Govt. OKs bill to recognize Ainu as indigenous
NHK -- Feb 15
The Japanese government has mapped out a bill to officially recognize the Ainu ethnic minority as an indigenous people of Japan.

The bill, which was endorsed at a Cabinet meeting on Friday, legally stipulates for the first time that the Ainu are an indigenous people and calls for the creation of a society in which they can take pride in their heritage.

It features the establishment of a subsidy program for regional revitalization aimed at helping local authorities implement projects to promote Ainu culture.

The bill also calls for deregulation to make it easier for the Ainu people to gather wood in state-owned forests and catch salmon in local rivers, as part of efforts to help them conserve their cultural traditions.

The government plans to submit the bill to the Diet during the current session with an eye to an early enactment.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it is necessary to ensure that the Ainu people can maintain their dignity if Japan wants to be a vibrant society where diverse values are respected. He said the government is determined to steadily take steps to help the Ainu tackle the challenges they face.

The head of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, Tadashi Kato, praised the proposed legislation as a first step toward the harmonious coexistence of his people and other Japanese. But he pointed out that the bill does not incorporate measures to improve the Ainu's living standards. He added that the bill achieves 70 percent of what he expected.

News source: NHK
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