Ainu to Receive Grants for Cultural Promotion

Ainu to Receive Grants for Cultural Promotion

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Ainu totem pole
Japan's native Ainu residents will receive financial support from the government for the first time - a move that has some right-wing groups up in arms.

Earlier this year I penned an essay in response to the Ainu recognition bill and its inherent problems. That bill, the Ainu Promotion Law (アイヌ施策推進法; Ainu shisaku suishin-hō), went into effect in May. While Japan’s native residents have yet to receive their indigenous rights, it seems the government is sticking true to their word to portion out funds.

On September 30, the government announced it had distributed a total of 660 million yen in grant funds to 13 municipalities in Hokkaido and Mie prefectures. 470 million yen would be devoted to tourism promotion to museums and cultural events. This is the first time a large sum of money has been set aside specifically for native cultural preservation.
(JP) Link: Cabinet Office Gives Grant of 660 Million Yen for Ainu Culture

How Will The Money Benefit the Ainu?

One of the projects this grant will cover is the digitization of traditional music. On the tourism end, Sapporo will launch efforts to establish an Ainu presence at its world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival. And a national museum, the first of its kind, will have its grand opening on April 2020, months ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Local officials and tribal representatives will also benefit from the grants. The representative director of the Akan Ainu Crafts Association (阿寒アイヌ工芸協同組合; Akan Ainu kōgei kyōdō kumiai) said:


“This is the first time we’ve received a large amount of money. If we’re able to use this to introduce our culture to people, I think the number of visitors will also increase. I’m looking forward to that day.”

However, mismanagement of funds is a growing concern. The local governments could use the funds for public relations and other tourism promotions instead of cultural preservation. There’s also the glaring absence of funds for establishing language classes.

Dappi on Twitter

【小野寺まさるさんが語るアイヌ利権の一例】 ・昔と違うアイヌ舞踏に補助金 ・レーザー彫刻機で作った民芸品を役所等に高額販売や貸付 ・60歳過ぎたアイヌ協会理事がアイヌ修学資金制度を利用し1200万入手 ・講師を頼まれた人がいないアイヌ語授業の金がなくなる これが問題視されてないのがおかしい

Twitter user @dappi2019 breaks down a TV commentary on the specifics of the Ainu grants, which includes subsidies for Ainu dance performances.

Unfortunately, hate and misunderstanding towards Japan’s native residents still abounds today. News of the large grant may only provoke people to lash out. The new law is already the target for conservative groups. On September 21, the Shiroishi City Center in Sapporo attempted and failed to cancel a series of lectures on Ainu policy and identity for hate speech reasons. With such prejudice flourishing, it seems only inevitable that someone will divert funds away from cultural preservation. We’ll keep tabs on this and hope that the Ainu benefit greatly from these funds.

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Alyssa Pearl Fusek

Alyssa Pearl Fusek is a freelance writer currently haunting the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.A. in Japanese Studies from Willamette University. When she's not writing for Unseen Japan, she's either reading about Japan, writing poetry and fiction, or drinking copious amounts of jasmine green tea. Find her on Bluesky at @apearlwrites.

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