Ainu Life and Legend

This is a 1941 book with an editorial note by the Board of Tourist Industry, Japanese Government Railways.

The Table of Contents.

The three kinds of Ainu. Note; the red marking was done by someone else.

A chief and his wife. Note the long beard on the, common to the Ainu but not to the Japanese. The women also have a tattoo around their mouth.

The people that became the later Japanese, referred to as the Yamato, eventually warred with the Ainu and defeated them. The author notes that many Ainu eventually assimilated into the Yamato race, so much so that no one knows where the first villages of the Ainu were.

The author's remark on the hairiness of the Ainu. He then goes on to talk about how the Ainu are possibly of the Caucasian race, at least according to thinking of the time. He says that they are basically Stone Age people, and how the chieftain is determined.

He then moves on to talk about their houses, and how Ainu houses are basically the same as regular Japanese houses, at least on the inside. He then goes into a description of the older style of the Ainu houses.

An explanation of what these 'treasures' are.

The next topic is clothing. The author notes that the Ainu now wear typical Japanese clothing. There are some differences in what materials are used to make some of the types of clothing, however.

A chieftain's outfit.

More clothing.

Men wear loincloths like Japanese fishermen, but the women's clothing has a special importance.

The next topic is food. The main food for the Ainu is fish. The Ainu had divided the year into summer and winter. Summer food was mainly fish; winter food was smoked fish, dear, bear and other animals such as seals.

One of the things the Ainu consider that the gods like best is sake and they will offer some to the gods if they have any.

Ainu ceremonies are the next section the book deals with.

Youth ceremonies.

There was a variety of ways to get married.

A wedding ceremony. The author points out an older tradition.

Funeral ceremony.

The burial customs.

The widow has a somewhat rough post-death set of things she's supposed to do.

The burial.

Religious celebration is the next topic, the author pointing out that the Ainu have neither temples nor shrines.

They have a somewhat different view of gods than most other religions.

Each house has its own chipa, though, for worshiping the gods.

It would be interesting to know if this was the traditional belief of the Ainu, or if it was an import from the Japanese since it seems the Ainu have pretty much the same view of kami as do the Japanese.

The bear ceremony, most pictures of which I've left out since they involve killing the bear. The author points out a good question. If the bears are gods, then why kill them?

His answer. This ceremony can even involve catching a baby bear, raising it for a couple of years, and then killing it.

Ainu mythology is next, starting with the creation of life on Earth.

The Ainu also have some very long traditional poems, one about a young hero. Since the Ainu have no written language, transmission of the poems and other things are done verbally and by memory. This has, of course, its own problems, since, when older people die out, these memories and poems might be lost to time.

The author then describes the Ainu verbal language.

Summer is considered the women's season, and winter the men's season.

As in some other cultures there is polygamy.

In addition, women are thought to be 'unclean' and they cannot speak or pray directly to the gods. On the other hand, shamans are supposed to be women (which doesn't make any sense; a shaman that never deals with the gods). Actually, every woman is thought to be a potential witch. The women also have a role in the passing down of oral stories.

The photo shows just how primitive tilling the ground is.

Another activity of the women.

A woman picking flowers.


The author talks about tourism in relationship to the Ainu, and how their present villages don't resemble at all their original villages. Most Ainu villages do not welcome tourists.

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