Ainu people

Ainu at a traditional marriage ceremony in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido Ainu clan leader.
Ainu leader
Historical homeland and distribution of the Ainu people.
1843 illustration of Ainu
Photograph of Tatsujiro Kuzuno, a famous Ainu individual.
Sakhalin Ainu in 1904
A picture of Imekanu, right, with her niece Yukie Chiri, famous Ainu Japanese transcriber and translator of Ainu epic tales. (1922)
Three Ainu from Hokkaidō in traditional dress
Ainu man performing a traditional dance
An Ainu from Shiraoi, Hokkaido, c. 1930
"Ainu men" Department of Anthropology, Japanese exposition, 1904 World's Fair.
Map of pre-1945 distribution of Ainu languages and dialects
Woman playing a tonkori
Ainu ceremonial dress, British Museum
Ainu woman with mouth tattoos and live bear.
Bear hunting, 19th century
Ainu people, c. 1840
An Ainu woman from Hokkaido, c. 1930
Ainu house in Hokkaido
Ainu traditional house. Ainu: "cise".
A traditional Ainu marriage ceremony
Chishima Ainu working
Painting of the Ainu iyomante, bear spirit sending ceremony in Hokkaido (1875)
Ainu traditional ceremony, c. 1930
National Ainu Museum interior
Ainu cultural promotion centre and museum, in Sapporo (Sapporo Pirka Kotan)
The Oki Dub Ainu Band, led by the Ainu Japanese musician Oki, in Germany in 2007
Ainu people in front of a traditional building in Shiraoi, Hokkaido.
Karafuto (Sakhalin) Ainu family behind their house in 1912.
Historical extent of the Ainu
Ainu houses (from Popular Science Monthly Volume 33, 1888).
Plan of an Ainu house.
The family would gather around the fireplace.
Interior of the house of Ainu - Saru River basin.

The Ainu are the indigenous people of the lands surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk, including Hokkaido Island, Northeast Honshu Island, Sakhalin Island, the Kuril Islands, the Kamchatka Peninsula and Khabarovsk Krai, before the arrival of the Yamato Japanese and Russians.

- Ainu people

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Kuril Islands

The Kuril Islands or Kurile Islands (Japanese: "Kuril Islands" (クリル列島) or "Thousand Islands" (千島列島)) are a volcanic archipelago part of Sakhalin Oblast in the Russian Far East.

Composite map of the islands between Kamchatka Peninsula and Nemuro Peninsula, combining twelve US Army Map Service maps compiled in the early 1950s
Caldera of the island Ushishir
Stratovolcano Mt. Ruruy; view from Yuzhno-Kurilsk
Kuril Ainu people next to their traditional dwelling.
A map of Kuril Islands from Gisuke Sasamori's 1893 book Chishima Tanken
Historical extent of the Ainu
Shana Village in Etorofu (Shōwa period): a village hospital in the foreground, a factory in the left background with a fishery and a central radio tower (before 1945).
Main village in Shikotan
Russian Orthodox church, Kunashir
Yuzhno-Kurilsk, Kunashir
Severo-Kurilsk, Paramushir
A view of the volcano Bogdan Khmelnitsky on Iturup Island
Mendeleyeva in the southern part of Kunashir
Yuzhno-Kurilsky District
Ebeko volcano, Paramushir
White Rocks, Iturup

The name Kuril originates from the autonym of the aboriginal Ainu, the islands' original inhabitants: kur, meaning 'man'.

Yamato people

Applied to the Imperial House of Japan or "Yamato Court" that existed in Japan in the 4th century; further, it was originally the name of the region where the Yamato people first settled in Yamato Province (modern-day Nara Prefecture).

Yamato-no-Takeru, prince of the Yamato dynasty.
Proposed population migration routes into Japan, based on haplogroups.
Migration routes into Japan during the Jōmon period.

The term came to be used around the late 19th century to distinguish the settlers of mainland Japan from minority ethnic groups inhabiting the peripheral areas of the then Japanese Empire, including the Ainu, Emishi, Ryukyuans, Nivkh, Oroks, as well as Austronesians, Chinese, Koreans, and Micronesian peoples who were incorporated into the Empire of Japan in the early 20th century.

Sea of Okhotsk

Marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean.

Sea of Okhotsk full map
Sea of Okhotsk seasons winter and summer
Most of the Sea of Okhotsk, with the exception of the Sakhalin Island, had been well mapped by 1792
Nagayevo Bay near Magadan, Russia
Shiretoko National Park on the Sea of Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido, Japan

The Okhotsk people and the later Ainu culture, a coastal fishing and hunter-gatherer people, were located around the lands surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as in northern Japan.


Japanese term historically used to refer to the lands to the north of the Japanese island of Honshu.

Map of the "Land of Iesso" by French cartographer Alain Manesson Mallet (1683)

The same two kanji used to write the word "Ezo", which literally mean "shrimp barbarians" in Chinese, can also be read in the Japanese language as "Emishi", the name given to the indigenous people of these lands, the descendants of whom are most likely related to the Ainu people.

Ainu language

Pirka Kotan Museum, an Ainu language and cultural center in Sapporo (Jozankei area)

Ainu (アイヌ・イタㇰ, ) or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.


