Also found in: Dictionary, Acronyms, Wikipedia.


(ī`no͞o), aborigines of Japan who may be descended from a Caucasoid people who once lived in N Asia. More powerful invaders from the Asian mainland gradually forced the Ainu to retreat to the northern islands of Japan and Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in what is now the Russian Far East; today, they reside mainly on HokkaidoHokkaido
, island (1990 pop. 5,643,515), c.30,130 sq mi (78,040 sq km), N Japan, separated from Honshu island by the Tsugaru Strait and from Sakhalin, Russia, by the Soya Strait. It is the second largest, northernmost, and most sparsely populated of the major islands of Japan.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Reduced in number, they traditionally lived by hunting and fishing, which they were gradually forced to abandon in favor of small-scale farming. The Ainu have attracted the attention of tourists, and some make a living by selling reproductions of their cultural artifacts. Physically, they seem related to European peoples, i.e., they have much more body hair than typical East Asians, but intermarriage has introduced Asian traits among them. Contact with the Japanese, who insisted that they not speak the Ainu language and taught them only Japanese history, also led to culture change and assimilation, which the Ainu resisted in the past, with decreasing success. Their traditional religion is highly animistic and centers on a bear cult; a captive bear was sacrificed at an annual winter feast and his spirit, thus released, was believed to guard the Ainu settlements.


See N. G. Munro, Ainu Creed and Cult (1963); I. Hilger, Together with the Ainu (1971).



a people on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. Population, approximately 20,000 (1967 estimate). They speak Japanese and the Ainu language. The Ainu, who until the 18th century also lived in Kamchatka and until the beginning of the 20th century on southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, were assimilated by the Nivkh and the Itel’men; some of them were moved to Japan. In language and physical characteristics the Ainu greatly differ from the Japanese, but they do display a resemblance to the population of Southeast Asia. Their ancestors in the early Neolithic period apparently migrated from there to Japan, where they formed one of the oldest sectors of the population. The Japanese colonization of Hokkaido in the middle of the 19th century destroyed the traditional way of life of the Ainu, which was based on a settled hunting and fishing economy. On the island of Hokkaido the Ainu are gradually being assimilated by the Japanese.


Narody Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow, 1965.




the language of the Ainu, spoken principally on the island of Hokkaido (Japan).

Dialects of the Ainu language were also spoken on the Kurile Islands, on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and on the island of Sakhalin in the 18th and 19th centuries, but only isolated speakers of Ainu still live on Sakhalin. The exact number of speakers of Ainu is unknown, since the Ainu are being readily assimilated by the Japanese and use the Japanese language. The Ainu number about 20,000 (1967). The Ainu language features an absence of opposition of voiced and unvoiced consonants (b, d, and g appear only as positional variants, or allophones, of p, t, and k between vowels); the system of consonants is in general poorly developed. The Ainu language is agglutinative in structure, with suffixation predominating. It should be noted that indication of the singular or plural is optional in Ainu grammar, which places the Ainu language close to languages of an isolating structure. Ainu has a unique counting system based on twenties—90 is designated as “five twenties minus ten.” The genealogical ties of Ainu are not established. A considerable number of geographic terms on the Japanese islands can be traced to Ainu.


Dobrotvorskii, M. M. Ainsko-russkii slovar’. Kazan, 1875.
Pitsudski, V. Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore. Kraków, 1912.
Batchelor, J. An Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary, 4th ed. Tokyo, 1938.
Batchelor, J. A Grammar of the Ainu Language. Tokyo.


References in periodicals archive ?
The Ainu Party of Japan does not meet the legal requirements for constituting a "political party" and thus needed to put down a deposit of 60 million yen and run at least 10 candidates in the July 21 poll to compete in proportional representation constituencies.
see Foundation for Research & Promotion of Ainu Culture, Profile of
For a useful discussion about the role of Europeans in the construction of Ainu identity, consult Richard Siddle, "The Ainu: Construction of an Image", in J.
Regional and indigenous histories and identities are depicted and retold in anime such as Kamui no Ken (1985) which follows a young ainu (an indigenous ethnic group from the north of Japan) boy as he fights Yamato (historically constructed as ethnically Japanese) overlords and travels to North America, meeting Native Americans who share some elements of his culture.
Ainu Mosir is a country of sweeping vistas: forested slopes reach up to steaming volcanic peaks, waterfalls plunge down rugged mountains, and plains stretch to the horizon.
Last week he had commented that Japan was "ethnically homogenous", drawing criticism from the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan.
Ainu groups ask gov't to institute new law for livelihood assistance
Zakuri Congo, Lydia Saloucou, Ida Tamini, Ainu Ouedraogo, and Alphosine Sawadogo.
The Japanese congress recently passed a bill that recognizes that Ainu, an ethnic group that lives in Hokkaido and promotes a harmonious lifestyle in balance with nature, is an indigenous group of Japan.
Afghanistan, a diverse and varied land with a predominately Persian heritage, historically encompasses the area from the Ainu Darya in the North to the Indus in the East, to the deserts of Baluchistan to the Khorasan in modern day Iran; In addition to the seven major languages (Dari, Pashtu, Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Turkmen, Baloch, and Aimak), there are at least 400 tribes.
The Asia-Pacific section is based largely on three important collections assembled between 1888 and 1904--one, representing the Ainu people of Japan, features beautiful robes; the second, acquired from exhibits at the 1904 St.
The Japanese Government defines the Northern Territories (Hoppoo Ryoodo) as the big islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu (Kunashir and Iturup in Russian, probably closer to the original Ainu pronunciation), and the island of Shikotan and the Habomai Islets, geographically more part of Hokkaido.