Our mission involves reporting and investigating one of the newest political parties in Japan, that of the Ainu ethnic group.  Pushed out of their land over the course of of the past centuries, they, for the first time, seek to gain a significant voice in the making of national politics with their campaign for office in the upcoming summer elections in Japan.  Their platform aims to take advantage of popular anti-nuclear feeling among many Japanese, providing a fascinating angle through which we can investigate the ongoing anti-nuclear protests that have rocked the political system of Japan to its core.  They also wish to bring together the Ainu people or any citizens with Ainu heritage who had been separated from their roots by the forces of history, using the rights guaranteed to indigenous people by the United Nations as a platform from which to rebuild their traditional culture.  Our trip explores the inner workings of the Ainu political party itself. We will conduct interviews and discussions with its leadership, learning about how the party came to be and where it is going next. As the party faces elections in the summer to the Japanese House of Councillors, the time when we will be visiting will be exciting and turbulent. We will monitor and learn about the process as it goes forward.

To understand more deeply the role and effect of the new party and Ainu resurgence, we will also engage Ainu community leaders and local Japanese. This includes visiting and speaking with the many new Ainu cultural organizations and Ainu pride associations, as well as visiting small towns with significant Ainu population to learn about their perceptions of the new party and their relationship to their origins. We will also look into how the party integrates into the wider anti-nuclear movement by observing nuclear protests in both Tokyo and in Hokkaido where the Ainu are sure to be present, and our presence will generate attention and discussion. The Ainu party, and the issues that surround it, stands at the crossroads of several trends shaking the Japanese political scene right now: the rise of new parties, the disintegration of the old political order, and new environmental and anti-nuclear awareness among the people of Japan.  We hope you enjoy following us as we talk, study, and learn about both the Ainu and what their politics means for Japan in the 21st century.

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