SAPPORO – An English-language picture book showing how Japan’s indigenous Ainu see the world hit Japanese bookstores last month and will soon go on sale overseas.
“The Ainu and the Fox,” written by Ainu Shigeru Kayano, who died of acute pneumonia Saturday at age 79, is based on a folktale and conveys Ainu beliefs about coexistence with nature.
In the story, Ainu ask a god to drive away a fox that stole and ate their salmon. But after being caught by the Ainu, the fox appeals to them to share nature’s bounty, as the gods intended. The Ainu then come to accept the fox’s behavior.
Kayano, a former member of the House of Councilors, wrote the story in 1974 for elementary school children. It was later published as a Japanese-language picture book in 2001.
He was also known for his activities to preserve Ainu culture by collecting artifacts, compiling an Ainu-language dictionary and recording folktales.
The book will be distributed in Australia, Britain, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, according to Tokyo-based R.I.C. Publications. It goes on sale in Australia later this month, the publisher said.
The book was translated into English by the citizens’ group Project U-e-peker, based in Hakodate, Hokkaido.
Peter Howlett, representative of the group, said the Ainu folktales can convey messages that people today really need. More people overseas are interested in learning about indigenous cultures, he added.
Hokkaido is home to most of the Ainu population.