A group, inlcuding a member of the Ebestu branch of the Hokkaido Ainu Association, announced on Oct. 29 that they would form their own political party, amid a growing frustration and a sense of crisis. They will submit 10 candidates’ applications to the House of Councilor of Elections to run for seats in the upper house of Japan’s Congress.
Official estimates of the Ainu population are around 25,000, while the unofficial number is upward of 200,000 people living throughout Japan, though most are on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. The exact number is difficult to calculate because the Ainu have been increasingly assimilated into the Japanese population.
The Ainu had lived on Japan’s northernmost island for centuries, calling their home Ainu. They hunted, fished, worshiped nature and established their own language.
The Japanese moved north in the late 19th century and Japanese settlers destroyed the Ainu population, seized their land and renamed it Hokkaido.
In 2008, Japan’s Diet unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Ainu as indigenous people, stating that the Ainu had a “distinct language, religion and culture,” going against the belief of conservatives, that the country was an ethnically homogeneous nation.
In 1986, then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone made the comment that “Japan is an ethnically homogenous nation.” It triggered protest by the Ainu and their supporters and sparked the native’s protection law. The public began to become aware of Ainu issues around this time.
A preparatory meeting for the political candidates was held in Sapporo City Oct. 29. The association said the candidates should be Ainu, however, anyone can join the party.
The candidates for the new party include Hokkaido’s Nibutani Ainu Museum Director Shiro Kayano, 53, the son of the first Ainu congressman, Shigeru Kayano. Some officers of the Hokkaido Ainu Association also plan to run.
The aim of the new party is to change the government’s Ainu ethnic policy, which they are dissatisfied with.
The association states on their site: “to overcome the violent history of Japanese-Ainu relations, it is essential to change the paradigm of the Japanese people and establish a “‘new partnership.’”
Many Ainu live in discrimination and poverty. According to a 2006 survey by the Hokkaido government, the ratio living on welfare was more than three times the national average. The proportion of Ainu receiving higher educations was one-third the national average.
For more information link to: http://tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/2011/11/ainu-political-party.html