I’m a Yamato.

I’m a Yamato. I grew up in Hokkaido.

My great grandpa were samurais. We have the art, philosophy, honour, and integrity. We have the best medicine, and we built civics and saved America. We overestimate the value of our professionalism and product quality in the market place and underestimate marketing. I’m a Yamato.

As a kid, though, I was infatuated not by my people but by the Ainu. Their stewardship with the nature. They took only what the nature could give them. In drought, they would starve so the nature doesn’t. They are big, strong, and fierce warriors that only fought when necessary. Their social units were families and communities, not individuals. They exemplified the beauty of what it means to be a human being.

I thought they had all the answers and could teach me how to “be.” I read about their culture, I went to their museum to see if I can meet more of them, bought their outfits, learned their musical instruments. I’d look into any reflective surface and fantasise I might be an Ainu (my sister had convinced me I was adopted). I do have those cheekbones… I still couldn’t meet any Ainu, and there was very little literature out there. I decided I needed to learn their language and live with them for a few years because that’s the only way to truly learn.

That’s when I realised that Ainu had been systematically marginalised.

There was only one speaker left of the language. The effort to leave a dictionary was slow as much of the Ainu language only made sense in context. Their villages had few young people left because the elders encouraged blending in with yamato or marrying yamato to avoid discrimination. Never act Ainu. Don’t speak your mother tongue. If you want to survive. They’ll never know. In 1997, the government finally acknowledged Japan had minority races. Only in 2008, the discrimination and marginalisation were acknowledged by the government. Their traditional lands were stripped. Their traditional rights completely ignored.

I’m a Yamato. I grew up in Hokkaido.

I am of the race that was responsible for the genocide of the Ainu, the People my soul desperately sought. I’m not a witness of but am a beneficiary of marginalisation. My people laid down pavement over the land the Ainu farmed and concrete over the rivers they fished. And there is no way I can undo it.

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