HIEA 112 — Medium Post #1

Put yourself in the shoes of an Ainu person who lived through the extension of the boundaries of the old Tokugawa regime to include your ancestral homelands. How might your life change on an everyday level? How might you respond, either individually or collectively to this imposition of colonial rule over you?

Japan’s plan of westernization was enough of a challenge for its own civilized country — if compared to its neighboring countries. Therefore, the fact that Japan still attempted to expand their land by colonizing other areas with their own distinctive traditions and cultures, and westernizing them at the same time, was an extremely difficult process. There were two parts to the process: introducing Japanese culture to the new colonized land, and their final goal of westernization. With the case of Ainu community living in Hokkaido, these two parts of the process seemed to be rushed and mingled altogether. Japan government quickly set up new policy regarding language and cultural practices, in order to get Ainu people to be adapted to Japanese culture as soon as possible. The most manipulative strategy was the recognization and acceptance of Ainu people as Japanese citizens. This meant that they were no longer considered Ainu natives. Hence, it was unquestionable of them that they were forced to learn Japanese and practice Japanese culture. The degradation towards the Ainu’s cultural practices, especially language — with the fact that they did not have their own writing system — was the main excuse for Japan to justify these changes. In the document The “Nature” of Japanese Colonialism in Hokkaido by Michele M.Mason, the detailed new policy was described as, “As early as 1871 the Hokkaido Development Agency announced policies proscribing common Ainu customs, such as tattooing, wearing earrings, and burning the residences of the dead even as he officials […] In terms of basic survival, the intermittent laws that forbade spring-bow traps and poisoned arrows or fishing in certain regions during the Meji era […] delivered a crushing blow to Ainu subsistence” (Mason 41). This policy completely disposed of the Ainu traditions, as well as bringing new techniques and innovations to people’ social lives, in order to modernize the land. These immediate changes would be difficult to get used to, as language barrier got in the way. If I were an Ainu person, I would definitely favor the new survival techniques that were brought to us, if they could ease and enhance our living condition. Nevertheless, I would not be able to get rid of my cultural practices in a day or two. Learning a new language is a challenge to somebody who had never been exposed to writing. Given up the clothes and accessories that I had been wearing since I was a little is not easy. Being treated as the inferior by the people who took my own land is not something I would be able to forgive as quickly.

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