In brief

Japan law recognizes Ainu as Indigenous people, excludes rights to land, self-determination

Group is mainly concentrated in northern island of Hokkaido

Three Ainu with traditional clothes.
Three Ainu with traditional clothes. Author: Torbenbrinker @ Wikimedia Commons
Japan has for the first time ever passed a law that recognizes the Ainu as an Indigenous people in the East Asian country. The law says Japan should promote and protect the culture of the 24,000-strong Ainu community, which is mainly concentrated on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The Ainu have endured a secular history of assimilation within Japanese society, which as a consequence has put their language on the brink of extinction. The Ainu also suffer higher rates of poverty, unemployment and lack of access to the university than the average.

The newly passed law has received criticism from several Ainu representatives as it does not recognize the right of self-determination of the Ainu people or the right to land, which are contained in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, nor does it contain any request for forgiveness or apology to the Ainu people by the Japanese state.