History of Hokkaido Ainu and Its Future in Modern Japan

It is true that Hokkaido Ainu is the heritage language for the Japanese people. Before that, you have to learn the History of Hokkaido Ainu. There used to be three languages beforehand but only Hokkaido Ainu is the one that survived finally. But, this status of the language in Japan is quite iffy. Even though the Japanese government has recognized Ainu people partially and their culture in the year 2008, this language, along with the people and the culture always remain quite unknown to Japanese community. It is not hard to say that there are only few speakers of this language in the world and the linguists are no doubt fascinated by this language.

Why It Is The Heritage Language Of Japan?

As per some of the latest data from Ethnologue, Hokkaido Ainu is already nearing extinction as there are few ten native speakers left only. The speakers are located in Hokkaido and even in the islands of Kuril and Tsishima. The native speakers, most of them, are in their 80s. Hokkaido Ainu is the one used in oral form and there was hard to find a written form of this language.

Elders have passed on the language to descendants orally. The absence of written form prevented the people from preserving this language after government banned it. Tukar was the traditional Ainu storytelling, which is the only way in which people can extend this language’s life.

In a traditional manner, this language is transcribed using Kana, which is also a Japanese syllabus script. It is a derivation of the kanji. To know more about the Mother Tongue Languages, learning from the sources and to the core is mandatory.

Tomoni Sato, a part of the Hokkaido University, is in charge of the Hokkaido Ainu language. He said that many Japanese people don’t even know about the existence of Ainu people! They do that unknowingly. Some might even think that these people do not even mean anything.

Ainu Language Status:

As this language does not have any relation with the other language families, the Ainu language is considered to be an isolated one. It is a language spoken by the ethnic group of Japan with same name, that might inhabits Hokkaido. Well, the origin is still unknown just like the people speaking in this language.

There are mainly 3 variants of this language used to be spoken all over southern part of the Sakhalin island and in a small group in Kuril. Ainu comprises of 19 dialects apart from three variants. It was in the year 1994, when the last speaker of this Sakhalin Ainu passed away. And the one as used as Kuril Ainu has already extinct.

The Hokkaido Ainu had around 15 native speakers in 2016. Right now, there are only 10 with fluency in this language and around 304, who understand it. These numbers are not quite definite as some people even hide the fact that they are from the Ainu descent and they will not speak in that language, just to avoid discrimination.

Right now, there is an extended katakana version used for writing the Hokkaido Ainu text. Some linguists have studied the possible origin of this language. They have traced the possible origin from various parts of the globe. But, it has already been established that main area where Ainu lived is known as Hokkaido, which is also meant “dry area.”

There were two linguists who posts in 1960 that the language originated from Indo-European family. Another separate linguist known as James Patrie believed that this language is part of the Altaic language origin, which he then discussed in a thesis known as “Genetic relation of the Ainu language.” The Northern languages or the “Kitano Gengo” mentioned the Ainu people while discussing the North Pacific Rim hypothesis.

In this current study, they really though that the descendants of this people were American Indians, who migrated to East right from Alaska after passing through Bering Strait into Siberia and then going down to Sakhalin in Russia.

The Ainu People:

The actual origin of the Ainu people is quite vague even though they were quite indigenous to Hokkaido, some parts of the Honshu and other areas that otherwise belongs to Russia like Kuril Islands, Kamchatka Peninsula and even Sakhalin. Officially speaking, the population of the Ainu people as per the survey in Japan is around 25,000. But, there has been an unofficial estimate of around 200,000. It is mainly because of the Japanese society absorbing most of them. Because of this, they do not even know if they are from the Ainu descent or not.

Some of the new research has said that the culture of Ainu came right from the combination of Okhotsk, Satsumon and Jomon cultures. The Japanese form of Jomon period was from 14000 BC to the 300AD. These people were hunter gatherers and they revere animals and even consider bear to the head of the gods or Kamuy.

Previously, it was thought that the Ainu were of the Caucasian origin as they have some of the deep set eyes, which will otherwise resemble eyes of Europeans with larger frames, light skin and some more body hair. Some of the Pure Ainus are said to have brown hair and even blue eyes. But, through fingerprinting, DNA tests and some of the dental morphology, it was mainly established that Ainu came right from Mongoloid race.

Because of intermarriage, it was difficult to distinguish person of Ainu from another Japanese ancestry. Ainu men and women will grow hair up to shoulders. After a certain age, men will not shave and will have full beards. Women will have another ritual where they will get tattoos around mouths. As they are hunter gatherers, so their main food supplies are salmon, root vegetables, fox, bear, rabbit, and deer. These people know to cook their foods before eating. They will not east raw items like Japanese people.

Based on multiple theories, one thing is certain and that is they are residents of the Hokkaido, Japan. Even though it might take quite some time for many people to admit having Ainu blood and speaking in their language, but it is heartening to know that the language and culture of Ainu people are revitalized. Even some Most English Speakers Worldwide might be of the same origin.


Japanese government forbade Ainu people from practicing their customs and even speaking language for around 100 years. Even the students of the Ainu heritage were not given permission to speak Ainu and were forced to speak in Japanese. For discrimination, Ainu people denied their heritage and hid the fact that they can actually speak in that language.

Most of the time, it was difficult to find younger generation of Ainu. In a research as published on 2012, it was mentioned that around 66% of Ainu youth are not even familiar with their Ainu heritage. In 1994, Shigeru Kayano was first Ainu to enter Japanese diet. He spent most time in promoting awareness and well-being of people. In 1997, Shigeru leadership and even help from supporters will lead to lifting of law banning practice of Ainu culture.

The people were able to have the culture freedom with government funding. They regained and preserve ways of life. Even the government established some courses and radio stations in this language. The culture becomes well-known to so many people through public performances. It was The Ainu Cultural Promotion Act of 1997, which paved way for transformation of Ainu dictionaries. These are valuable tools for improving communications and preserving some records of this language.

Spreading Awareness About Minority Languages:

TridIndia actually gals the efforts made by the Japanese government for restoring Ainu language, which is often considered to be a heritage one. More people these days will be speaking in this Ainu. As language service provider, the team will promote minatory and some of the indigenous languages together with some of the major ones in the world. For any kind of Japanese form of translating requirements, you can just give the team a call at their official number or just email them your queries at given email ID. The services are open 24 x 7 and throughout the year just to serve the people in a better way. Even the professional translators are located in the country for help.

To know more, call us at +91-8527599523 or mail us at [email protected]

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