Ainu people look to Māori for ways to revitalise culture

By Piripi Taylor

The language of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan is in peril. A delegation from the University of Sapporo is in New Zealand to meet with Māori to look at ways to save and revitalise the essence of their culture.

You can hear the lament in their voices. A desperate cry for help to save their language and culture which has been largely assimilated into Japanese society.

Today, there are no traditional speakers of the Ainu language in Japan. However, this delegation from the University of Sapporo in Hokkaido is on a mission to try and save their heritage.

Yuki was the first recipient of the Urespa Scholarship established by Professor Yuko Honda in 2010 for Ainu to learn and revitalise their language and culture. He now works and teaches at the university.

Research estimates no more than 15 people can speak Ainu. Although this delegation may be small in number, their aspirations are big and bold.

A larger Ainu contingent will come to New Zealand later in the year.