Ainu: The Disappearing Culture Essay

1734 words - 7 pages

Uncontacted tribes and small-scale societies are becoming a thing of the past. The world is rapidly growing and small-societies going against the grain are being pushed aside by people, claiming their presence inhibits progress. With more than seven billion people inhabiting this planet, space is becoming more valuable and the outsiders are being forced to endure the regions that no one else desires. Eventually, societies mix, borders are blurred, and another unique society/culture is lost within the masses. Very few can withstand being roped in by more popular cultures, but those who can preserve their traditional ways of life allow us to see the different aspects of cultures other than our own. In this light, the traditional lives of the Ainu present many new ideas of how to live a very different life and how to view the world in a new perspective.
The Ainu are a group of people who presently reside in the Hokkaido islands off the mainland of Japan. The culture first took rise around the 1400’s across the Hokkaido islands and surrounding areas. At the same time the Ainu tribes started to flourish, so did other larger Japanese societies in the area. The struggle for power and resources grew between the Ainu and the Japanese, and tensions arose. As time passed, the tension between the two groups erupted and resulted in many battles that would take place over the course 350 years. The Battle of Kunasiri-Menasi of 1789, lead to the defeat of the Ainu by the Japanese. The downfall resulted in the oppression and exploitation of the Ainu people. Because of the oppression of the Ainu by the Japanese people, the culture that we now study of the Ainu people is a blend of traditional customs and adopted Japanese ways (Ainu Museum). While parts of their culture were unable to continue, the family unit and rituals in marriage are still apparent in their culture.
The family life of the Ainu is vastly different from what we are used to seeing in our own culture. The Ainu live in villages (called Kotans by the Ainu) that are composed of paternal clans, with each village containing between four to ten family units. (Ainu Museum). Each family lives in their own house that they have carefully hand-built using various barks, grasses, and bamboo that they found in the jungle. “The Ainu families were nuclear ones which consisted of parents and children. When the children got married, they left their families and lived separately; therefore, no more than one couple lived in a house (Ainu Museum). The young Ainu children that were part of the house hold are in many ways like the children of the shantytown Alto de Cruzeiro, seen in our CRCA article Death without Weeping by Nancy Scheper-Hughes. Between the time of birth and the age of three, the children are given temporary names that have meanings of excrement or old-things to ward off the demon of ill-health. Once the mothers were certain that the child was expected to live, she would form the maternal bond with...

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