Ainu — Indigenous People of Japan

Films by Genre


Availability ended 15/11/2020 BST
(now -15 Nov worldwide +LIVE PANEL RECORDING — UK DIGITAL PREMIERE — The Ainu are the Indigenous people of Japan. Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, was previously called Ainumosir, or land of the Ainu. The Ainu tradition has been disappearing seriously: the latest survey shows population of the Ainu is less than 20,000 people in Hokkaido, and UNESCO has recognized the language as ‘critically endangered.’ This film is captured in Biratori town in Hokkaido, where many people with Ainu roots still live. It is also known as the hometown of the late Shigeru Kayano, who contributed greatly to the field of research on Ainu culture. Since 1869, as a result of the new Meiji government’s categorizing the Ainu people as ‘commoners’ in family registries, implementing assimilation policies, and developing their land, the Ainu culture has quickly declined. After 150 years, modern-day Ainu live joyfully in this town with Ainu’s traditional culture while adapting it to their current lifestyle. The main characters in this documentary are four Ainu elders, who were born in 1930s. One who has experienced discrimination and poverty, another who makes traditional Ainu dress, one who remembers oral folklore told by her grandmother, and another who has observed traditional rituals, such as the bear sacrifice ceremony. They remember their parents and grandparents spoke in Ainu but they weren’t actually taught the language as parents believed that children will have better life if they live as ‘Japanese.’ After many decades passed, they have tried to educate themselves and be proactive as local leaders. This documentary tells the story how Ainu cultural tradition is alive now through people’s efforts.


DISCUSSION PANEL 15th October (13:00-14:00 GMT) in collaboration with Japan House London  about the making of Ainu — Indigenous People of Japan. CLICK HERE FOR PANEL DETAILS  

Convenor: Programme Director Simon Wright. Intro with Dr Stephanie Pratt. Guests: Director Naomi Mizoguchi, Kenji Sekine: Ainu/Japanese translator for the film. Kenji has been teaching Ainu language classes for children and public schools for many years. Maki Sekine: Mukkuri (mouth harp) player for the film, is an excellent hand crafter, working in embroidery. Maya Sekine: Maya is the daughter of Kenji and Maki. Naomi (filmmaker) has known Sekine family since 2009, when Maya was 9 years old. Maya is now 21 years old and has been active in promoting Ainu language and culture with her own YouTube Channel しとちゃんねる


Directed by Naomi Mizoguchi 溝口尚美

Production Company GARA FILMS

Cast Kazunobu Kawanano
Reiko Kayano
Tamotsu Nabesawa
Sachiko Kibata

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