AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Japan’s taxpayer-funded ethnic theme park

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 5, 2007

MALTREATMENT OF ETHNIC MINORITIES has always been a part of the human condition, and the history of every nation or region is blighted by shameful chapters that illustrate the ordeals of those minorities. The history of Europe can be told as one long narrative of ethnic conflict and oppression. Human slavery still exists in Africa and the Middle East, and today’s Han Chinese are unapologetic about their continuing subjugation of the minorities unlucky enough to fall within what the dominant culture considers its national borders.

We all know the American problem, though that country has taken more constructive steps to make things right than anyone else. The American concept of the melting pot remains the most productive solution over the long term, for anyone with the courage to attempt it.

ainu-tree-park-2.jpg

No exception can be made for the Japanese. At one time, some people in this country liked to think of themselves as tanitsu minzoku (a homogenous race), but few take that domestic propaganda seriously any more. These islands are also the home of ethnic minorities that have suffered at the hands of the majority population.

One of these is the Ainu, the aboriginal people of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, the Kuriles, and Sakhalin. As I described in this previous Ampontan post, the Japanese developed Hokkaido in the 19th century in a manner similar to the way Americans opened up the West. That includes their treatment of the native population, though it was much less violent than in North America.

After Japan signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1979, however, it was obligated to deal with the Ainu as an indigenous minority population. The relevant clause seems to be Article 27:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

A Japanese court recognized the Ainu in as an indigenous minority in 1997, which gave them the legal justification to pursue activities related to their culture and language as rights, though it is doubtful anyone was trying to prevent those activities by that point.

Under a 1997 law, the Law for the Promotion of the Ainu Culture and for the Dissemination and Advocacy for the Traditions of the Ainu and the Ainu Culture, Japan is required both to promote Ainu culture, and to “respect the autonomous spirit and ethnic pride of the Ainu people in the implementation of the measures to promote Ainu culture”. The sole organization authorized to conduct the services provided for in the law is the Foundation for the Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (FRPAC), which is entirely funded by the national and local governments. It claims that “dissemination of Ainu culture is essential for the diversified development of Japan’s culture”—a high-minded assertion that rings increasingly hollow the more one thinks about it.

Some activities to promote Ainu culture seem to be exemplary. The previous post concerned Hokkaido University’s announcement that it would be the site of the country’s first Ainu-Aborigine Research Center, which opened in April to study the Ainu from the perspectives of language, culture, and history. (As that post pointed out, however, the intentions of some of the people involved with the center had more ominous, race-hustling overtones.)

But now that the government feels compelled to give out free money, Japan’s taxpayers are being forced to write a blank check to an informal guild of professional Ainu who are being paid to determine their own agenda, which the government is legally required to accept. It is unlikely the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

Another recent report in the Hokkaido Shimbun (in Japanese and no longer on line) explained that construction work has started at the Ainu Kotan (village) on the Akan lakeside in Kushiro of a kamui mintara. In the Ainu language, that is “a garden where the gods play”. With only 130 people in 36 households, the Ainu Kotan is now the largest Ainu settlement in Hokkaido.

The planned work will take several years (photos). It includes the rebuilding of a central park in the village, and the erection of kamui ni, or god’s tree, which resembles a totem pole. A hot spring will eventually flow through the site like a river. The newspaper described it as a trial that will allow tourists to come in contact with the spirit of the Ainu and their worldview.

ainu-tree-park.jpg

The park will be flanked by souvenir shops on both sides. At the front will be an onne cise, or an old-style dance theater. The kamui mintara will have several carved sculptures, based on the content of yukar, or Ainu epic poems that have been handed down orally.

The carved god’s trees will be located at the center of the park. Five logs of Canadian cedar have been delivered to the site, where people have begun carving them. Nuburi Toko, who is overseeing the project, already created a kamui mintara in Barnaby, Canada, Kushiro’s sister city. He will carve owls, bears, cranes, and other animals into the logs to represent the Ainu world view.

The construction schedule calls for the god’s tree, a toi cise (earthen house) of the type Ainu used to live in, and an arbor where tourists can view tree carving to be completed by mid-October.

The first stage of construction this year will cost 50 million yen (US$430,000). It will be paid for by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, the city of Kushiro, the Akan Tourism Association & Community Development Promotion Organization, a local merchants’ association, fishing cooperatives, and the Kushiro Shinkin Bank.

