Essay about Ethnography: Ainu

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Ethnography: Ainu

Worldview The Ainu, Japan’s native aboriginal people, are very much an isolated people, living now only in the northern island of Japan, Hokkaido. They number, as of a 1984 survey, 24,381, continuing a rise from a low point in the mid nineteenth century due to forced labor and disease, and have largely left their old ways and integrated into standard Japanese society, though even the majority of those still reside in Hokkaido. The animistic religion of the Ainu is firmly enmeshed with every other aspect of the culture.

Family and Kinship Most Ainu organize in groups of nuclear families, the nuclear family being the basic social unit (Encyclopedia). Some groups, however, have extended families, but are
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During the 70s Ainu revival, many intellectual Ainu saw an opportunity to spread their ideas and oral traditions in print, and were not ignored, providing financial support for the Ainu arts (Dab 10).

As an indigenous and oft-oppressed people, forced back by the Japanese for centuries from their native lands to only the Northern part of Japan’s Northernmost island, the Ainu did not focus on politics outside of their community, especially in Japan’s blindly homogenous culture. “After World War II, the first Ainu political part, the Sinei Undo, had formed and though it only counted 5% of Ainu among its members it was the largest political association of Ainu at the time, and had branches in the major Ainu communities” (Dabb 10). In their settlements, Ainu usually have a single male decision-making leader per settlement, who makes his decisions with the advice of the elders in the settlement (Encyclopedia).
The elders are opposed by shamans, who, frequently being female, allow for more of a sexual balance of power in the settlement. A few groups of small settlements are under the control of larger settlements, but this is uncommon. The political leader of a community is always the host of a bear ritual, which usually attracts the leaders of the nearby settlements (Encyclopedia).

Ainu language has, like the Ainu themselves, a past wrapped in mystery. Of the known language families, such as Indo-European, the basis of English,

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