History of the Ainu
History of the Ainu is a history of Japanese internal colonization. Hokkaido, the Northern island of Japan where the Ainu has inhabited, is full of natural resources based on rich river systems. Because of the fact and the location, the land of the Ainu had been both, Japanese and Russian's interests and the Ainu had been a target of extermination in order for them to obtain the flourished land. The culture of the Ainu was considered as barbaric and primitive because of their traditional customs such as hunting bears, rituals of killing animals, tattooing of lips, hands and arms as initiation of girls reached puberty. Moreover, the national homogeneity propelled Japanese to colonize the land of the Ainu by defining themselves as superior than the Ainu and denying the Ainu identity completely. As Japanese saw the Ainu as primitive, the law to convert the Ainu to Japanese was passed as a new wave of Japanese politics in late 19th century. The prohibition of traditional customs and enforcing of Japanese culture brought them into poverty, isolation and lack of education. Furthermore, they had to undergo harsh discrimination by new residents of their land called pioneers. The Ainu cursed their blood and tried to hide their entity from the society. Intermarriage with Japanese seemed to be the only solution for them to escape from the discrimination by producing diluted blood for their next generation. The Ainu had to endure the exploitation and discrimination till 1960's when national and international civil and human rights movement  provoked the younger Ainu to claim their rights and increased access to wealth and power. In 1997, the new Ainu law with emphasis on supporting Ainu culture and tradition was passed; however, it failed to mention the essential part of the issue, human rights of the Ainu. The struggle over discrimination has been eased compared to 4 decades ago but still is a deep rooted problem.


~B.C. 1000 The Southern Mongoloid believed to be ancestors of the Ainu settled down in the Northern part of Japan
1400's The first contact with Japanese from main island and the Ainu engaged in peaceful trade with the Japanese
1457  The Battle of Kosyamain:
1669  The Battle of Syaksyain
1789  The Battle of Kunashiri-Menasi: Japanese succeeded to integrate the Northern island by defeating the Ainu for previous three battles
1869  Mass immigration of Japanese to Hokkaido started with the encouragement of the new western ideal government to develop the Hokkaido, Sakhalin and Kuril became under control of Russian
1871  Enactment of the registration; The Ainu became the common with prohibition of their traditional way of living and enforcement of use of Japanese
1878  The Ainu is given the status of former aborigines
1889  The prohibition of deer hunting
1899  The Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act was passed: the Ainu became powerless under law
1930's  The first Ainu organization, Ainu Kyokai, was established by influence of young leaders, such as  Hokuto Iboshi, Yukie Chiri and Torazo Ega
1960's-1970's  Influenced by world movement o civil and human rights, the Ainu began to search and to claim for their identities, Ainu Kyokai changes to Utari Kyokai because the word, Ainu, reminded many Ainu painful memories of discrimination
1994  Politician, Shigeru Kayano, was elected as the first Ainu to enter the Upper House Diet
1997  Act on the Encouragement of Ainu Culture and the Diffusion and Enlightenment of Knowledge on Ainu Tradition was passed: emphasis on supporting Ainu culture but failed to acclaim human rights issue

View on the change of the Ainu Population
As we can see in the following table and graph, the change in the Ainu population clearly indicates the evidence of Japanese exploitation of the Ainu which enforced them to give up their tradition and culture. We can not overlook Ainu's physical and psychological struggle over the abrupt change in their life style of which has been suffered with low economic income as well as harsh discrimination. I believe the struggle is one of the main causes of decreasing population. The population of the Ainu rapidly decreased between 1822 and 1873; about 7000 Ainu died over 50 years. The reason behind the rapid decrease of the population is thought to be the spread of epidemics, such as small pox, measles, cholera and tuberculosis beside the enforcement of Japanese culture and labor. Parallel to the uprising movement in 1960's, the Ainu population also has increased about 6000. Today, the Ainu population seems to be stable with small fracture in numbers.

                 Figure 1 and 2

Current situation