The Plight of Ainu, Indigenous People of Japan

  • Mitsuharu Vincent Okada
Keywords: Ainu, Japan, public policy, history, indigenous people


After over a hundred years of forced assimilation and discriminatory policies, in 2008, the Japanese government finally recognized Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan. These policies eroded the identity and sense of worth of Ainu people, confiscated their homelands, and caused considerable suffering over several generations. The passage of such policies were unknown to the Japanese public who remained ignorant of Ainu cultural values and traditional ways of living, thereby devaluing and relegating them to an invisible status.

This article describes the systematic introduction of policies, which endangered the survival of Ainu as a people and continuance of their culture. The effects of these oppressive policies are examined as well as the need for indigenous research, which advocates for social justice.


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