Speaking Of Asia: Japan discovers its Ainu

Many reasons behind Tokyo's move to recognise long-neglected indigenous community

On the east side of Lake Poroto on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, work is moving apace on a national centre for revitalising the culture of the Ainu, now officially recognised as indigenous people by the government in Tokyo.

When it opens just before next year's Olympics, the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, also known as Upopoi - or "singing with the crowd" in Ainu language - will encompass a national museum of the Ainu, a memorial facility looking out on the Pacific Ocean, and a national park.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Japan discovers its Ainu'. Print Edition | Subscribe