November 2, 2011

Ainu and Politics

 The recent announcement by Shiro Kayano (see link below) to establish an Ainu political organization to participate in the 2013 House of Councilors election is an interesting development.

(Article: "Ainu people to set up political group, seek upper house seats in 2013") 

As stated in the article, Shiro Kayano is the son of the late Shigeru Kayano, the first and only Ainu to sit in the Japanese Diet and a major figure in the preservation of Ainu language and culture.

Compared to other indigenous peoples, the Ainu do not have a very significant record of success in entering Japanese politics. Kayano served in the Diet from 1994 to 1998, and his efforts helped spur the passage of the Law for the Promotion of the Ainu Culture and for the Dissemination and Advocacy for the Traditions of the Ainu and the Ainu Culture in 1997. He ran but failed to capture a proportional representation seat in the 1992 Upper House elections under the Japan Socialist Party (now defunct) banner. When a vacancy occurred in 1994, he was awarded the seat as the runner-up. When the JSP split into the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party in 1996, he joined the former, and served out the rest of his term until 1998.

Other than Shigeru Kayano however, no other Ainu politicians have been elected to national office. In 1977, Tokuhei Narita (now Tokuhei Akibe) ran for an Upper House seat under the banner of the “Ainu Political Participation Association,” and later as an independent for the Hokkaido 5th district in the 1993 Lower House elections. He was unsuccessful in both cases. Kaori Tahara ran for a proportional seat (Hokkaido bloc) in the 2005 Upper House election as deputy head of the Hokkaido-based New Party Daichi (New Party Big Earth). She ran again in the 2007 Upper House election, this time for the Hokkaido prefectural district and with backing from New Party Daichi, DPJ, and the People’s New Party. She too, was unsuccessful in both cases.

Interestingly enough, two Executive Directors of the Hokkaido Ainu Association have served as city/town councilors – Giichi Normura in Shiraoi as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party prior to his tenure as Executive Director and Jiro Sasamura in Obihiro as an independent following his tenure as Executive Director (Jiro Sasamura was pressured to resign as Executive Director following what was seen as an insufficient response to statements that “Japan is a homogenous nation” by LDP politicians including Muneo Suzuki, who would later head New Party Daichi. Sasamura himself would run unsuccessfully for a second term in Obihiro under the New Party Daichi banner. That’s politics for ya!).

It will be interesting to see who Shiro Kayano (currently involved with the World Indigenous Peoples Network AINU) will be fielding as candidates in the election, and whether they will see any success.

UPDATE: It is also interesting to see some of the reactions to this news on the internet - there are quite a few people speculating whether it is a plot by the CIA/US military or the Russians to break up Japan, or that the zainichi Koreans or Burakumin are behind the effort as a power grab. Is Japan really that adverse to having an indigenous people try to claim its proper rights?


  1. Us at tenthousandthings are very hopeful for the party! Please don't let the naysayers get you down :)

    We wrote up a post on the announcement below. Read and provide your feedback if you like!

  2. Thanks for the comment, and also for providing the details from the symposium!

  3. Mainichi Shimbun has taken the article down, you can read the news at a different source here:

  4. The Ainu Party has launched a website: