Ainu Creed and Cult

Ainu Creed and Cult

Ainu Creed and Cult

Ainu Creed and Cult

Excerpt

The AINU are the aboriginal people of Hokkaido, southern Sakhalin, and the Kurile Islands. They have been noted for their hirsute bodies, wavy hair and long heads. In 1939 the Ainu population of Hokkaido was estimated at 160,000, and there had probably been little change since 1854. There were possibly another 10,000 scattered in the other islands.

Hokkaido is an island of about 30,000 square miles, situated north of the main Japanese island of Honshu, between 41° 30' N. and 45° 3' N. and 140-145° E. The northern end of Hokkaido is about twenty nautical miles away from Sakhalin, and to the northeast the Kurile Islands stretch away towards Kamchatka. The climate of Hokkaido is sub-arctic; yearly mean temperature varies between 5.2° C. and 7.6° C., with a long snow season from November to May. The island is well wooded with fir, spruce, birch, oak and elm. Most of the rivers rise in a range of mountains which runs through the centre of the island from north to south. Grizzly bear and deer are found in the mountains, and salmon run in most rivers from May till October. In the past the Ainu lived mainly by hunting and fishing, and also collected wild plants and berries.

Contact between the Ainu and the Japanese is of long standing and has taken different forms. Before 1599 contact must have been limited. In 1599 Japanese who had established their headquarters in the south-western end (Matsumae) of Hokkaido were recognized as the Japanese Matsumae clan by the Tokugawa Shogunate. They were given rights of ownership in this and the adjacent area as the clan territory (Matsumae-chi). Settlement of Ainu in the area was . . .

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