The two Indigenous Peoples of Japan, the Ainu and the Okinawans, live on the northernmost and southernmost islands of the country’s archipelago. The Ainu territory stretches from Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands (now both Russian territories) to the northern part of present-day Japan, including the entire island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido was unilaterally incorporated into the Japanese state in 1869.
Okinawans or Ryūkyūans are the indigenous peoples of the Ryūkyū Islands, which make up the current Okinawa prefecture in Japan. The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan.
The Japanese government has adopted the UNDRIP, although it does not recognize the unconditional right to self-determination and has not ratified ILO Convention 169.
Indigenous peoples in Japan
Okinawans, or Ryūkyūans, live in the Ryūkyū Islands, which make up the current Okinawa prefecture in Japan. They comprise several groups of indigenous languages with different cultural features. Although there has been some migration of ethnic Japanese to the islands, the population is largely indigenous Ryūkyūans.
The island is home to 1.1 million of the 1.4 million inhabitants of Okinawa who live throughout Ryūkyūs. The Japanese government does not recognize the inhabitants of Okinawa as indigenous.
Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of Japan
One of the main and lasting challenges for the inhabitants of Okinawa is their struggle for land. For the past 21 years, an ongoing campaign has attempted to close the dangerous and ageing Futenma Air Station, which the US and Japanese governments linked to the construction of a new US military complex in the rural bays Henoko and Oura of Okinawa.
In 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and President Trump reaffirmed their commitment to the Henoko-Oura project, with their development, set the stage for construction that will begin in April 2017. However, surveys consistently show that most of the Okinawans oppose the Henoko-Oura project.
The new base would be the first major facility built in Okinawa in 60 years, but for the people of Okinawa it presages a future that looks too much like the present and the past. The effects of the US military presence UU
They are always a concern for the inhabitants of Okinawa, but they became a special focus of anger and protest in 2017 due to the frequency of serious incidents, such as a window of an aeroplane falling on a school sports field, in addition to the effects on health. caused by military activities.
Crime is another challenge in the lives of the inhabitants of Okinawa, which increases the feeling of insecurity. In April 2017, an Okinawan woman died after being raped and stabbed by a former US military officer. Later that year, a soldier of the Marine Corps hit and killed an Okinawan man while driving drunk.
However, the statistics published at the end of 2017 revealed that the processing rate of people related to the US military. UU It was less than half that of Japanese citizens.
Possible progress for indigenous peoples in Japan
The Japanese government began to consider the implementation of a "New Ainu Law" in May 2016 to support the sustenance of the Ainu. In 2017, it was reported that the government would aim to implement the new law by 2020 and that the law would probably stipulate the Ainu as indigenous peoples for the first time in history.
In preparation for the new law, the government announced that it would conduct a national survey during the fiscal year 2017 on the living conditions of the Ainu. The survey will include closed audiences both inside and outside of Hokkaido, with the aim of covering those of Ainu descent who did not want to openly reveal their heritage.