June 05, 2008

Japan has natives too

In landmark move, Japan to recognise indigenous peopleJapan is set this week to recognise the Ainu as an indigenous people, in a landmark move for a nation that has long prided itself as ethnically homogeneous.

The move comes ahead of next month's summit of the Group of Eight rich nations on the northern island of Hokkaido, home to most of Japan's estimated 70,000 Ainu.

Japan's parliament is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Friday to urge the government to "immediately" provide support for the Ainu, who have long faced discrimination and income disparity, lawmakers said.

The resolution to be submitted jointly by ruling and opposition lawmakers stipulates for the first time that the Ainu "are an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture."
Plus this tidbit:"The environment is high on the agenda for the summit, and you can't ignore the existence of indigenous people when you talk about the environment," said Kato, an expert on the Ainu issue.

In May, representatives of the world's 370 million indigenous people, closing up a two-week session at the United Nations, demanded a say in decisions on global warming, saying they were suffering the worst impact.
Comment:  I'm glad the Japanese finally realized they have 70,000 Ainu in their midst. In other news, Americans finally realized they have 70,000 Iroquois in their midst. The only difference is that the Americans realized this some 300-400 years before the Japanese did.

So the world population of indigenous people is 370 million, eh? That's good to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, actually, pretty much everyone but the official sources recognizes the existence of the Ainu, and other non-Yamato ethnic groups living in Japan. In general, Ainu are portrayed as Indians in Japanese media. Actually, the name of Hokkaido was chosen partially because "kai" is in the Ainu name for the island, but also to fit the kanji "north sea road".

(It should be noted that, from my generation's pop culture, Super Sentai has never had an Ainu character; the most famous Power Ranger is an Indian.)

As for the official sources, well, there was national pride. Remember Nakasone's big flap over Japan succeeding because it didn't have "troublesome minorities"? And then, completely missing the point, he said America succeeded in spite of said minorities?

It's funny. Try to picture Congress reinstating a terminated tribe (the equivalent of what the Diet did). You can't do it. The Diet did it unanimously.

Ainu art is interesting because it's so much like Northwest Coastal art. Unfortunately, anything about the Ainu and Coastal Indians is tied to unfortunate implications (hyperdiffusionism, Kennewick man, etc.)