Across Hokkaidō in northern Japan (once called Ezo) live the Ainu. A community only recognised as the nation’s native people in 2008. Become a part of their unique community, steeped in artistry and history across Asia.
Region is Northern Asia
Climate here is Continental
Many of the Ainu people have now been assimilated into modern Japanese society. But traditionally fishing was important for the group, which is why many villages were built near rivers or along the coast.
Originally, Ainu homes were reed-thatched huts. Another kind of Ainu house was called a chise. Instead of using furniture, they sat on the floor covered with two layers of mats. Today they tend to live in more contemporary buildings.
The Ainu used to be guided a chief, the kotankorokur, who was chosen for particular skills or background. The chief was responsible for supervising religious celebrations and guiding the community.
They Ainu believe in a pantheon of gods which have positive or negative influence on every area of human life. Particularly important is the adoration of the bear.
According to tradition, both males and females became adults around the age of 12-15, following a special ceremony. After this, the boys began to wear the traditional dress, the kaparamip. The girls meanwhile had their hands, arms and lips as a sign of social prestige.
Sadly, no native speakers remain, so the population now speaks Japanese.
Renowned for having great beauty, many of the woven, embroidered or carved pieces the Ainu produce can command very high prices.
While the Ainu have adopted a modern lifestyle, many of the traditional rituals are still practiced. These often include Japanese elements such as offerings of rice, sake and swords.
Although their lifestyle has changed due to progress, Hokkaido society has great respect for their indigenous heritage and they maintain their traditions.
Photo credit: Biei, Hokkaido, Japan iStock.com/segawa7
Photo credit: Tourists at Ainu Kotan iStock.com/DavorLovincic
Photo credit: Lavender field in Hokkaido iStock.com/n_patana
Photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license: Ainu man / Japanexperterna.se