Bioethics and human rights issues of indigenous peoples in Japan, with particular focus on the Ainu

Taketoshi Okita, Atsushi Asai, Masashi Tanaka, Yasuhiro Kadooka

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Two Indigenous peoples, the Ainu and the Okinawans, reside in Japan. The former live in the northernmost part and the latter live in the southernmost. In this paper, we present the history of and contemporary issues surrounding discrimination against the Ainu, and consider bioethical issues pertinent to them. First, we refer to a long history of opposition toward the Ainu in Japan. The Ainu have suffered serious long-term discrimination and human rights violations, including the deprivation of their ethnic autonomy and traditional residence; murder; forced assimilation, labor, and migration; compulsory withdrawal of children; and destruction and loss of their language, culture, religion, traditions, and customs. Second, we consider research using the Ainu in Japan. In the name of science, including phrenology, extensive excavations of Ainu's human remains had occurred without informing living Ainu residents or obtaining their permission. The Ainu people were completely objectified in these research activities. Currently, over 1600 Ainu ancestral remains are stored in twelve Japanese universities. Finally, we consider how we might prevent majority ethnic groups from unethical behaviors and attitudes toward Indigenous peoples, including future research studies that may discriminate and objectify other human beings.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Health Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationAn Appeal To Human Rights
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781786348579
ISBN (Print)9781786348562
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr 6

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Health Professions(all)


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