The Ainu (Ainu — in letters "man", a "real man") are the people, the oldest population of Kuril Islands. The origin of the nation remains unclear. But it is known that the Ainu settled Kuril Islands, the southern half of Sakhalin, the southern third of Kamchatka, as well as all Japanese islands — from Ryukyu to Hokkaido.
The basis of traditional economical activities of the Ainu were fishing, hunting, marine trapping and gathering.
The material culture of the Ainu was characterized by surface and semi-underground houses and barns on piles. In daily life, the Ainu wore clothes of bast, elm, linden, nettle, used fur of fur- bearing animals, sewed fur coats of bird skins on Kuril Islands.
The religious life of the Ainu had communal and family character. The elder of the village prevented the ritual ceremonies. Religious functions within one family were performed by the head of the house. Preventing ceremonies was delegated to relatives in the male line. The most important objects of cult were sharp sticks inau and ikunishi — "drinking stick".
For a long time the territory of the Ainu was not controlled by the Japanese. Bellicosity of the Ainu tribes was extremely dangerous for any attempts of penetration on the island. At the end of the XVI century, the Japanese could penetrate on the island. This breakthrough was made by the soldiers of Matsumae clan. At first, the relations with the Ainu were based on equal conditions, but the situation had changed since 1604. The process of entry restrictions on trade with the Ainu began.
The biggest battles were the uprising under command by Sagushyain in 1669 and the uprising on Kunashir in 1789. These battles finally secured the Japanese on the Ainu lands. The Ainu were called to forced labor. In addition, certain restrictions were entered in the different elements of the Ainu traditional culture. For example, the Ainu had to learn Japanese, imposed a ban on burning the houses and moving family to another residence after the death of a family member, as well as a ban on women’s tattoos and men’s earrings.
A new cycle of relations between the Japanese and the Ainu was associated with the conclusion of treaties between Japan and Russia. According to the Shimoda treaty of 1855 the Ainu were in enslaving dependence on the seasonal Japanese manufacturers, who came for the summer. The Japanese blocked the estuaries of the main spawning rivers. The Japanese gave the Ainu tackle and chose the best of catch, and prohibited the Ainu to have their own tackle.
According to the Petersburg agreement of 1875 the Japanese moved all Ainu from the Northern Kuril Islands to the island of Shikotan, took away all their fishing gear and boats, and prohibited to sail without permission. The Ainu were involved in various activities, for which received rice, vegetables, fish and sake, which absolutely did not fit the traditional ration of the Ainu from the Northern Kuril Islands. Their ration consisted of the meat, seafood and fish.
Thus, the Ainu suffered from the Japanese different bias and discrimination.
In present time, 23 782 Ainu live in 72 municipalities of Hokkaido (cities, towns and villages of the island), of whom 59.5% of the Ainu live in the administrative districts Hidaka and Iburi.
There have been significant changes in the situation of the Ainu. Among the Ainu, the share of residents, who are used by social protection, about 2 times higher than the average for Japan. 29.5% of the Ainu workers employ in agriculture, fish industry and extractive industy. The percentage of the Ainu, working in small and medium-sized enterprises increased. A new kind of activity has become the organization or participation in the development of tourism.
Thus, the Ainu living standard is steadily rising. However, in the field of education continues to remain the main problem is the lowest percentage of getting education among the Ainu.