A court ruling that the Raporo Ainu Nation does not have an Indigenous right to freely catch and sell salmon caught in local rivers presents the Japanese government and the courts with tough questions about what activities count among an Indigenous people's inherent legal rights to preserve and promote their culture and traditions.

While the Sapporo District Court ruled on April 18 that the Ainu people have been salmon fishing in the Urahoro area since the 17th century, and have a right to continue their culture, the judge also ruled that the plaintiffs' rights as an Indigenous people did not extend to having an inherent right to fish for commercial reasons, as part of their economic livelihood.

In some ways, the rights issue facing Ainu people echoes that of other Indigenous groups abroad.