December 5, 2013
0887 JAPAN (Hokkaido) - Patriarch Ainu of Shinto Ritual
Ainu (in historical texts Ezo), an indigenous people living in Japan (Hokkaidō island) and Russia (Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands), is one of the most mysterious ethnic groups in the world. They are very distinct from the Japanese people and it seems that before the Tungus invasion coming from mainland Asia the whole archipelago was inhabited by Ainu. Many early investigators proposed a Caucasian ancestry, but recent genetic researches haven't shown any genetic similarity with modern Europeans, but rather with the Tungusic, Altaic and Uralic populations. While some researchers say that they are the descendants of the Jōmon-jin people (who lived 10,000 years ago), another part is of the opinion that the origins of the Ainu can go as far around 35,000-40,000 years ago, during the last major glaciation which united the Japanese islands with mainland Asia. One of their Yukar Upopo, or legends, tells that "The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came".
The skeletal structure, the skull, the facial expression, the eye characteristics, make from Ainu a special category, that can't be classified in any typology. Ainu are shorter than the Yamato people, with lighter skin, robust body and short limbs. Their hair is wavy and the body hair is abundant; men wear large beards and mustaches, considered a sign of beauty, and the married women tattoo their face to mimic a beard and a mustache (as can be seen in the postcard). They haven't pronounced almond-shaped eyes, and the nose is large and straight. Further, Ainu language has no generally accepted genealogical relationship to any other language family. Unfortunately is a moribund language, because today is spoken by less than 100 persons.
Ainu traditionally lived by farming, fishing, hunting and gathering. Their villages, called kotan and made about 20 houses, were placed along rivers and trails used by wild animals. They lived in rectangular huts with walls and roof made of bundles of reed and rush.The roof had a hole on where was removed the smoke. Their traditional dress was a kind of tunic (attusi) spun from the inner bark of the elm tree, down to the thighs for men, and to the ankles for women, which was folded around the body, and tied with a band about the waist. Their religion was animist, the most important person in the village being the shaman, but since the Meiji period (1868-1912) they began to abandon, often forced, at the traditional lifestyle, most of them adopting Shinto practices (as can be seen in the postcard).
These people are kind and friendly; foreign visitors are welcomed as long as they follow their complex etiquette. Nevertheless, or maybe that is why, they were always oppressed, even enslaved, and forcibly assimilated. In Russia even now aren't recognized as a distinct ethnic group, and in Japan happened this only in 1997, and only in 2008 were recognised as an indigenous group.
About the stamp
The stamp, depicting even an Ainu tunic (attusi), is probably part of a the second series Japanese Traditional Craft, issued on October 25, 2013.
Ainu people - Wikipedia
9 Amazing Things About the Ainu People - Softpedia
sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
sent from Kitakyūshū (Kyūshū / Japan), on 18.11.2013