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THE AINU JAPANS NATIVE PEOPLE Before migrating groups arrived from the Asian mainland the Ainu occupied most of the Japanese islands Gradually the newcomers conquired and absorbed the Ainu and became the main body of the Japanese people Today fewer than 20000 Ainu survive as a distinct cultural group living mainly on the northern island of Hokkaido Through intermarriage they are rapidly being assimilated into the larger culture Pure-blooded Ainu are rare Many anthropologists place the ancestors of the Ainu in the Caucasian race In certain physical traits heavy beards wavy hair and a light complection they seem more European than Asian Their language with several dialects has no link to any other The Ainu cultures decline began after 1868 when the country embarked on rapid modernization and accelerated after World War II Traditionally Ainu men engaged in hunting and fishing while women gathered wild fruit and nuts or dug edible roots and bulbs with sticks Today they generally work as farmers and in the commercial fishing industry Traditional Ainu social organization is based on patrilineal kin groups each headed by a chief Local groups usually consist of five to ten households Other traditions still survive Young women are commonly tattooed on the face and arms to indicate their readiness for marriage Both men and women frequently wear earrings Adult males never shave their beards The Ainu dress in traditional clothes on ceremonial occasions Ainu religion is a form of nature worship which holds that spirits control such forces as the wind rain hail and fire The Ainu also pay homage to spirits of their ancesters Although the Ainu language has no written form a rich Ainu folklore exists Since the introduction of compulsory education younger generations tend to consider Japanese more important than the Ainu language This paper will discuss the culture of the Ainu people THE AINU PEOPLE Demographics Ainu means human The Ainu people regard things useful to them
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