The Ainu people are the native population of northern Japan and the eastern part of Russia, mostly in the Amur river region, Sakhalin, the Kuril islands and on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The term is also used for their culture and language in the Ezo region (Hokkaido).
History and cultureEdit
The majority of their ancestors, the Jōmon people, were a predominantly Caucasoid or Caucasian-related ethnic group which arrived in Japan about 30,000 – 15,000 years ago from Central Asia and southern Siberia. They were largely replaced by the proto-Japanese which arrived from southeastern China about 2,000 years ago. The Ainu have strong similarities with Palaeolithic Europeans and people of the Middle East as well as with Native American groups of the northwestern coastal culture area in North America. Some scholars think they were related to the Emishi of northern Honshu.
During and after the Yayoi period they were attacked by the early Japanese people. The Ainu and relative tribes lost most of their land in Honshū, many were killed or ensalved by the Yayoi-Japanese. After the rise of the Yamato, mostly no Ainu were left in Honshu. After time the Japanese began to conquer parts of Hokkaido and started to colonize the Ainu there. The Ainu fighted several wars but in the end lost against the Japanese and were enslaved by them. The Ainu in Russia had more luck and lived their traditional live until the Second world war, when they were included into Russia.
Today the AInu are recognized as native population of northern Japan and eastern Russia but still face discrimination in Japan because of their bodyhair and different phenotypes. Most Japanese outside of Hokkaido mistake the Ainu for foreigners or tourists.
Their culture is based on the ancient Jomon culture of northern Japan and eastern Russia. Their native folk religion has some similarities to early Shinto. Their gods are named kamuy, similar to the Japanese Kami. They practiced agriculture but were also hunter gatherers. The Ainu are famous for their beautiful wood work and art.
The Ainu lived in villages called kotan and were often built along rivers or lakes. Every villages consisted of at least four to seven families, sometimes more than ten. The traditional house was called cise or cisey.
They speak the Ainu language. The Ainu language is classificated as language isolate, although there exist several theories about a genetic relation. Some linguists suggest a relation to Altaic languages while others suggest a link to Indo-European languages. Some similarities also exist with northern native American languages.
A genetic study published in the scientific journal “Nature” by Jinam et al., using genome-wide DNA analyses, found that the Ainu have unique characteristics and are distinct from East-Eurasians. The Ainu have genes which are also found in Europeans.
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- Jinam, Timothy A.; Kanzawa-Kiriyama, Hideaki; Inoue, Ituro; Tokunaga, Katsushi; Omoto, Keiichi; Saitou, Naruya (October 2015). "Unique characteristics of the Ainu population in Northern Japan". Journal of Human Genetics. 60 (10): 565–571. doi:10.1038/jhg.2015.79. ISSN 1435-232X.
We also report several SNP loci that are highly differentiated between the Ainu and the Mainland Japanese. These include two genes associated with facial structure in Europeans.
- Jeong, Choongwon; Nakagome, Shigeki; Di Rienzo, Anna (2016-1). "Deep History of East Asian Populations Revealed Through Genetic Analysis of the Ainu". Genetics. 202 (1): 261–272. doi:10.1534/genetics.115.178673. ISSN 0016-6731. PMC 4701090. PMID 26500257. Check date values in:
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ainu.|
- The Ainu Museum
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- Ainu-North American cultural similarities
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- Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture
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- The Boone Collection