Second largest island of Japan and comprises the largest and northernmost prefecture.

Former Hokkaidō Government Office in Chūō-ku, Sapporo
Palace reception near Hakodate in 1751. Ainu bringing gifts (cf. omusha)
The samurai and the Ainu, c. 1775
Matsumae Takahiro, a Matsumae lord of the late Edo period (December 10, 1829 – June 9, 1866)
The Ainu, Hokkaidō's indigenous people
Map of Hokkaido showing the subprefectures and the primary cities
Map of Hokkaido as seen by municipalities
Satellite image of Hokkaidō in winter
Hokkaido in winter and summer
Sapporo, Hokkaidō's largest city.
Large farm of Tokachi plain
Farm Tomita in Nakafurano
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the Hokkaido Shinkansen
Hollow Dogū, the only National Treasure on the island (Hakodate Jōmon Culture Center)
Sapporo Dome in Sapporo.
Geofeatures map of Hokkaido
Hokkaido seen from the International Space Station
Satellite image of Hokkaido
The Oyashio Current colliding with the Kuroshio Current off the coast of Hokkaido. When two currents collide, they create eddies. Phytoplankton growing in the surface waters become concentrated along the boundaries of these eddies, tracing out the motions of the water.
Overview of Kushiro Wetland
Lake Akan and Mount Meakan
View of Lake Mashū
Lake Shikotsu
Sōunkyō, a gorge in the Daisetsu-zan Volcanic Area
Sapporo City

Although there were Japanese settlers who ruled the southern tip of the island since the 16th century, Hokkaido was considered foreign territory that was inhabited by the indigenous people of the island, known as the Ainu people.

Tōhoku region

The Tōhoku region (東北地方), Northeast region, or Northeast Japan (東北日本) consists of the northeastern portion of Honshu, the largest island of Japan.

Northern Fujiwara
Statue of Date Masamune in Aobayama Park, Sendai
Cast iron teapots like this one sit atop stoves during the long winters in Tōhoku.
Aizuwakamatsu Castle after the Battle of Aizu, 1868 photograph.
The Tōhoku region and Hokkaido seen from space
Geofeatures map of Tohoku
Mount Iwate dominates the city of Morioka
Rice paddies in Aizu in early summer
Tadami River and Tadami Line in autumn
Snow monsters on Mount Zaō
Satellite image of Tōhoku region
Oirase River in Aomori Prefecture
Aizuwakamatsu Castle in spring
Mount Haguro
Ginzan Onsen
Akita Kantō Festival

In mythological times, the area was known as Azuma (吾妻, あづま) and corresponded to the area of Honshu occupied by the native Emishi and Ainu.

Japanese people

Ethnic group that is native to the Japanese archipelago and modern country of Japan, where they constitute 98.1% of the country’s population.

Shakōki-dogū (遮光器土偶) (1000–400 BC), "goggle-eyed type" figurine. Tokyo National Museum.
Genetic structure of present-day and ancient Eurasian and Ikawazu Jomon.
Location of Imperial Japan
A Shinto festival in Miki, Hyogo
Hindu God Ganesha in a Buddhist Shrine in Japan
Bisque doll of Momotarō,
a character from Japanese literature and folklore
The print Red Fuji from Katsushika Hokusai's series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji
The Japantown Peace Plaza during the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

Later, Philipp Franz von Siebold argued that the Ainu people were indigenous to northern Japan.

Matsumae clan

Palace reception near Hakodate in 1751. Ainu bringing gifts.
Cropped and enlarged segment of "Deputy of the Prince of Matsmay" (image at left). The detail of the Matsumae clan mon on the clothing of the standing figure in background looks like four diamond-shapes turned sideways.
This 1856 print is entitled "Deputy of the Prince of Matsmay." This artist's impression of four samurai was among the images that were published after the Perry Expedition "opened the door" to Japan.
Matsumae Takahiro, a Matsumae lord of the late Edo period.

The Matsumae clan (松前氏) was a Japanese clan that was confirmed in the possession of the area around Matsumae, Hokkaidō as a march fief in 1590 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and charged with defending it, and by extension the whole of Japan, from the Ainu "barbarians" of the north.

Karafuto Prefecture

Prefecture of Japan located in Sakhalin from 1907 to 1949.

Green: Karafuto Prefecture within Japan in 1942
Light green: Other constituents of the Empire of Japan
Map of Sakhalin with parallels showing the division at the 50th parallel north with the Karafuto Prefecture highlighted in red
Green: Karafuto Prefecture within Japan in 1942
Light green: Other constituents of the Empire of Japan
The Karafuto Prefectural Office in Toyohara
A Japanese soldier at the border between the Karafuto Prefecture and Soviet Sakhalin
This Japanese D51 steam locomotive stands outside the present day Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Railway Station, Sakhalin Oblast, Russia. They were used by the Soviet Railways until 1979.
Karafuto Prefecture with 4 subprefectures, namely Toyohara, Maoka, Esutoru and Shikuka . Toyohara City was also a part of Toyohara Subprefecture.

Most were of Japanese or Korean extraction, though there was also a small White Russian community as well as some Ainu indigenous tribes.