People in the tourism industry say they hope the strong emphasis on Ainu culture will contribute to the appeal of the Akan lakeside, and that this will help boost the lagging tourist industry.

Some reading this might wonder why anyone could object to these activities. That’s the wrong question. Rather, I would ask why a UN treaty that calls on the signatories to allow indigenous minorities to enjoy their culture is being perverted to force the Japanese public to pay people for making a career out of their ethnicity.

Here’s the tipoff: The people in Japan whose ancestry is half Ainu or greater is estimated to range from just 150,000 to 300,000. Over the years, most have done what comes naturally with people everywhere—mix and mingle. They’ve intermarried with the rest of the population and moved away from ethnic enclaves.

With only 130 people, the Ainu Kotan is just a trade name—it isn’t even a real community, because the Ainu never used to live there. It is an artificially created Potempkin village for tourists. As this website for tourists notes:

Although the Ainu Kotan Village itself is just a souvenir shop-lined street, it leads to a thatched-roof lodge where you can see Ainu performing traditional dances and playing bamboo mouth harps.

I’m sure the performances are delightful. They’re certainly affordable–admission is only 1,000 yen. But what’s next? The Kamui Mintara Golf Course and Tennis Club?

In addition to the souvenirs–most of which are probably wood carvings–there are restaurants serving Ainu cuisine. One wonders whether cuisine is the most appropriate word to use for the dietary habits of people who lived in the wilderness and were mostly hunter-gatherers or fishermen. But ethnic restaurants are an essential element in attracting tourists with disposable income.

In other words, a covenant to protect the basic rights of indigenous minorities has been twisted to leverage the system and create a self-governing authority with its own agenda. The result of the expenditure of time, money, and good intentions is a mini-ethnic theme park where visitors can buy a cup of watery coffee and honest-to-goodness hand-carved wooden Ainu keyholders on their way out the door.

No one denies that Japanese law once deprived the Ainu of basic rights and forced them into second-class citizenship. But it has been quite some time in Japan since anyone has denied the Ainu the “right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”

There are Ainu dictionaries, some compiled by the late Shigeru Kayano, the first Ainu elected to the Diet (the upper house, naturally, the home for celebrity and single-issue politicians). He and others transcribed and translated many of the yukar, most of which are still in print. Kayano was a prolific author, and it’s easy to find used copies of Ainu no Ishibumi (The Ainu Monument), an autobiography that portrays his efforts to preserve the Ainu culture, which I read at least 15 years ago. And thanks to videos and DVDs, their costumes, dances, and music will be preserved forever.

What no one says openly is that Ainu culture seems now to be more museum exhibit than living dynamic entity. The decline in their population will continue, due to both demographic trends and to intermarriage. Their traditional way of life is not viable in the modern world, and in any event, few people would choose to live that way. As far as I can determine, there is no one left who speaks Ainu exclusively; all of them are fluent in contemporary Japanese.

Even the Ainu political movement seems to have run out of steam. Kaori Tahara, a half-Ainu political activist, was unable to unseat the scandal-tainted LDP incumbent in Hokkaido in the recent upper house election in a year when it was a liability to be an LDP member was a liability. (Perhaps Ms. Tahara’s anti-American and left-of-center positions, and her attempt to exploit the politics of grievance and resentment worked against her.)

Cultures are inherently strong—stronger than some give them credit for being—and they do not die out so easily. But when the preservation of a culture requires the mandatory government funding of people who set their own agenda, and the best they can come up with is the Ainu Kotan, that culture is on a life-support system.

Mr. Kayano did not need government funding to compile his dictionaries or his anthologies. People do not need encouragement to use a language when it is meaningful or of benefit to them. And people most certainly do not need government assistance to learn how to dance, perform music, and make costumes. If the remaining Ainu wish to preserve their culture, there’s nothing stopping them from preserving it.

Unfortunately, however, what we’re seeing is the literal preservation of the culture, in much the same way that an amateur entomologist might catch a wasp and preserve it in alcohol, taking it out of his desk drawer occasionally to marvel at its colors and now-harmless stinger.

The past has gone where it always goes, and there is no point in requiring other people to recreate someone else’s unrecoverable pastoral ethnic fantasy in the 21st century, where people will increasingly look and behave like Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. When a culture and a way of life have been reduced to a tourist attraction with six performances a day in the summer, it should be apparent that the shadows of twilight are approaching.

But that’s all the better to hide the fact that the situation is starting to look more about the money than it is about respecting “the right of people to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language”.

