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Ainu center operations policy gets Cabinet OK

JIJI

The Cabinet has approved a basic policy for managing an Ainu culture center being planned in Hokkaido.

The center, tentatively called the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, will be opened to the public around the same time as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to the plan, which was approved on Friday.

The government will hasten efforts to draft a budget for the center in fiscal 2015, which starts next April.

It is the first policy related to the indigenous Ainu, an ethnic minority group now living mostly in Hokkaido, approved by the Cabinet since the 1997 law on the promotion of Ainu culture.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the decision as “a big achievement.”

“We hope to drastically overcome the tough situation that comes with inheriting Ainu tradition and culture and with developing human resources for this purpose,” Suga said.

As for legislative steps to restore the rights of the Ainu, who were driven from their lands and endured heavy discrimination, Suga merely said: “It is necessary to carefully consider things from the perspective of the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.”

Suga is apparently concerned further legislative steps could give Ainu special privileges, since measures are already in place to address the economic inequality they now face.

The center, to be built beside Lake Poroto in the town of Shiraoi, will have a museum with Ainu-related documents and a park for holding exhibitions and hosting replicas of traditional Ainu houses.

A memorial facility housing Ainu remains from universities across Japan will be built within the center.

The names of the center and its facilities will be decided by 2020 based on opinions of people concerned.