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Hiroshi Maruyama


The Ainu people in Japan have been deprived of their land, culture and language in the wake of the ruthless assimilation policy of Japan and their forcible relocation of them from the Kurile Islands and Sakhalin to Hokkaido. In June 2008, the Ainu were ultimately recognized as indigenous people by the Japanese Government, but their right to culture is not protected by the Japanese legal system. In fact, the Ainu still suffer from the losses of their traditional culture and moreover, are excluded from the decision making process in matters affecting them. Nevertheless, the Ainu have been trying to revitalise their culture as a right belonging to them – a right recognized by international human rights law. This paper examines Ainu traditional knowledge and the current situation of grain cultivation that was prevalent among the Ainu living in the Saru River Basin and its surroundings in Hokkaido before the assimilation policy. Further, the paper explores Ainu right to culture, both from a human rights standpoint and an environmental rights point of view using international treaties and the relevant instruments. In addressing this question, the paper aims to compare the Ainu perspective with that of Norwegian Sami.