12 Responses to “Japan’s taxpayer-funded ethnic theme park”

  1. Overthinker said

    Admittedly, I find it hard to get worked up over 50,000,000 yen (not even pure govt money) spent on this when so much more money is wasted in even more useless ways, but I am uncertain from your post exactly who this self-governing authority is – the 130 people of the Kotan? Or the people who are designing and creating it? And how much of the funds allocated for this cultural preservation is this village taking?

    In principle, the idea of a government spending money to help people it or its predecessors persecuted does not seem unreasonable, and government subsidies for things like teaching Ainu dance and music do not seem like a problem. I assume it’s the commercial aspects of the use of government money that are offensive here, and certainly this place seems about as much about preserving Ainu culture as Disneyland Main Street is about preserving American culture, but you also seem annoyed about the idea that the government is forcing us to pay for the museumification of Ainu culture. Though you say that objecting to these activities is the “wrong question,” much of your post is about the activities, written in a way that suggests you actually object quite strongly. In any case, since the activities (how precisely the culture is promoted and preserved) are the outward manifestation of the legal requirement to do so, for letting people make a career out of their ethnicity, it’s not that easy to separate them (you seem to object to three things in this post: the village itself and its tackiness/commercialism, the way certain groups are using government decrees/laws for commercial advantage, and the mere existence of government cultural subsidies). However if all government efforts to do so are being channelled solely into this Ainuland fantasy, then I would agree that is a big problem. This “authority” you mention I would like to hear more about – who is it, who supports it, etc.

    Also do you have more support for your claim that the US “has taken more constructive steps to make things right than anyone else”? How are such things ranked or determined? And when you say “The history of Europe can be told as one long narrative of ethnic conflict and oppression” what do you mean by “ethnic”? Franks fighting Goths? Or Anglo-Saxons driving Celts to the wild fringes of Britain? Or are you just referring to Europe’s colonial adventures overseas? The word “ethnic” is bandied around often these days, but seldom defined, and usually seems to just mean “the Other”.

    “One wonders whether cuisine is the most appropriate word to use for the dietary habits of people who lived in the wilderness and were mostly hunter-gatherers or fishermen.”
    Some Ainu might object to that dismissal of their culinary arts. Cuisine doesn’t mean “high class” or restaurants with too many forks. It’s just a cultural style of cooking, a specific set of traditions and practises. So long as there are identifiable Ainu ways to cook and serve food, they have a cuisine.

    I think it is very apparent to everyone that the “shadows of twilight” are approaching, and while the use of government funds to create commercial profit for a small group are objectionable, such usage is by no means restricted to just this case. The fact that it’s a UN law that Japan signed does not seem that important (whether UN-based or Japan-based, the end result would be the same: taxpayers paying for Ainuland). Although since the Ainu are on the way out, and don’t currently suffer oppression, are you arguing that the UN law should never have been applied anyway? That’s the implication the latter half of the post seems to be getting at.

  2. ampontan said

    “I find it hard to get worked up over 50,000,000 yen (not even pure govt money) spent on this when so much more money is wasted in even more useless ways, but I am uncertain from your post exactly who this self-governing authority is”

    FRPAC, which is fully government-funded. (Local and national).

    The amount is not the problem. It’s the principle. Once the spigot is turned on, it’s never turned off. And once other people see the spigot on, they want some too.

    “government subsidies for things like teaching Ainu dance and music do not seem like a problem”

    They are to me. It’s not what governments are for. People who advocate government assistance might suggest college scholarships or loan programs instead.

    “I assume it’s the commercial aspects of the use of government money that are offensive here.”

    Actually it’s the use of any government money, period. When people have the ability to determine how to spend a blank check from the government on their own, this is the sort of silliness they come up with.

    “This “authority” you mention I would like to hear more about – who is it, who supports it, etc.”

    There’s the link…

    “Also do you have more support for your claim that the US “has taken more constructive steps to make things right than anyone else”?

    The national ideal of the melting pot, in the next sentence. (Or it used to be, and in many ways still is. There is no longer an American consensus about anything, however.) But it’s my opinion.

    “The history of Europe can be told as one long narrative of ethnic conflict and oppression” what do you mean by “ethnic”?

    Well, perhaps I should have added religious, as the German and Russian experience with the Jews was on my mind, though they of course came from somewhere else first. Also on my mind was the Baltic states and the Soviet Union (and all of its constituent elements). The Irish experience on the British Isles has not been entirely pleasant. Everyone in Yugoslavia. Alsace and Lorraine. The Basques. The Turks in Bulgaria. Gypsies everywhere. Now you see it now you don’t Poland. Albanians in Greece…If can come up with a better word than ethnic, I’ll use it.

