Modern history: that is pretty simple. It is the origins that really trip people up. Perhaps it is the lack of an ancient system of record keeping; perhaps records that existed were destroyed in natural disasters. For all historians know, natural disasters could have wiped out ancient historians just as they were about to sit down to chronicle the events of their time. Regardless, the result is the same: no written chronicle exists dating back to the origins of man (hence the term, prehistoric). To this end, historians have little recourse but to piece together what we can of past events, in the (perhaps futile) attempt to truly find out just who our ancestors really were. This essay is an examination of one such mysterious population: the Ainu. Referred to often as Japanese Aborigines, or as Japan's indigenous people, there is a dearth of information on the Ainu, the result of which is widespread ignorance of this people, its culture, and its history. Much of the information available is limited only to those well versed in Japanese or frequent museum visitors.
[...] An incipient form of the Ainu “iyomante” ritual, where the spirit of a bear was sent to heaven, has been evidenced in the Satsumon. Furthermore, the depiction of the modern Ainu physical type seems to emerge from between that date to possibly as early as a century prior. The ethnography and the artistic portrayals of the Ainu from that era are consistent with the modern Ainu. None of this can be taken conclusively, however. To draw a parallel between the history of the Americas and Ezo, the first arrival of man has been commonly attributed to a land-bridge theory. [...]
[...] always an expression of culture, often a determinant of cultural forms, in some societies the culture itself” (pg. 12). I wish to use Thornton's work and Frederickson's work to compare and contrast the history of the Ainu and that of the European slave trade, while also discussing the claims that Keegan suggests. All of this goes to show that while the story of the Ainu is unique, it does have parallels with the stories of other cultures. Before bringing analysis to the history of the Ainu, I will first attempt to bring together the various theories on Ainu origins into one cohesive idea. [...]
[...] Thus, the case of the Ainu represents a significant story in history, with a unique and important lesson for other cultures. However, that is not to say that this story does bears no similarities to other ones. Indeed, the warfare itself was conducted in a manner that Keegan saw as nearly universal. Another similitude with other cultures comes from the political motives, and means, for conquering the Ainu. Japan wanted the land for sake of its natural resources, just as the Europeans did in North America and in Africa (though for different resources). [...]
[...] Warfare, over years and years, became a determinant of cultural forms. John Thornton, in Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World - 1800, writes of the migration that occurred on account of the European explorations in the fifteenth century. He is quick to point out that the navigation of the Europeans had reverberations not only for the Europeans, but for other cultures as well. Besides the “disenclavement” of the African continent, this huge global migration would reshape populations and lay the foundation for the new Atlantic world. [...]
[...] The reliance on the ocean created a situation unseen in other lands. The Japanese colonization of the Ainu homeland of Ezochi predated the subjugation of its people by a significant amount of time (official annexation beat the Protection Act by 107 years), whereas most indigenous cultures experienced simultaneous land conquest and cultural removal. The Ainu also represent a smaller population than the indigenous peoples of other lands. Thus, the changes to the population of Hokkaido occur slower and with lesser drastic effect than in other lands. [...]
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