Ainu Landowners’ Struggle for Justice and the Illegitimacy of the Nibutani Dam Project in Hokkaido Japan

In: International Community Law Review
Hiroshi Maruyama Muroran Institute of Technology Hokkaido Japan

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In 2008 the Ainu were officially recognized as an indigenous people by the Japanese Government. The recognition arose from the 1997 court’s decision on the Nibutani Dam case which concluded, for the first time in Japanese history, that the Ainu people have the right to enjoy their own culture and that they fit the definition of indigenous people. The plaintiffs were Ainu landowners from the Nibutani Community who claimed the revocation of the expropriation decision. However, the Nibutani Dam was completed before the court’s decision, with the court acknowledging the completion as fait accompli on the grounds that the revocation of the expropriation decision would not be in the public’s interest. This article reveals the flawed legal system in the decision making process for public works as well as a brief history and some cultural background of the Ainu through those plaintiffs’ struggle for justice. Further, the illegitimacy of the Nibutani Dam project is discussed in light of publicness based on the complaint of those plaintiffs, and lastly, publicness of public works is explored in the context of studies on publicness in Japan.

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