[Emishi; Ezo; Mishihase]
Peoples who once lived in northern Japan and are now restricted to the islands of Hokkaido (Japan), southern Sakhalin and the Kuril chain. The Ainu live in an area that has been influenced by Chinese, Siberian and especially Japanese culture. Until the 17th century, when the Ainu began to practise small-scale agriculture in south-western Hokkaido, they subsisted by fishing and hunter–gathering. Although the gradual Japanese colonization of Hokkaido had almost eradicated Ainu culture by the early 20th century, the post-war period has witnessed a revival of Ainu culture and language.
Ainu art is characterized by the preponderance of geometric designs. Some have parallels in Japan proper, while others show similarities with motifs found in the art of the Gilyaks, their northern neighbours on Sakhalin, of the Ostyaks and Samoyeds of northern Siberia and even of the peoples of the north-west coast of North America. Human and animal motifs are extremely rare and restricted to the decoration of libation ...