There is a theory that the Ainu people, who are the aboriginal people of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, the Kuriles, and Sakhalin, were the first people to cross over into North America, thereby becoming Native Americans, too.
That may not be true, as Native Americans tend to be less hirsute, but if it is, it would mean this ethnic group got the short end of the stick on two continents. The Japanese developed Hokkaido in the 19th century in a manner somewhat similar to the way Americans opened up the West, and meted out similar treatment to the natives. To be sure, there was no open warfare or butchery in Hokkaido as there was in North America—just the universal routine of one ethnic group putting another under its thumb, with less violence.
No one is quite sure where the Ainu came from. They have a legend claiming they “lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came.” They have their own language that seems to share no common ancestor with any other language. In other words, it may be unique, like Basque. Genetic testing shows that the closest ethnic group geographically with the most similar attributes is in Tibet.
After years of discriminatory treatment as well as intermarriage with Japanese, their numbers have dwindled and some of their dialects have disappeared. The Japanese liked to think of themselves as tanitsu minzoku, or a homogenous race, but despite the claims of some foreigners who enjoy indulging in self-righteous indignation, that phrase is not heard so much anymore. Most of the doors in Japan are open now, and people know about the Ainu, native Okinawans, and other groups. Besides, local anthropologists have always known about them—as well as the different geographical origins of eastern and western Japanese.
In yet another sign that doors continue to open, Hokkaido University announced it would be the site of the country’s first Ainu-Aborigine Research Center, which will begin operation in April to study the Ainu from multiple perspectives, including language, culture, and history. A report by the Hokkaido Shimbun (the link is only in Japanese and gone in a week) says that particular emphasis will be placed on a full recovery of rights for the indigenous people. Their objective is to become a center for Ainu research and information dissemination in Japan.
This is unquestionably a capital idea that is long overdue. Some of the center’s activities described by the article, however, make one wonder if another of their objectives is to develop a permanent guild of civil rights opportunists and parasites of the type that have sprung up elsewhere around the world. The center plans to create a network with other aboriginal organizations and research institutions to pool their efforts in the legal and political fields. They also plan to hire specialists in constitutional, civil, and international law to study how certain rights have been guaranteed for the Canadian Inuits and the Australian Aborigines. The development of programs for high school and university education is in the works, as are plans for eco-tourism.
People who have seen this process before know that for every undoubtedly positive benefit this might achieve, there is also the potential for harmful measures that cause society to regress in the name of progressivism. It should be obvious by now that multiculturalism often devolves into just another form of racism whose ultimate effect will be to continue to deny those formerly oppressed the benefits of mainstream society.
Japan is a nation ruled by law, and all Japanese enjoy the same rights under the law, even if they’re Ainu. Working for the restoration of rights has an ominious ring to me. It sounds as if what they might try to do is create special privileges exclusively for a single group, rather than guarantee rights.
The measure of success should be that a person’s ethnicity has become no more significant than the color of their eyes. The measures of failure will be the purposeful creation of de facto segregation, the designation of specific lands for the use of a specified ethnic group, and demands for (or the payment of) reparations, not to mention such trivialities as the creation of faux college majors in ethnic studies.
And if they institute an affirmative action program, you’ll know it’s hopeless. They’ve missed the point altogether.