers from Okinawa, and 94,000 civilians (55,000 war participants/semi-civilian workers, and 39,000 Okinawan residents). In addition, many Korean workers and “comfort women” died, though it is unknown how many Koreans were killed. On the U.S. side, 12,520 were killed (Hayashi 2001:5).
The Okinawa Prefecture has designated June 23 as the memorial day for victims of the Battle of Okinawa. On June 23, 1945, a commander of former Japanese military committed suicide and the organizational resistance was over. In 1995, at the Peace Memorial Park, the memorial, called the Cornerstone of Peace, was built and engraved with more than 23,000 names of people on both sides who died directly or indirectly, as a result of the Battle of Okinawa, and Okinawans who perished during the Fifteen Years’ War (1931-1945).
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In 1945, the population of Okinawa dropped to 320,000, but in 1946, it swelled 520,000 with 200,000 people who came back to Okinawa from overseas, and Japan mainland (Momose and Maedomari 2002:15). Between 1945 and 1950, the United States placed Okinawa under the military government. According to the 1951 SF Peace Treaty, the U.S. ruled the Ryūkyū Islands. In 1952, the indigenous Government of the Ryūkyū Islands, with limited authority, was established. The United States Civil Administration of the Ryūkyū appointed the chief executive of the administrative branch of the GRI, while the legislature was popularly elected. The civilian government administered Okinawa until its return of Okinawa in 1972. As long as Ryūkyū residents lived in Okinawa, they were not Japanese, though once they moved to Japan mainland, they became Japanese and had all rights of Japanese citizens.
From 1952 to 1960, the military presence on Japan’s mainland was reduced to one fourth while in Okinawa the military presence was doubled. According to the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the U.S. military can use the bases in Japan not only for the peace and security of Japan but also for the peace and security of the Far East. They need to coordinate with Japan beforehand. So far they have never had coordination before. Under the terms of the 1969 Joint Statement of President Nixon and Prime Minister Satō, Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972.
By the middle of the 1970s, the U.S. military bases in Japan’s mainland had been reduced one third, but the U.S. military bases in Okinawa remained the same size. As a result, 75 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan are in Okinawa. After the end of the occupation, the number of U.S. forces in Japan was reduced from 210,000 in 1955 to 77,000 in 1957, and by 1960 the number had fallen to 48,000. Both the military in Japan and the Seventh Fleet are under the U.S. Pacific Command; 47,000 soldiers are based on the land and 12,000 on the sea. About half of soldiers are stationed in Okinawa.
Through “omoiyari yosan” (“appreciation payment”), Japan has paid for welfare and other allowances of local employees for U.S. forces since 1978, and for the construction of housing for U.S. forces since 1979. Under the Status of Forces Agreement since 1987, Japan has paid for the labor costs of local employees of the U.S. forces, utility costs, and training relocation costs. In addition, local governments are also provided with subsidies for bases as a substitute for fixed property taxes. Japan’s cost sharing for U.S. Forces Stationed in Japan, “omoiyari yosan” (FY 2004 budget) amounts to 244.1 billion yen, including 143 billion yen in labor costs (58.6%), 74.9 billion yen in facilities improvement projects (30.7%), 25.8 billion yen in utility costs (10.6%) and 400 million yen in training relocation costs (0.1%)(Bōeichō 2004:115).
According to a 2002 survey, more than 80 percent of Okinawans and Japanese nationwide want to reduce military base; some would like to see the closing of all military bases in Okinawa. On the other hand, 70 percent of Okinawans claimed that the military bases contribute to the Okinawa economy. They would like to emphasize tourism (43%) and information and finances (16%) and to develop new industry in order to have economic independence (AS May 12, 2002).
The U.S. military in Okinawa occupies 233 square kilometers, about 10 percent of Okinawa prefecture, and 18 percent of Okinawa mainland (Bōeichō 2004:302). One third of the land occupied by the U.S. military is privately owned. Approximately 30,000 ‘contract landowners’ lease to the military and receive rent from the government, while more than 100 ‘non-contract landowners’ who refuse to lease their properties to the military. The hitotsubo (1 tsubo=3.3 square meters) Anti-Landowners’ Organization was established in 1982 and about 3,000 participated in the hitotsubo movement to buy lands and become anti-war landowners (Miyume 2003:169-170).
