Protecting Ainu Culture and Language

Do you know Shigeru Kayano? He is a man who made an effort to protect Ainu culture and language, and he is Ainu himself. He was born in 1926, Nibutani, Hokkaido. He was brought up by his grandmother, who spoke only Ainu language. So he became to be able to speak two languages: Japanese and Ainu. He talked with his grandmother in Ainu when they go to get wild plants. Then he grew up, when he was young, he didn’t feel good about being Ainu, and he was thinking that he wanted to escape from being Ainu.

However when collectors and scholars started to collect the tool of Ainu for agriculture, his heart was injured. Then he started to collect them by himself. This is the start of his life to protect Ainu culture and language. After that, he made a lot of efforts to protect Ainu culture and language. He recorded Ainu language, wrote dictionary of Ainu language and published it. He made a wedding of Ainu style again, and he made houses of Ainu style. He made a museum to preserve his collection of the tools of Ainu. He made a preparatory school to learn Ainu language; this is to maintain Ainu language.

Moreover he became the first Ainu member of the Diet. He made a question in Ainu language to know everyone there is another ethnic group except Yamato race. This is the first time to be used other language except Japanese language. During his term of a member of Diet, the act to promote Ainu culture was established. This is very important point about protection of Ainu culture and language.

Now, various events to show Ainu culture are held. For example, the Ainu traditional dance performance is performed by young people whose ancestors are Ainu. The recognition that there were Ainu people on Hokkaido except Yamato race is becoming spread. Long time ago, the homeland of Ainu people was taken by Yamato race. Ainu culture and language was received lots of pressure.

This is the event in very old time, but the problems about Ainu culture and language still exist. We cannot miss this truth. We must know the existence of Ainu people, culture, language and unfair treatment for Ainu people. To say that Japan is a mono ethnic nation has a lot of misunderstanding.

by Ayako Miyamae

4 thoughts on “Protecting Ainu Culture and Language

  1. Hello! I didnt know anything about Shigeru Kayano so this blog post was very interesting to me!
    When I went to Hokkaido, I was taught that the Ainu only lived in a certain place and instead, there are many living in various places in Japan, such as in the middle of Tokyo. This fact was surprising for me since I thought that the Ainu only lived in Hokkaido and Sakhalin, Russia.

    In 2008, I saw on the news that in the diet, the resolution on recognize the Ainu as indigenous people, having their own culture, language and religion, so they have the right to be treated equally as Japanese citizen, and never should be discriminated.
    (was also on here:
    I hope there the resolution would work well and there will be no more discrimination on Ainu, and they own the proper rights.

  2. Hello, I didn’t know about Shigeru Kayano either, do you know where I can find more information about him? I’m currently trying to promote asian indiegnous people and culture as well and I would like to dedicate a piece to him on our website (

    A really insightful piece by the way.

  3. Hello! Thank you for your comment. I’m really glad for you to pay attention to my post. I think, if you can put Japanese on your computer, you can put his name in Japanese “萱野茂” to get more information about him.
    Please try. If you aleady did this way, I’m sorry.
    If you can’t put Japanese, please tell me.

    Ayako Miyamae

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