Ainu People – Japan

The Ainu people are a group indigenous to Hokkaido, the nothernmost major island of Japan. Most people think of Japan as a monoethnic state, but about 150,000 Japanese citizens claim some degree of Ainu ancestry. The Ainu are morphologically dissimilar from most other Japanese people; they tend to be quite hairy (men never shave after a certain point in their lives) and have European looking features. Women tattoo their upper lips. Y-chromosome and mtDNA genetic testing has found that the Ainu are most closely related to New Guineans and Andaman Islanders. The Ainu languange, of which there are less than 1,000 speakers, is an isolate – not firmly related to any other language.
Ainu Folk

Ainu Folk

Hisotrically, the Ainu have been marginalized in their own lands, in much a similar way as Native Americans. In fact, the Japanese government officially recognized that the Ainu are an indigenous group in June of this year.

Thought the Ainu have lots of obstacles, that doesn’t exempt their flag from ridicule. Officially, the blue represents the sky, the white is snow and the red is an arrow. In truth, though, I think the white line is obviously a squid. The blue is the sea and the red shape is a harpoon. The flag secretly represents the Ainu tradition of calamari stabbing, which culminates with a major festival every August. Squid shish kebabs, squid waffles, squid yogurt, squid upside down cake, squid burgers and squid pizza. But because the Japanese are such advocates of the preservation of sea creatures, the Ainu have to hide the glory of their festival into their flag. Kind of like the Da Vinci Code.

Thanks to Robox for mentioning badflags and the Ainu flag on the Jeopardy Message Board!


6 responses to “Ainu People – Japan

  1. On a brighter note, this flag’s got MORE BLUE than RED! It’s made of WIN!! WIN!!

  2. I agree re the squid except to me the red looks like a jet of ink being squirted out.

  3. A Very Bored History Major

    I feel like there’s really no point in replying to something almost two years old, but your analysis of the Ainu flag isn’t quite right. The white doesn’t represent squid; it represents snow, which Hokkaido has plenty of, and which the Ainu have survived in for centuries, unaffected by Japanese assimilation policies.

    The red does represent an arrow, but also fire, as shown by the end of the arrow. The Fire Goddess was one of the most important of Ainu folklore; traditionally, Ainu houses were built with a hearth at the center of each. People strategically gathered around the hearth, with the head of the household in the most prominent seat, to eat, converse, etc. They also always kept a fire going in that hearth, which meant the Fire Goddess was always present and giving them her warmth. It also meant she saw and heard everything that went on in Ainu houses, and could report these things back to the other gods and goddesses, who could then serve the people if needed.

    I agree it’s not the most attractive design, but not because it’s a squid.

    • Thanks for the history lesson! My critique was pretty tongue-in-cheek/funny conjecture, so it’s nice to hear the real story.

  4. their religion handed down verbally says they came from the sky…………..

  5. Whatever, man.
    Personally, I think their flag is awesome. But to each his own.

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