The Japanese government has paid high fees for military lands for contracted landowners in appreciation of their cooperation. Under the Land Acquisition Law, the Japanese government has leased the land and paid rent to owners, and sublet the land to the U.S. forces for free; the leases should be renewed every five years. From 1972 to 1995 the governor of Okinawa signed the documents. After the rape of a schoolgirl in Okinawa in 1995, 85,000 people protested to demand the reduction of the military presence and the reconsideration of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Governor Ota Masashide refused to sign on behalf of the landowners who were refusing to lease to the military. Prime Minister Hashimoto sued Ota, and the Supreme Court forced Ota to sign the contract in 1996. After the revision of the Special Measures Law for Land Required by the U.S. Military Bases in 1997, the Prime Minister, not mayors or governors, signs the contract.
After 1995 anti-military demonstrations, the U.S. and Japan agreed to return the Futenma airport to Japan in exchange for the construction of another base for the United States. The Japanese government plans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to an offshore facility in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. The cost is estimated at 300 billion yen. In December 1996, the Special Action Committee on Okinawa was established by the U.S. and Japanese governments. The Committee recommended that Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, located in the central Okinawan town of Ginowan be relocated. An offshore site in the remote Yanbaru village of Henoko in City Nago of 54,000 was chosen for “the floating heliport,” with a runway 1,500 meters long and 600 meters wide, in addition to the extensive ancillary facilities, costing up to 1 trillion yen. The people of Nago objected to the heliport plan through a plebiscite in December 1997. Higa Tetsuya, mayor of Nago pledged his city’s support for the heliport and then resigned. Governor Ota endorsed the plebiscite, overruling Higa and declaring that there would be no heliport. In 1998, the LDP-supported Inamine Keiichi was elected governor of Okinawa. Five days before the election, the LDP announced that it was abandoning the heliport idea that would negotiate with Inamine over where to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. In December 1999, both Governor Inamine and the mayor of Nago conditionally endorsed the Henoko base proposal. On September 12, 2004, approximately 30,000 people gathered to demand the closure of the Futenma base after a U.S. helicopter from the Futenma Airport crashed at Okinawa International University (Johnson 1999:220-222; McCormack 2003:102-106; AS December 28, 2001; AS September 13, 2004).
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The Ainu have transformed themselves from a dying ethnic group into an internationally recognized indigenous people with ethnic and cultural pride. The association of the Ainu, the Utari Council, enacted the new Ainu Law of 1997, which designates the Ainu as an ethnic minority, and protects their human rights, and Ainu leaders actively participate in an international indigenous peoples’ movement. Ainu cultural and ethnic movements have helped the public recognize the importance of Ainu heritage, and popularize Ainu culture, especially through increased media attention in the 1980s and 1990s.
Educational attainment and socioeconomic status of the Ainu are expected to improve through affirmative action programs, such as the 1974 Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures. In addition to academic scholarships, remedial education will help Ainu children to perform better in school and ascend the socioeconomic ladder. Institutional networks from schools and the Utari Association provide Ainu youths with more opportunities to obtain a job. The Ainu are over-represented in low-paying fishery, agriculture and the construction industry. Job training programs for the Ainu will help them to find better-paying positions.
The 1997 Ainu New Law endorses Ainu cultural revival movements. Ainu culture and heritage will be taught in schools, museums, culture centers, and annual festivals. Many Ainu activists will continue to promote their culture through festivals and Ainu language schools in Japan and overseas. Ainu children can learn the Ainu language. Moreover, teaching Ainu history and culture helps end stereotypes and anti-Ainu bias.
However, few Ainu speak the Ainu language or follow the traditional way of life. The Ainu identity will be more like “symbolic ethnicity,” with the collective memories of an Ainu heritage. Ainu culture and heritage will be transmitted to the new generation of the Ainu through schools, museums, and annual festivals.
Ryūkyū became Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. Due to the economic depression, population pressure, and the lack of farmland, many Okinawans have left the islands. The Battle of Okinawa of 1945 caused 188,000 deaths, more than half of whom were civilians. After the United States occupation following the end of World War II in 1945, Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. Under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, 75 percent of the U.S. military bases and 26,000 out of 47,000 American soldiers in Japan stationed on Okinawa. The main economy of Okinawa consists of public works, tourism, and the military. The per capital annual income in Okinawa has been the lowest in Japan since 1972, and its unemployment rate in Okinawa is the highest.
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