Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan (Online Film Screening)

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August 9th, 2022 @ 5:59 pm - August 11th, 2022 @ 11:59 pm EDT

Cost: Free
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Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan アイヌ:ひと

Tuesday, August 9, 5:59PM – Thursday, August 11, 11:59PM (ET)

Directed by MIZOGUCHI Naomi 2019 Documentary 61 min. Presented in Japanese & Ainu with English subtitles Canadian Premiere

Online Film Screening (Canada only) Admission Free RSVP Required (register below to receive a viewing link on August 9) Trailer

Ainu means human in Ainu language. The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan. Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, was previously called Ainumosir, or land of the Ainu. Ainu traditions are facing a critical situation; the latest survey revealed that the Ainu population is less than 20,000 people in Hokkaido, and UNESCO has recognized the language as ‘critically endangered.’

Director MIZOGUCHI Naomi depicts the manifold attempts of the Ainu today to regain and pass on their cultural identity. This documentary was filmed in Biratori town in Hokkaido, where many people with Ainu roots still live. It is also known as the hometown of the late Shigeru Kayano, who contributed greatly to the field of research on Ainu culture.

In celebration of International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9.




The Fox of Shichigorosawa • 七五郎沢の狐

Directed by SUGIHARA Tune 2015 Animation 14 min. Presented in Ainu with English subtitles Trailer

Higashiyama, the home of the foxes, has become an illegal dumping ground. This results in the decrease of small animals, which the mother fox relied on as prey to feed her children. The fox comes down from the mountains in search of food to feed her children, and comes upon a human village. This story is told in the Ainu language.

The Fox of Shichigorosawa will play before the screening of Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan.

Director’s Statement:

I was born in Hyogo Prefecture on the main island of Honshu in Japan and  reached adulthood knowing almost nothing about the Ainu. After collaborating on a film with indigenous people in Colombia, Ecuador, and Nepal, I developed a strong desire to learn about the Ainu who live in my home country. 

In 2008, I visited the town of Biratori for the first time. At the time, I was searching  for ways in which indigenous people from around the world could meet and learn from  each other through video making. On my fifth visit to Biratori in 2015, a staff member at the local museum mentioned  that they wanted to document modern Ainu culture on video. This inspired me to make this film, Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan.

The four elders featured in the film were born before World War II, went through many difficulties, and survived many social changes. Now, even in their 80s, they all are proactive in various local activities and try to pass down Ainu culture to younger generations. I was certain that the stories and activities of these four individuals would  become invaluable video material not only of Ainu history but indeed, Japanese history as a whole. 

The existence of the Ainu people is virtually unknown not only around the world  but also in Japan. My biggest hope is that this documentary will increase the number of  people who become interested in the rich, sophisticated culture of the Ainu by learning  about their daily lives and the history of the four people featured in the film. 

In Collaboration with the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum:

The Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum opened in 1992 with the mission of accurately passing down Ainu culture and its history to future generations. The Museum houses more than 1,000 National Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties as well as other various traditional crafts. It also has a large collection of video materials, including yukar, or heroic epic poems. The Nibutani neighborhood that is home to the Museum is also host to the Shigeru Kayano Ainu Culture Museum and the Historical Museum of the Saru River. It is renowned as a rare place where there is an abundance of Ainu cultural study materials.

Related Programming:

Ainu Neno An Ainu • アイヌネノアンアイヌ

A cinematic family photo album of a remote village in Hokkaido, where the Ainu, the indigenous population of northern Japan, have kept their culture and language alive despite a history of Japanese colonization. Ainu Neno An Ainu is an interwoven set of stories narrated by Maya, a young Ainu college student whose goal is to revitalize the Ainu language and culture. In celebration of International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Online Film Screening 

Inuit Print Art and its Early Japanese Influences

In the mid-20th century, a series of fortunate events led to the introduction of Japanese printmaking techniques to the Inuit community of Cape Dorset. In this talk with Dr. Norman Vorano (Queens University), we will hear the story of how these ancient traditions of Japan made their way to the remote Canadian arctic, how Inuit artists built upon these traditions, and the ways in which Inuit printmaking continues to thrive today.

Watch Here

JF OverDrive: Ebooks about indigenous peoples of Japan

Deepen your understanding about the Ainu people and their culture by checking out ebooks on indigenous peoples of Japan before or after the film screening! Apply for a new library card or renew your expired card here.


August 9th, 2022 @ 5:59 pm
August 11th, 2022 @ 11:59 pm
Japanese and Ainu with English subtitles
Event Category:


The Japan Foundation, Toronto
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