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I've asked similar questions in the past about how to immerse in or at least experience in an authentic way, the indigenous cultures of the Australian aborigines and the New Zealand Maoris.

I've now been in Hokkaido (northern Japan) for a couple of weeks and when it comes to the indigenous Ainu people, have only seen a few nicknacks in odd places. I'm sure there are some museums and perhaps even some "Ainu World" type tourist traps. But what about for genuinely interested people who want to meet real Ainu who are proud of their culture and trying to keep it alive?

I have heard that the Ainu finally gained official recognition from the Japanese government as an indigenous people of Japan as recently as 2008. I'm wondering if there are some things that have come about since then?

I also just learned from a partial documentary on YouTube that many Ainu felt so repressed in Hokkaido that they moved to Tokyo. So perhaps it's just as likely that there is some contemporary Ainu cultural pride movement there that welcomes foreign visitors. It seemed to be hinted at in the video.

Finally, having languages and linguistics as a hobby, I'd be very interested to be able to visit any kind of Ainu language revitalization effort - I know there are only a tiny handful of fluent native speakers left.

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marked as duplicate by uncovery, hippietrail, Dirty-flow, Geeo, Vince May 13 at 6:45

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I think the two questions and their answers should be merged. I was quite shocked by the stuff I read in answers and comments on the older question, plus a few nonsequiturs. I like the answer here better than the old answers, which don't even cover Nibutani. –  hippietrail May 13 at 4:41

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The sad but true answer is nowhere, really. While some 20,000 people in Hokkaido identify as Ainu, virtually all have more or less assimilated into Japanese society. By some estimates there are less than a dozen native speakers of the language left, and the Ainu "villages" at Shiraoi and Akan are tourist traps.

Probably the closest you can get is the hamlet of Nibutani (二風谷), home to the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum (site in Japanese only) and former home of outspoken Ainu activist Shigeru Kayano. Japan Today has a good description, which also mentions a few Ainu-run minshuku to stay at. This is also where Kayano set up Japan's first Ainu language schools, although I'm not sure any are open to the public.

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Thanks for the (sad) answer. Did you watch the video? Can you pick out where the place they are talking about where they say everybody is welcome, Ainu, Japanese, and foreigners? –  hippietrail May 13 at 3:56

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