Olympic Shotgun: Aiming at Tokyo Olympic boom, Japan builds ‘Ethnic Harmony’ honor to indigenous Ainu

On a wooded lakeshore in northern Japan, the government is building a modernist shrine that has divided the native Ainu community whose vanishing culture it was planned to celebrate. Olympic fans from all over the world are invited to book Olympic 2020 tickets from our online platforms for Olympic Tickets. Olympic Shotgun fans can book Olympic Shotgun Tickets from our ticketing marketplace exclusively on discounted prices.

At a cost so far of $220 million, Japan’s “Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony” is on track to open in time for the Tokyo Olympic, part of a drive-by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to draw millions of foreign visitors to Japan and to the northern city of Sapporo, where the Olympic 2020 Games marathon will be run.

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The complex will consist of a museum, a replica of an Ainu village, many of which Japan ruined in its 19th Century colonization of Hokkaido, and a memorial housing the bones of hundreds of Ainu whose ruins were sent to campuses in the 20th Century.

For some surviving Ainu, whose precise numbers are unknown, the project underscores how Japan has failed to come to terms with its history even with more than a decade of negotiation on how Tokyo could meet its commitments to an indigenous group it officially familiar in 2008.

 “I think it is likely it could end up becoming a theme park,” said Ainu tattoo artist Mai Hachiya. People would come to see the dancing and other performances. It would be like a zoo.

They hunted, fished, experienced an animist religion and spoke a language distinct to any other. Japan took switch of Hokkaido by the power in the 19th Century and made it a colony. After opening it to Japanese pilgrims, it forced the Ainu, which is labeled “former aborigines,” to adjust.

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The actual number is projected to be much higher because many Ainu fears to recognize as other than Japanese and have moved to different parts of the country. Ainu children are half as likely to go to college as other Japanese and normal household earnings are suggestively lower, official data show.

Society was not accepting of the Ainu, and it still is not,” said Mai Ishihara, an anthropologist at Hokkaido University. There are still many people who keep their Ainu individuality secret from their children. Ishihara exposed at age 12 that her maternal grandmother was Ainu. She describes people separate from their roots as “silent Ainu.”

In 2009, after signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Japan’s government began bearing in mind how to start a new policy for the Ainu. Early suggestions zeroed in rapidly on the creation of the government-funded “Symbolic Space” now taking shape on the shore of Lake Poroto near the town of Shiraoi in Hokkaido.

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In deliberations that decided in early 2018, Ainu councils asked for legal rights to state-owned land, more funding for teaching Ainu culture and language and an apology from Japan’s government. He told that an apology would be uncomfortable for many Japanese, as well as an insult to the Japanese pilgrims who built modern Hokkaido.

“We cannot do something if it is not achievable,” said Hiroshi Koyama, the official in charge of Japan’s Complete Ainu Policy Office.

“It would attention people’s courtesy on the bad things that happened and not the future. It would have been nice if the government had given us a place where we could carry out our traditional rites,” said Monbetsu, who burns birch shavings in prayer to the Ainu gods before stalking deer with a shotgun.

A group on behalf of about 2,000 Ainu supports Abe’s project, arguing it will deliver economic benefits from tourism and a forum focusing on Ainu culture and arts.  At a former school a short drive from the museum structure site, curators are formulating exhibits. Traditional Ainu coats hang in wild classrooms with knives, ceremonial sticks and heavy beaded necklaces laid out on tables. In the gymnasium, the dancer’s rehearsal next to stuffed bears and Ainu handicrafts.

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A draft brochure labels Ainu hunter-gatherer culture as “on the verge of extinction.” It makes no situation to Japanese policies that forced Ainu to accept Japanese names, speak Japanese and outlawed performances such as a traditional form of tattooing Hachiya is trying to revive.

Hachiya, 36, who is also a singer, has been asked to practice a routine with other Ainu players that may be included in the Olympic 2020 Games opening ceremony in Tokyo. That’s a hard thing to say, but if you look back on what was done, that’s what you have to conclude.

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