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Thread: Comparing Ainu and Japanese people and customs

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Comparing Ainu and Japanese people and customs

    This is a comparson based on Isabella L. Bird's observations in her book Unbeaten Track in Japan.

    Physical charcteristics

    The Ainu :

    - are very hairy, have soft black hair and whiter skin than the Japanese
    - more heavily built than the Japanese
    - have high foreheads, low cheeckbones and rounded skulls
    - have deep-set eyes with double eyelids like European, light brown eyes, long eye-lashes and bushy eyebrows
    - wide mouths and small, regularly shaped teeths
    - straight and short noses with broad nostrils
    - are more resistant to alcohol than the Japanese
    - Ainu women are bustier than Japanese ones


    Character and moral

    The Ainu :

    - very pudic (won7t change clothes in front of other people and won't go naked to a public bath)
    - women display strong conjugal fidelity
    - not very curious (about other ethnicities, cultures, technologies or ways of life)
    - not commercal minded at all (don't try to sell and won't accept more money than what they think something is worth)
    - very affectionate towards children
    - like the Japanese, they are very kind and hospitable


    Customs and Lifestyle

    The Ainu :

    - Ainu houses are bigger and better builtthan the Japanese ones. They have windows and whole in the roofs to let the smoke out.
    - The Ainu all wear tattoos. Women get tattoed progressively from the age of 5 and cannot get married without decent tattoos around their mouths and and their arms and hands.
    - The Ainu are mostly fishermen and hunter-gatherers who grow some millet. They eat a lot of fish as well as venison and, on special occasions, bear meat. They eat a lot of wild plants, herbs, seaweed and mushrooms.
    - The Ainu are animists. Their religion is very similar to Shintoism, seeing divinities everywhere in nature and lacking a dogma or central authority. Even their word for god/deity, Kamoi, resembles closely the Japanese Kami.The main differnce is that the Ainu don't build shrines and have no priests. Ainu "religion" can be seen as a primitive form of Shintoism, probably unchanged since Jomon times.
    - The Ainu do not work metals and only hunt with (poisoned) arrows made of wood and bone.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Jun 28, 2010 at 00:03.

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  2. #2
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    How much of the Japanese genes and culture comes from the aboriginal Jomon people ?

    The Japanese are typical hybrid people. Genetics confirmed that the proportion of Sino-Korean (Yayoi) lineages is roughly equivalent to the native Jomon lineages. Yayoi lineages are most common in Kyushu and Chugoku (about 2/3 of lineages) and least in Tohoku and Hokkaido (about 1/3), and vice-versa for Jomon ones. Sino-Korean lineages are slightly prevalent due to the higher density of population in Western Japan than in the north. At equal density it would be very close to 50-50.

    What is fascinating is that the native Jomon religion, Shintoism, has managed to survived in almost exactly the same proportion as the genes. Roughly half of the Japanese call themselves Shintoists, against half who are traditionally Buddhist (of the Mahayana variant imported from China, infused by Taoist beliefs and Confucian precepts).

    In the reality all Japanese follow some aspects of both Shintoism and Buddhism. The two religious "packages" have merged to a certain extend, just like genes, though a South-West to North-East gradient can still be observed for both. Buddhism are the least followers in northern Japan, which, as Isabella Bird pointed out rightly, was always more Shintoist by tradition. Buddhism was more of a religion for the elite and the educated, and as such is obviously strongest in the traditional centre of power in Kansai. But even rural Shikoku is much more infused with Buddhism, thanks to the active proselytism of monks like Kobo Daishi, who is said to have founded 88 temples on the craggy island.

    When tourists think of what distinguishes Japan from China, one of the first thing that springs to mind is sushi. The Jomon people were primarily fishermen, just like the Ainu, and ate both raw and cooked fish. The tradition of sashimi goes back to the Jomon natives, and the Yayoi rice farmers from the continent added the rice ball to make sushi from sashimi. Sushi can therefore be seen as the perfect example of Japanese hybridism.

    Japanese language is a perfect hybrid too. Its vocabulary is roughly half Jomon half Chinese, and most words have preserved both pronunciations (kun and on). Although Japanese grammar is typically Jomon (very close to that of modern Ainu, despite a lapse of 2000 years since the mainstream Jomon were absorbed by the Yayoi), the script is Chinese (kanji) or derived from Chinese (kana).

    Japanese place names are another example of hybridism. While the capital, garden and temple names follow the Chinese naming tradition, almost all cities, towns and villages are named using the Jomon kun pronunciation and use basic, repetitive topographic features like river, mountain, forest or rice field, while the Chinese tend to be much more imaginative. Besides using more topographic terms, they use names of elements or Feng Shui terms (天, 風, 雷, 地), government-related terms (庁, 州, 官), and adjectives of good fortune (福, 宝, 徳, 金, 安, 英, 満) much more profusely than the Japanese. Place named after rivers or streams (川 "kawa") are exceedingly common in Japan, far more than in China. It is interesting to see that Ainu place names also abound with them (-bestu and -nai are the Ainu equivalents of the Japanese -kawa). When they do name places after a river, the Chinese usually use the characters 河 or 江 instead of the ubiquitous Japanese 川.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Jun 27, 2010 at 22:03.

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