Tuesday, October 19, 2010

more recommended reading

Recent email inquiries from readers have reminded me that the internet is a great tool for gathering information, but sometimes you have to sift through an awful lot of garbage to get to it. On the surface, it would seem that social awareness of the Ainu is at an all time high, and a Google Search will get you an amazing number of hits. Many of these references do not stand up to close scrutiny. A great number of them are brief and often misinformed references on sites that use the Ainu to "prove" some point they are trying to make. Tattoo promotion sites, for example. Then there are computer game-related sites that incorporate the Ainu (in fictionalized form) among the races and cultures represented in a game, but undiscerning readers can, and have, mistaken information picked up from these sites as historically accurate.

In the midst of this confusion, however, I find the occasional insightful blog post that clarifies, rather than muddies, the issues. Recently I came across this well-written book review by Chris Kearin, about Our Land Was a Forest, an Ainu Memoir by the late Ainu activist Kayano Shigeru. This short and easy-to-read memoir is recommended for anyone who wants a basic, first-hand account of Ainu culture and their recent history.

For an account that is less personal-- thus less emotionally charged-- Land of the Elms: the history, culture, and present day situation of the Ainu by Toshimitsu Miyajima makes good background reading. For detailed information and photos on diverse subjects including hunting methods, religion, architecture, etc, I don't know of any better resource in English than Ainu, Spirit of a Northern People. I recommend it highly for serious research. This and other recommended books are posted on the sidebar at the right of this blog.