For a long time, I have thought very seriously about just what Japanese culture is. And recently I have come to believe that there is a deep relationship between Japanese culture and Ainu culture.
The Ainu are a minority race of about 20,000 people who live on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. Up to the present, it has been thought that this small race of hunters had absolutely no relationship to the Japanese race.
But the Ainu may be the original residents of Japan, and that their blood flows in the veins of the majority of the Japanese people of today.
It has become quite clear that for a long period of time Japan was a nation of hunters with a superior culture of their own, and about 2,300 years ago, a race of rice farmers entered Japan from China or from the Korean peninsula, and this race intermarried with the hunters to produce the present Japanese race.
The Japanese like to eat raw fish and raw vegetables, and I think that this proves that we have plenty of the blood of the hunter in our veins.
Agricultural people live the same sort of life for a very long period of time, while hunters travel here and there in search of game.
When considered in light of the development of Japan since World War ll, the Japanese cannot be understood in terms of a purely agricultural nation, for they show the spirit of the hunter as well.
I cannot help but believe that there is a strong hunter strain in the blood of the Japanese of today.
Up to now we have thought that the Ainu were a separate race, that the Ainu language had absolutely no relationship to the Japanese language, and that Ainu culture was entirely different from Japanese culture.
But I cannot help but believe that the Ainu language has a deep relationship to the Japanese language and that Ainu culture forms the foundation from which Japanese culture was born.
There are also many words in the Ainu language that express self-reflection. Japanese also has a large number of words to express self-reflection.
And I believe that a culture that has words of such character can be explained in simple terms as a culture of spirits and propriety.
The Ainu have an interesting belief concerning words. They maintain that even words have spirits, so that if you tell a lie, you will be punished by the spirits of the words you use. This way of thinking is still strongly evident in the minds of the Japanese today.
It is said that Japanese society is extremely logical, and the reason the Japanese are so good at working efficiently in groups without bothersome formalities may well be their belief in this miraculous power of language, which they hold in common with the Ainu.
I believe that spirits and propriety are the two best elements of Japanese culture. As far back as the third century A.D., an envoy was sent to Japan from China, and in the report he made concerning what he saw here he spoke of Japan as a nation of spirits and propriety.
Even in the two arts that everyone knows as the essence of Japanese culture – the tea ceremony and the No drama – we find that the tea ceremony is the way of propriety, while the No drama is the art of the spirits.
Considered in this manner, I believe that both the Ainu culture and the ancient culture of Japan were cultures of spirits and propriety, and that this is still very much a part of the life of the Ainu as well as the spiritual framentswork of present-day Japanese culture.