The Ongoing Discrimination of Ainu People

Ainu Currents Post 9
The Ongoing Discrimination of Ainu People

Content Warning : This article discusses topics of ongoing public harassment and discrimination faced by the Ainu people in Japan. These experiences may be triggering for some readers, particularly those who have personally encountered prejudice or discrimination.

Our recent posts have addressed two pertinent issues: Professor Kitahara’s publication concerning Ainu recognition and the newly implemented anti-harassment guidelines at Hokkaido University. These initiatives frame a broader conversation about the continuing discrimination faced by the Ainu people in contemporary Japan. Recent events underscore the significant gap between legal recognition of Ainu identity and achieving genuine societal equality.

The denial of Ainu indigeneity persists as a troubling trend. On March 10th, a right-wing group in Hokkaido hosted a symposium that questioned the very foundation of Ainu identity. This event, which included participation from former elected officials, fueled hate speech and undermined Ainu historical and cultural presence. Crac North, an anti-hate speech organization, staged a protest in response, highlighting the ongoing struggle against discrimination. Similar denials even infiltrate national politics, as evidenced by LDP Lower House member Mio Sugita’s dismissal of Ainu discrimination concerns on social media platforms in August 2023. Sugita, known for inflammatory and prejudicial statements, exemplifies the pervasive nature of these biases.

Social media has become a breeding ground for Ainu harassment. Earlier in April, Ainu artist Mayunkiki publicly reported online abuse perpetrated by a former deputy mayor in Aichi prefecture back in November 2023. This abuse included doxxing her and her family. While the human rights violation system offers legal recourse, its efficacy is hampered by the requirement for voluntary cooperation from the accused. This leaves survivors questioning the system’s capacity to deliver true justice.

The issue of prejudice extends even into academia. A Hokkaido University professor’s tweet denying Ainu indigeneity in early 2023 exposed the deep-rooted biases that persist within institutions. While the University condemned the professor’s remarks and emphasized the importance of inclusivity, such incidents underscore the need for ongoing education and sensitivity training. Initiatives like Hokkaido University’s anti-Ainu harassment training demonstrate a commitment to addressing these issues directly. However, a multifaceted approach is crucial. This approach should prioritize amplifying Ainu voices, fostering public understanding, and strengthening legal mechanisms to combat hate speech and discrimination.