Japan's Indigenous peoples fight stigma to reclaim identities

NAHA, Feb 18 (AFP) - HOKKAIDO, Feb 18 (AFP) - In a forest in northern Japan's Hokkaido, Atsushi Monbetsu kneels on the moss in the thick morning fog and begins to pray in a language that has nearly disappeared.

“Kamuy,” he begins, addressing the deities of the Ainu Indigenous people, as he starts a small fire with birch bark.

“An Ainu man is now entering your forest, wishing to hunt deer,” he says. Soon after, he spots an animal, makes a clean kill and offers prayers for its soul.

Monbetsu belongs to the Ainu Indigenous group that traditionally lived in what is now northern Japan, as well as in territory now part of Russia.

Growing up, the stigma of his ethnic origins was so great that his mother banned him from using the word Ainu.

But, like a growing number of younger people from Indigenous communities in Japan, Monbetsu, 40, has reclaimed his identity and some of the traditional practices he considers his birthright. ...continue reading

Education Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7