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No bookshelf filled with Japanese literature is complete without Ainu folklore. Yes, Ainu yukar (folk tales) have been published in English, but to learn more about their stories and struggles, pick up the 1994 memoir “Our Land Was a Forest: An Ainu Memoir” by Kayano Shigeru, a noted Ainu folklore expert, activist and politician.

Shigeru was born in 1923 and his memoir details life in Hokkaido during a period of great change for the Ainu population during the first half of the 20th century.

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