Subject: [cwj 16] Ainu rights law's effects perceived as superficial
From: Amit Srivastava <>
Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 13:27:44 -0700
Seq: 16

Ainu rights law's effects perceived as superficial 
May 11, 2000

Junichiro Shiozaki 
Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer 

Almost three years have passed since the enactment of the Ainu rights law
to restore the Ainu people's rights and promote Ainu culture, but
discrimination against the Ainu still runs deep in Japanese people's minds. 

The Ainu rights law went into effect in July 1997, recognizing the Ainu as
the indigenous people of Hokkaido. 

The law, which replaced the 1899 Hokkaido Former Aborigine Protection Law,
requires municipal governments and the central government to promote Ainu

Based on the 1997 law, the Hokkaido government and municipal governments in
cities, towns and villages funded the establishment of the Foundation for
Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture, with the Hokkaido Development and
Cultural Affairs agencies providing 990 million yen in running costs. 

The foundation broadcasts Ainu-language lessons on the radio and provides
cultural classes in which elderly Ainu people teach Ainu epic poetry called
ukara, which is orally passed on from generation to generation. 

As many as 69 people have taken the classes. 

The foundation also organizes Ainu festivals at three locations in the
country every year. 

To examine the effects of the cultural promotion policies, the Hokkaido
Development and Cultural Affairs agencies will set up an assessment
committee this month, but many conflicts with the spirit of the 1997 law
have emerged. 

Jiro Sasamura, 66, chairman of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, said that
Ainu people used to pass on Ainu culture with little help, but the law
provides for assistance that leads to more cultural events and activities. 

However, in a survey conducted last October by the Hokkaido government on
the life of Ainu people in Hokkaido, only 1.4 percent of pollees cited more
cultural activities when they were asked about changes the law had brought

Kazuyuki Yamamaru, 51, chairman of the Ainu Museum in Shiraoicho, Hokkaido,
said that even after the enactment of the law, many Ainu people still did
not want to reveal their identity for fear of discrimination. The concept
of cultural pride was not widespread. 

Asked if they had recently faced discrimination, such as being rejected by
potential marriage partners, 12.4 percent said yes--an increase of 5.1
percentage points from the previous survey held in 1993, before the
enactment of the new law. 

As many as 15.7 percent of the pollees, a rise of 5.6 points, said that
they had
heard of other Ainu people suffering discrimination. 

Mutsuo Nakamura, a law professor at Hokkaido University, said that
discrimination could not be expected to disappear only three years after
the enactment of the law. 

Nakamura, who is familiar with the problems faced by the Ainu, said that to
promote understanding of Ainu culture, long-term plans must be implemented
so Ainu-language speakers and those with knowledge of Ainu culture get
opportunities to work at museums. 

It will take a long time for the spirit of the law, which advocates the
of a society in which Ainu people are respected as indigenous people, to
take root. 

If measures are not adopted to eliminate discrimination, Ainu cultural
policies may end up achieving nothing. 
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