Human Right Issues on the Ainu People in Japan: Their Social and Cultural Development through Overcoming the Social Prejudice and Discrimination
YUZURU YOKOYAMA, Ph.D. Professor, School of Social Welfare, Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo, JAPAN
This study aims to analyze the issues of social justice and human rights among Ainu people in Japan. In addition, the aim of this presentation is to address the possible solution for meeting social needs of the Ainu people. The methodology for this research is the literature review. The Ainu people are indigenous people and ethnic minority in Hokkaido Island, the most northern island of Japan. The Ainu people have been historically discriminated against by the Japanese people. And they have been also exploited economically and politically by the Japanese. Even now, they are occasionally neglected and ignored by the insensible Japanese politicians and ordinary citizens. Although the Ainu people in Hokkaido appeared to be somehow assimilated and integrated into the mainstream of the Japanese society, their special societal needs such as the security for income, job, education, housing, employment, and social services are overlooked, neglected and underserved. The Japanese government has not yet established social support network system for the Ainu people and not offered adequate social assistance for them. At this moment, the main task of the Japanese government regarding the Ainu policy is to preserve their unique culture in general.
In my presentation, I would like to address the brief historical overview of the Ainu people and their special societal needs related to the social justice and human rights issues. In addition, I would like to analyze the social circumstances of Ainu people such as the social policy, social systems and social services for the Ainu people. Furthermore, I would like to propose a feasible way for meeting the societal needs of the Ainu people. As an outcome of my research, I would like to recommend the Japanese government establish and facilitate the comprehensive social support network system for the Ainu people in order to fulfill their unmet societal needs by empowering them.
In conclusion, I would like to propose for organizing the social support network system for the Ainu people. So, the Ainu people will be able to obtain the necessary social assistance and support. The recognition of the social status and social condition among the Ainu people must be paid to an attention in order to improve their living conditions, social status and quality of life.
I. The brief historical review of the discrimination against the Ainu people
At the end of the 12th century, the Ainu people were appeared in the history of Japan. Since then, the Ainu people have started trading with the Japanese people.
In the Meiji period(1868～1912), the Japanese government forced the Ainu people to assimilate into the mainstream of the Japanese society. In addition, the Japanese government pushed the Ainu people to acculturate into the mainstream of the Japanese culture then.
For example, the Japanese government set up the educational policy toward the Ainu children. The government established the separate school for Ainu children exclusively. And they were forced not to speak the Ainu language at school in order to make them to learn and speak the Japanese language as early as possible. And the Japanese teachers encouraged the Ainu parents to speak the Japanese to their children at home and encouraged them not speaking the Ainu language at home.
For another example, the Japanese government forced the Ainu people to change their name into the Japanese name in order to assimilate the Ainu people into the Japanese society. Furthermore, the Ainu people had a limited opportunity to choose their own career except for farmers due to their poor economic and educational conditions. They were also forbidden to catch the salmon and hunt the deer and bear freely in order to help them in making a living under the Hokkaido Indigenous People Law.
As a result, the Japanese government had facilitated the declination of the Ainu language as well as the Ainu culture. The Ainu people have been stigmatized as the second citizen by the Japanese and they have been stereotyped as a primitive native people in Hokkaido Island.
The Japanese government in the Meiji era established the Hokkaido Indigenous People Law(1889) in order to legitimize in providing the limited land space for the Ainu people for farming. However, this law eventually forced the Ainu people to give up their native land. This law also has legitimized in taking away the original land from the Ainu people. Some Ainu people were forced to move into the deserted place due to the cultivation of the primitive land for the social and economic development in Hokkaido. The Ainu people have been forced to submit this sort of inhumane, insensitive and discriminatory law up to the recent. The Ainu people have felt them as being an inferior ethnic minority compared to the ordinary Japanese people.
Ⅱ. The Challenge for Obtaining the Human Rights and Establishing the Social Justice for the Ainu People
In 1930, The Ainu people established their own association (The Hokkaido Ainu Association) in order to improve their living conditions by themselves. This association organized the social action to cause the social change for respecting the human dignity of the Ainu people and improving their social condition by changing the social policy toward the Ainu people. The Ainu people who live in the Nibutani area in Hokkaido have opposed for constructing the new water reservoir in their community and made the Hokkaido prefecture government to stop the new contraction. In 1984, the Hokkaido Ainu Association has organized the social action to abolish the Hokkaido Indigenous People Law and proposed the Ainu New Law to promote their human rights and seek the social justice for them. For example, in this law, the Japanese government officially has to admit the Ainu people as a native ethnic minority group which has a unique culture. The Japanese government also has to respect for the human dignity of the Ainu people and secure their human rights. In 1991, the Japanese government officially admitted the Ainu people as a native ethnic minority in Japan. In 1997, the Japanese Diet accepted the Ainu New Law and this law enacted in 1998.
The Six Point of the New Ainu Law
1. The Basic Human Rights---the opposition against the any discrimination against the ethnic minority group
2. The Rights for Participating the Politics---the rights for sending the political delegate at both local and central politic arena
3. Education and Culture---the security for the opportunity to learn the Ainu language and participate the Ainu cultural activities
4. Agriculture, Fishing, Foresting, and Merchant---the promotion for the better living among the Ainu people by helping them to be independent socially and economically
5. Providing Funds for the Self-help and the Self-determination of their Human Rights---Obtaining the funds for increasing the self-help and independence for their self-determination
6. Establishing the Advisory Committee---Reflecting the social needs among the Ainu people at the political arena both locally and nationally. Sending the Ainu delegate into the local and central politics to put the Ainu perspective
III. Propose for building the social support network system for the Ainu People
1. Strengthening the informal social support network for the Ainu People---establishing a community center for the Ainu people to organize their volunteer activities and social services.
2. Strengthening the Ainu community and organization---establishing the self-help organization to enhance their cultural activities and their social activities.
3. Building the funds for education, job training, the career development, and the better housing conditions for the Ainu people---putting the fund for providing the educational, occupational, living assistance for them.
4. Building the national organization for promoting for understanding the Ainu people and learning the Ainu culture and language---building the national center and museum for the Ainu people to assist the Japanese to learn Ainu language and culture.
5. Facilitating the cultural exchange among the ethnic minority and promoting the human rights and social justice in the world---building the international organization to organize the international exchange programs and promote the study and the research for human rights and social justice issues concerning the ethnic minority in the world.
6. Setting up the new educational policy---promoting the bilingualism education and enlightening the Ainu culture and promoting for learning the history of the Ainu people.
7. Establishing the law for anti-discrimination---promoting the human rights among the ethnic minority and stopping the discrimination against the oppressed and disadvantaged population.