Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology
Online ISSN : 2424-0494
Print ISSN : 2432-5112
ISSN-L : 2432-5112
Anthropological Studies of the Ainu in Japan : Past and Present
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2003 Volume 4 Pages 75-106


This article reviews the main trends in anthropological studies of the Ainu in Japan, from the past to the present. During the Edo period, detailed documents on the life and culture of the Ainu were already being published, along with official accounts of explorations produced for specific purposes. Ainu studies in the Meiji era developed further, ranging from travel literature to studies of Ainu ethnic origin, language and mythology. Following the work of CHAMBERLAIN, BATCHELOR, PILSUDSKI, and MUNRO, YOSHIDA and KINDAICHI began to study the language and folklore of the Ainu in the 1910s. After that, even though folklore studies flourished, ethnological studies of the Ainu only started in Japan with a joint survey by anthropologists and ethnologists in 1951. While few studies have been carried out on the social aspects of Ainu culture, so that various aspects of traditional Ainu social organization remain in dispute, recent ethnological studies do shed light on the contemporary issues confronting the Ainu, such as tourism, cultural revitalization, ethnicity and identity. Accounts of the Ainu in Japan have thus focused successively on their ethnic origins, their folklore and religion, and finally their ethnicity and identity.

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2003 Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology
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