Hokkaido University has agreed to return to descendants of the Ainu, an indigenous ethnic group concentrated in Japan's northernmost main island, ancestral remains exhumed from a cemetery for research in the 1930s, the descendants said this week.

The agreement, reached in a court-mediated settlement at the Sapporo District Court in Hokkaido on Wednesday, ends three rounds of a five-year legal battle between Ainu descendants and the university.

In 2012, three descendants filed a lawsuit against the university seeking a total of ¥9 million in damages and demanding the return of the remains, claiming the university had disturbed the cemetery without permission and infringed on the Ainu people's religious freedom to honor their forebears.