Rockin' the Ainu Cause

On Friday, Japan 's parliament officially recognized the Ainu people, an indigenous people who reside in Hokkaido (Japan's northernmost island), and called for "immediate" support to the community, which has historically been the subject of discrimination.

I can't help but feel partly responsible for this victory. During our travels in Japan last spring, we visited the city of Obihiro in Hokkaido. One night we attended an Ainu music festival, in which an Ainu musician [leader of the Oki Dub Ainu Band] played a variety of traditional string instruments. After the show was over, the artist spoke to fans and signed CDs in the hall outside the theatre.

There was some sort of reporter there, with a cameraman, presumably to cover the events of the night and get some reaction from the crowd. As we were obvious outsiders (the only Americans there), they made a beeline right for us. The reporter tried to interview me, but I declined, grabbed Bree and threw her into the line of fire. She proceeded to tell the reporter, confidently, in English, that she loved the concert and that Americans love the Ainu people (I'm paraphrasing, it was more flowery than that).

I'm fairly certain that when Bree appeared on Obihiro's nightly news, or whatever, it started a chain reaction of positive energy in support of the Ainu that led directly to the Parliamentary statements yesterday. (Disclaimer: I'm not really sure that Bree ever appeared on any television program in Japan, or that anyone, anywhere, ever saw, or understood, her statements about the Ainu).