    “..are you arguing that the UN law should never have been applied anyway.”

    Well, it’s not a law, nor even a treaty (there was objection to that word by many) it’s a covenant. It seemed to me as if its intent was hijacked. I don’t think it can be used as the justification for any financial funding. The phrase it uses is “deny the right” to speak their language and practice their customs, which to me, in this case, means not prevent. Allow does not mean foot the bill for various projects, including de facto and de jure separation. I think it means, “if that’s what you want to do on your own time, go ahead and do it.”

    I cited another problem in my other post about the university center: “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”

    What’s the opposite of disclaimer? I thought about including this originally, but decided against it:

    I’ve been a Japanese taxpayer continuously since 1984. It’s my money too.

    My father’s parents, and mother’s grandparents, were born in various places in Eastern Europe. My father spoke Russian in the home growing up, and English in school and on the streets. My mother’s mother and aunt were fluent in Polish. A lot of accents, ethnic foods, and yes, music. Different ways of approaching life.

    I’d have to stop and think about the closest native English speaker where I live here in Japan. Not to mention fluent English speaker. My wife has no interest in English and never has. The last time I spoke two English sentences consecutively was at a college course I taught in the spring semester.

    I detest the idea of someone being a professional ethnic at taxpayer expense (and as an American, I also saw close up the difference between people like Martin Luther King on the one hand and Jesse Jackson on the other.)

    I also thought about including this from J. Krishnamurti, but since I can’t write a dang book every time, I left it out…

    “When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

  3. Overthinker said

    Interesting. Thanks for the link.
    I think that the spigot has been turned on long ago and isn’t about to be turned off at any time soon. All governments fund things that we might find silly or frivolous or a waste of money. Since Japan is no stranger to this, it just strikes me as odd that this case seems so egregious. Or is it the ethnic/cultural/racial excuses being made to justify it on ‘moral’ grounds? The issue seems to be that these people are using a UN covenant that applies to problems they don’t actually have to get money out of the GOJ, right? Bad, but surely not remotely surprising. Why has the GOJ been so generous, though? Worries about its image overseas?

    “People who advocate government assistance might suggest college scholarships or loan programs instead.”
    Well, it depends what the government assistance is designed to achieve. First, there is the question of whether the government – any government – has the right or duty to preserve the cultural heritage of its people, minorities or not. As far as I know, most modern governments do offer support, but that aside, if a government has decided to support cultural activities, then the difference between funding dance classes and funding university scholarships (where presumably the person can study anything from anatomy to zoology) is the difference between supporting a culture and supporting a people. That is, offering support for anyone who wants to know more about (in this case) Ainu culture, or offering people who just happen to be Ainu the chance for a free ride.

    For Europe, I would think that the more pressing changes are political – Poland gets eaten up as it is militarily weak, rather than because the invaders don’t like Poles. In the course of invasion and war the enemy is made to see as different as possible of course, and cultural differences are made bigger than they possibly are or would be in peace. There are certainly ethnic aspects to European history – the gypsies being a prime example – but it’s the extent to which ethnic divisions influenced Europe that I am somewhat sceptical about. Perhaps it is because I tend somewhat to the Krishnamurti idea (only to an extent) and generally avoid dividing peoples unless it’s pretty damn clear they are culturally/historically/et ceterally unrelated.
    However taken to its logical conclusion, the Krish ideal seems to want us all to be the same, all over the world. That might bring peace and lack of xenophobia, if you know that from Bangkok to Birmingham people look the same, act the same, eat the same, dress the same…but what a tragedy for the world’s cultures.

    What are you getting at with the no English speakers near you bit? I don’t follow that. I assume being isolated from other English speakers does not make you a professional ethnic, but don’t see how it really could. Come to think of it, are JET ALTs and CIRs “professional ethnics at taxpayer expense”?

