Division of Japan’s Indigenous Peoples

A variety of peoples, each with their own histories and cultures, have lived on the Japanese Archipelago since before those who now make up the majority of the population. The Division of Japan's Indigenous Peoples studies the language, culture, history, or art of such indigenous peoples in Japan, from the perspective of where they have been living. At present, the Division is led by Hiroshi Nakagawa, who studies the Ainu language and literature, and art historian Shinobu Ikeda, who focuses on Ainu art, making the study of Ainu a focal point of this division. However, research is not limited to Hokkaido and Sakhalin, as the Division regards the whole of Japan as a multi-national and multi-cultural body.

Ainu from Nibutani invited to Chiba University to conduct group study meetings in the Ainu language (photo: Prof. Nakagawa)

An alter worshipping the Ainu kamuy (gods), at the Shakushain Museum in Shizunai, Hokkaido (photo: Prof. Nakagawa)

For over 20 years, Professor Nakagawa has been teaching the Ainu language to the Ainu themselves living around the capital. In fact, one of his former graduate students, now an Associate Professor at the Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies (an organization on the front line of research into Ainu culture), was born in Saitama prefecture and is the descent of Sakhalin Ainu.

Furthermore, with the various Ainu-related events held regularly in and around Tokyo--performances and exhibitions of Ainu music and art, meetings on Ainu rights, and activities to help preserve Ainu culture--the capital area should be recognized as a center of Ainu activity. With such close proximity to Tokyo, Chiba University's contributions in these areas is becoming of increasing importance.

As part of their research, Professor Nakagawa and his students from the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, are able to share the results of their studies on this web site--the archives of Ainu language, Japanese-Ainu dictionary with audio data, and materials for children learning Ainu.

Members and Staff

Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chiba University (Ainu Language and Folklore)
Shinobu IKEDA
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chiba University (History of Japanese Art and Visual Culture Studies)

Japanese-Ainu dictionary with audio data

These archives are open to the public, and they provide audio materials that serve as teaching aids to those learning Ainu. Anyone can search through these recordings and listen to these materials freely.


Materials for children learning Ainu

Here, we have developed materials for children to learn Ainu playing various games. Anyone can access the website, play and download the games from the Web.