Japan's Ainu battle for return of ancestors
New Zealand Herald -- Jun 22
Japan's long marginalised and little known indigenous people, the Ainu, are engaged in a protracted and symbolic struggle to have the remains of their ancestors brought home.

The results of a one-year survey released by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology this year revealed that the bones of over 1600 Ainu individuals are being stored at 11 different universities across the country.

The remains were taken from Ainu grave sites primarily in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, but also from the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands (now part of Russia) between 1873 and 2011 for anthropological research, especially on the skulls.

At the centre of the controversy is Hokkaido University, which is holding the majority of the remains - those of 1027 individuals - and a lawsuit has been filed against the university by a group of Ainu from the Kineusu kotan seeking to have the bones returned.

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and also the Kurile and Sakhalin Islands of Russia's far east.

They are a distinct ethnic group to the Yamato Japanese and have lighter skin, more body hair and rounder eyes, giving them a more European appearance, although recent DNA research suggests they are not actually Caucasian, but of "proto-mongoloid" genetic stock.

The Ainu were an ancient hunter/gatherer society with their own language, culture and a religion based on natural phenomenon - although it is believed there are now almost no native Ainu speakers left alive.

Until the 18th century, the Ainu lived in relative isolation on Hokkaido and maintained a society independent of the Japanese although extensive interactions through trade, and some conflict, did occur.

Then after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Hokkaido was formally annexed by the Japanese and in 1899 the Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Act was passed.

This law marked the beginning of the end of traditional Ainu culture and society, and led to forced assimilation of the Ainu into mainstream Japanese life and the loss of customary hunting and fishing rights.

It wasn't until 2008 that the Japanese diet finally passed a resolution formally recognising the Ainu as the indigenous people of Japan.

The current Ainu population of Japan is estimated to be somewhere between 25,000 and 200,000.

Sep 05
The Japanese government lifted at midnight Friday its evacuation order for the Fukushima Prefecture town of Naraha, most of which is located within 20 kilometers of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Jiji Press)
Sep 05
A court on Friday sentenced three Indian men to 20 years in prison for raping a Japanese student who was sightseeing in one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. (Japan Today)
Sep 05
McDonald's in Japan said on Friday it was investigating an incident involving a customer who was injured by plastic shards found inside a drink, the latest in a string of food contamination scandals. (Japan Today)
Sep 05
The wages rebounded in July after plunging the prior month but summer bonus payments rose only modestly, government data showed, suggesting that soft household spending may weigh on the world's third-largest economy for longer than expected. (The Japan News)
Sep 04
The Diet, Japan's parliament, on Thursday enacted revisions to the My Number law to link the new national identification numbers to bank accounts on a voluntary basis from 2018 and to basic pension numbers by May 2017. (Jiji Press)
Sep 05
On the afternoon of 3 September, a 59-year-old man walked into a shopping mall in Higashi Ward, Nagoya. He then grabbed two packs of roast pork from a supermarket and concealed them as he began to leave the premises without paying. A security guard had noticed the act of petty shoplifting, however, and a chase quickly ensued. (rocketnews24.com)
Sep 05
A man in Tokyo has been arrested for telling his girlfriend to sell her organs so she could pay him for losing his job. (Japan Today)
Sep 05
A total of 28 municipalities and businesses received the government's first toilet awards Friday for promoting clean, safe and comfortable public toilets, leading to uplift the lives of women through improving sanitation facilities. (Japan Today)
Sep 04
Police charged 689 people in January-June for the possession, smuggling and use of government-designated "dangerous" drugs, or quasi-narcotics, and related crimes and accidents, the National Police Agency said Thursday. (The Japan News)
Sep 04
Police investigating the murder of a 25-year-old woman in her apartment in Tokyo's Nakano Ward last week, said pieces of a man's skin were found under her fingernails. However, police said a DNA analysis was unable to match it with any of the victim's male acquaintances, Fuji TV reported Thursday. (Japan Today)
Sep 03
Osaka Prefectural Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a 20-year-old university student for the theft of two sports cars, one of which was used at a racing circuit, reports the Asahi Shimbun (Sep. 3). (Tokyo Reporter)
Sep 03
Police in Saga City have arrested a 66-year-old man on suspicion of abandoning the bodies of a man and woman at a construction surplus soil disposal yard in July. (Japan Today)
Sep 02
After a week of speculation, law enforcement said on Tuesday that Japan's largest crime syndicate has chosen to expel 13 affiliate groups, a move that essentially results in the dissolution of the gang, reports the Kobe Shimbun (Sep. 1). (Tokyo Reporter)
Sep 02
Chiba Prefectural Police on Wednesday busted a hostess club in Chiba City for licensing violations, with the business being a source of revenue for organized crime, reports TBS News (Sep. 2). (Tokyo Reporter)
Sep 02
Chiba police have arrested a 24-year-old man from Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, on suspicion of selling clothing with fake autographs from members of a pop group on an online auction site. (Japan Times)