Japan’s only minority group to file suit for fishing rights in Hokkaido


A lawsuit is set to be filed against the state by a group of Ainu, the only indigenous group in Japan, for their rights to fish salmon without requiring them to get permission from the authorities, sources said on Sunday, January 12.

The group of 13 plaintiffs, aged between 20s and 70s and members of a cultural preservation body in the town of Urahoro, plans to file what will be the first such lawsuit by the Ainu against the central and Hokkaido governments with the Sapporo District Court as early as April, the sources said.

They will claim they are a tribe taking over from their ancestors the right to fish for salmon in the lower reaches of the Tokachi River, said the sources.

Japan enforced a law in May stipulating for the first time that the Ainu are an indigenous people in Hokkaido. But the law fell short of guaranteeing their self-determination and other tribal rights, with the government citing that they have no tribes.

The Ainu struggled to maintain their language and culture due to the assimilation policy of the Japanese government beginning in the Meiji period (1868-1912). They were pressed to do farming instead of hunting and fishing, practices that had been integral to their culture.

The new law, designated to protect and promote the culture of the Ainu, simplified procedures for them to obtain permission from authorities to conduct traditional salmon fishing in rivers and collect timber and other items in national forests for rituals.

But some Ainu have criticised the legislation, saying it does not refer to the recovery of fishing rights and will not do enough to reverse historical discrimination. (Source: Mainichi Japan)