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Japan minister questions broadly calling pioneers' attitude toward Ainu as 'discrimination'

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Koichi Hagiuda is seen during a news conference in Tokyo on July 10, 2020. (Mainichi/Akira Okubo)

TOKYO -- Education and culture minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters that he felt uncomfortable broad brushing the attitude held by Japanese pioneers toward Indigenous Ainu people as "discriminatory" at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting July 10.

Hagiuda made the remark when speaking about Upopoy, the National Ainu Museum and Park that is set to open July 12 in the Hokkaido town of Shiraoi.

"There may have been differences in values between the Indigenous people and the Japanese (who went to Hokkaido as) pioneers. But I'm not sure that it's a good idea, in terms of passing down Ainu culture, to lump together (the difference in values) with 'discrimination.'"

He went on to say, "We did not build the facility in order to hide certain parts of history. If in fact sad things had happened in the past, it is important to leave records of it with the facility." He added, however, that he wants to "put effort into spreading the merits of a forward-looking culture."

The basic principle behind the government's Ainu policy states, "We must solemnly accept the historical fact that in the process of our country's modernization, many Ainu, despite legally being Japanese citizens, were discriminated against, and were forced into destitution."

(Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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