Japan's Ainu Minority in Tokyo
Diasporic Indigeneity and Urban Politics
Routledge – 2014 – 190 pages
This book is about the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, living in and around Tokyo; it is, therefore, about what has been pushed to the margins of history. Customarily, anthropologists and public officials have represented Ainu issues and political affairs as limited to rural pockets of Hokkaido. Today, however, a significant proportion of the Ainu people live in and around major cities on the main island of Honshu, particularly Tokyo. Based on extensive original ethnographic research, this book explores this largely unknown diasporic aspect of Ainu life and society. Drawing from debates on place-based rights and urban indigeneity in the twenty-first century, the book engages with the experiences and collective struggles of Tokyo Ainu in seeking to promote a better understanding of their cultural and political identity and sense of community in the city. Looking in-depth for the first time at the urban context of ritual performance, cultural transmission and the construction of places or ‘hubs’ of Ainu social activity, this book argues that recent government initiatives aimed at fostering a national Ainu policy will ultimately founder unless its architects are able to fully recognize the historical and social complexities of the urban Ainu experience.
'This is an important and timely contribution. Only as recently as 2009 the Japanese government for the first time recognized Ainu Indigeneity for those residing outside of Hokkaido. It is a story with much more to follow and this book provides an original perspective from which to understand the shared human and historical experiences that are likely to direct urban Indigenous policy and lives in Japan and beyond.' – Pamela J. Asquith, University of Alberta, Canada
'Watson … offer(s) perspectives that have been lacking in the literature on diversity in Japan.' - Robert Moorehead, Ritsumeikan University, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review
1. Introduction: Ainu in Tokyo 2. Diasporic Indigeneity: Place, Experience and Translocalism 3. How Far South is North? Questioning the Regionalization of Ainu Life 4. Cosmopolitan Tokyo Ainu History 5. Rera Cise: A Home in the City 6. Ritual as Moral Practice: The Icharpa and Ainu Ceremonies in Tokyo 7. Making Ainu Citizens: The Politics of the CPA and Everyday Life 8. Conclusion: Tokyo Ainu and Urban Indigenous Studies 9. Epilogue: The End of a Paradigm? 2008 and Beyond
Mark Watson is an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.