National / Crime & Legal

Hokkaido Ainu association sues University of Tokyo to have remains returned

JIJI

An Ainu indigenous rights association in Hokkaido has filed a lawsuit against the University of Tokyo, seeking the return of remains of their ancestors stored at the university.

In the suit filed Friday at the Kushiro District Court, the Urahoro branch of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido (AAH) also demanded ¥500,000 in damages, claiming that their freedom of religion had been violated. The AAH represents the indigenous community in the prefecture in talks with government.

According to the complaint, two professors at the national university excavated the remains of six Ainu people — five in 1888 and one in 1965 — for research purposes and took them back to the university.

The plaintiffs argued that they inherited the right to manage the remains as descendants of the Ainu people who once flourished around Urahoro.

“The university took (the remains) without permission. They should return them,” Masaki Sashima, head of the Urahoro branch, told a news conference.

The university declined to comment.

Similar lawsuits were filed against Hokkaido University and Sapporo Medical University.

Both universities have agreed to return the Ainu remains to settle the cases.

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