Tuesday, 21. August 2007
Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People
| Ainu means "human" - Ainu means "us"; the Ainu of northern Japan call themselves by a name that asserts their identity. |
An intensely spiritual culture, the Ainu believe that living and non-living things are kamuy (gods visiting the earthly world).
Their culture has roots stretching back more than ten thousand years. Recent DNA research shows that they are descended from the ancient Jomon people of Japan.
Physically, the Ainu differed from Japanese and other nearby Asian peoples in language and especially in appearance; their eyes were deep-set, their bodies muscular and hairy.
Over the centuries, the Ainu have maintained their sense of what being Ainu means through beautiful craftsmanship, a rich oral tradition, and complex rituals.
Ainu culture has a rich oral tradition, complex religious views, beautiful art, and rituals intimately related to nature and the natural resources that sustained them.
To the Ainu, everything in the natural world represents a god or spirit that leaves the land of gods and takes on a physical form to visit the land of the Ainu. Fire, mountains, valleys, the ocean, animals, plants, even tools and clothing the Ainu make and use, all are kamuy (gods).
This exhibit is the first to celebrate both the contemporary expression of Ainu ethnicity and the experiences of the Ainu past.
Spirit of a Northern People
This interactive online exhibition by Smithsonian, The National Museum of Natural History, is a MUST. Don't miss the videoclips!
See also: Origins of the Ainu | Ainu Legends | Find Your Way
by NOVA online.