    Looking at this post and the FRPAC site, the biggest problem would seem to me to be the fact that FRPAC is “the sole corporation in the nation with the authority to carry out the services provided in the law”. This is possibly what your post is about, and I may have been focusing on the ideas of government and cultural support more than you intended, and if so then I do in fact agree with your annoyance. Government subsidies I do not mind – there are worse things they can spend my tax money on, and do – but to have one group of people having the right to channel all government benefits for an entire ‘race’ is very very bad. This “sole organization” thing is perhaps more worthy of being played up, since it is now them who basically define what it will mean to be Ainu and what Ainu culture is, at least on any official/government level. From the FRPAC site:

    “Following the acceptance of applications from corporations which had been previously established to promote Ainu culture under the civil law (act #89/1896) Article #34, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will appoint only one corporation in the country, and recognize this corporation as proper to carry out fairly and surely the duties provided in the following article.”

    This is insane. Various corporations competing to see who will be the sole voice for Ainu heritage? Was this done by the GOJ to throttle any dissent and control the sole channel? Establish an Official Government Ainu Culture? That’s what it looks like to me. Now, I don’t have a lot of problems with the government subsidising Ainu dance classes (ten yen a year per taxpayer at the outside) but when they at the same time they also dictate, through FRPAC, what ‘Ainu Dance’ is to be, then that steps over the line.

  4. ampontan said

    “I think that the spigot has been turned on long ago and isn’t about to be turned off at any time soon. All governments fund things that we might find silly or frivolous or a waste of money. Since Japan is no stranger to this, it just strikes me as odd that this case seems so egregious.”

    Widening the parameters of the discussion moves the center closer to you and forces justifications for things that some thought needed no justification. (Assuming anyone is paying attention.)

    “What are you getting at with the no English speakers near you bit? I don’t follow that.”

    Along with my family background, reminding people that I know first hand about living somewhere as an ethnic and linguistic minority. I didn’t include it because the reason I do this is not to talk about myself.

    “Come to think of it, are JET ALTs and CIRs “professional ethnics at taxpayer expense””

    You could make a case for it, though they were hired for a specific job. Part of that job was to get schoolkids used to being around foreigners, so…

    I objected to them too when I heard about it. (I predate them in Japan.) Their starting salary (at least then) was more than the starting salary for a native Japanese teacher of anything. The Japanese had to have professional qualifications, while the foreigners just had to be foreign and get through the process. (I knew one Canadian whose sole job experience was as a proprietor of a record shop that went out of business.) They also didn’t have the other responsibilities of the Japanese teacher, such as homerooms, clubs, meeting parents, etc.

  5. RT said

    Given that the government committed to a policy of cultural genocide through reeducation to make them Japanese, it doesn’t seem outlandish to me that funds should flow in the reverse to help preserve the (nearly dead) language and culture.

    Cultures might start out strong, but after over a century of pressure, even they begin to break down. Given the centralized nature of Japanese governance and education, even once overt pressure and oppression ended, it would be hard to argue that conditions were favorable to maintain or strengthen the damaged culture. Hell, it took the Japanese government until 1997 to even admit Ainu were of a different ethnic group from the Yamato-minzoku and that’s only because the completely docile Japanese courts forced them to do it!!!

    You also have to consider the typical mistreatment and discrimination visible minorities in Japan have faced. Assimilating and losing/hiding your traditional cultural background is one of the few ways around it. Leaving out the Ainu, just look at zainichi Koreans, Burakumin and Hibakusha.

    On JETs, etc., the part about them having a higher salary than many Japanese teachers is a bit of apples vs oranges urban myth because it almost never includes the bonuses Japanese teachers get every six months. Once you include those (JET ALTs and CIRs don’t get them), the financial stakes even out quite a bit.

    JETs would be a lot less necessary if Monbusho required foreign language teachers to actually spend time overseas learning the language they were going to be licensed to teach. I grew up in the rural US and never had a foreign language teacher that wasn’t fluent in the language they taught. They weren’t all good teachers, but they were all fluent or nearly fluent. In Japan, not so much…

    I’ve always viewed the JET program as having 3 primary goals: 1) improve the language skills (especially spoken/listening) of the Japanese English teachers and to a lesser degree, students, 2) introduce foreigners throughout Japan (especially rural areas) to get Japanese more used to being around foreigners (less pointing and shouting “gaijin da!”) and 3) foreigners return to their home countries with favorable impressions of Japan (i.e., semi-grassroots diplomacy and PR). I’d say the program has been at least somewhat successful at all these–although whether it was cost effective or not, or even worthwhile, is obviously open for debate.

  6. ponta said

    Article

    In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

    The people concerned have the right that their culture, religion, language are not interfered. But it is not clear that they have the right to demand to preserve their culture etc.
    That said, I don’t think it is bad idea to preserve their culture and tradition by tax that have become parts of Japanese history;Whether it should be preserve by tax depends ultimately on Japanese people.

    You also have to consider the typical mistreatment and discrimination visible minorities in Japan have faced.
    Assimilating and losing/hiding your traditional cultural background is one of the few ways around it. Leaving out the Ainu, just look at zainichi Koreans, Burakumin and Hibakusha.

    Zainchi Korean and Burakumin and Hibakusya were discriminated. But
    What is traditional cultural background Zainichi Koreans, Burakumin and Hibakusya lost?
    And did Japanese government genocide their “tradition and culture”?

  7. RT said

    You’re making a connection between two parts that I wasn’t connecting. I wasn’t saying the government worked to wipe out their culture and traditions as it did with the Ainu. I’m pointing out that assimilation by hiding one’s background is one of the few ways to get around the discrimination in Japan. Given that Japanese tend to make identity assumptions based upon appearances unless they find out otherwise, losing or hiding distinctive features (dress, language, place of origin, occupation of parents/grandparents) isn’t necessarily a positive, voluntary action. It can be a survival mechanism, not necessarily (but can be) someone saying “I want to be Japanese like everyone else.” It can be “I want to be treated fairly, so I’ll conceal my background.” Of course, the koseki can make this difficult since these things can be traced fairly easily.

  8. bender said

    I didn’t know Ainu had totem poles…is this really authentic?

  9. Aceface said

    RT

    ”Hell, it took the Japanese government until 1997 to even admit Ainu were of a different ethnic group from the Yamato-minzoku and that’s only because the completely docile Japanese courts forced them to do it!!!”

    That’s just completely wrong.The new Ainu cultural promotion law was indeed made in 1997 mostly by the effort of diet member and an Ainu activist Kyano Shigeru,but Ainu had been considered as a different ethnic group from waaay back in the days of Meiji.
    Are you talking about Nibudani dam trial?Anyway “docile”court didn’t force Hokkaido government to halt the dam building.The court favored the counter-flood measures instead.The court did recongnized the “indigenous”right of Ainu people possesing the land though.

    “You also have to consider the typical mistreatment and discrimination visible minorities in Japan have faced.Assimilating and losing/hiding your traditional cultural background is one of the few ways around it. Leaving out the Ainu, just look at zainichi Koreans, Burakumin and Hibakusha.”

    First of all,they are all “invisible” minority.Secondly they are very loud minority.Thirdly all of them are chose as the member of the diet either in the past or today.That means the surrounding environment for these minorities are pretty much the same with that of the Jewish,Gay and Native Americans in the U.S.Not to say the discrimination toward them are entirely gone,but there are reality gap between individual case and the focus group dogmas,you seem to believe.

    I totally agree with you about JET.

  10. RT said

    Go back to the original post and court case in 1997 which legally recognized the Ainu as an indigenous minority group. Took quite a while. I was in Japan at the time and remember it happening. That’s separate from the law the Diet passed (although related).

    Yes, the Meiji era government recognized the Ainu as a separate people and were busy trying to assimilate them using reeducation methods resembling what Australians did to Aborigines and Americans did to Native Americans. I’m not saying it was malicious in intent (it was often seen as positive progress). But it was an assimilation that was intent on erasing their Ainu cultural identity, not one saying they can still be Ainu who are also Japanese citizens.

  11. Aceface said

    “Go back to the original post and court case in 1997 which legally recognized the Ainu as an indigenous minority group. Took quite a while”

    Not really.Ainu had been considered as indigeneous minority group legally since 1899.
    The court recognized Ainu people’s “legal rights as indigeneous people”in 1997.Recommendation of the awareness for the indigeneous people’s right from the United Nation was only started in 1993.

    and also according to Wikipedia:
    “(UN)General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The non-binding declaration outlines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to identity, culture, language, health, employment, health, education and other issues. Four nations with significant indigenous populations voted against the declaration: the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Eleven nations abstained: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Samoa and Ukraine. Thirty-four nations did not vote, while the remaining 143 nations voted for it.”

    Japan is included in “Yea”camp.

    This has been an issue when I was at ethnology class of the university in the early 90’s and the way I understood,the issue was basically indigenous “right” thing.
    The problem all goes to one point.How one can become an Ainu and become the righteous beneficiary of such legal rights.Do you have to be a natural speaker of an Ainu?Or do you have to be a genetically Ainu?These questions mostly remained unanswered.

  12. Aceface said

    and UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted only last month.

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