Ainu religion

ainu religion

recovered through WayBackMachine Website


The language of the Ainu bear-worshippers of Northern Japan has generally been considered a language-isolate, supposedly being unlike any other language on earth.

A few researchers noticed a relationship with languages in south-east Asia, others saw similarity with the Ostiak and Uralic languages of northern Siberia. The Ainu look like Caucasian people, they have white skin, their hair is wavy and thick, their heads are mesocephalic (round) and a few have grey or blue eyes.

The Ainu are a semi-nomadic hunting and fishing tribe but also practice simple planting methods, which knowledge may have been acquired from the newcomers. The invading people, under their Yamato government, called them the Ezo, the unwanted, and forced the Ainu in fierce fighting to retreat north to the island of Hokkaido.

The name Ezo likely is an abbreviation of the Basque word ezonartu (to disapprove of)


Archaeologists have determined that the Ainu have been living on many of Japan's islands, from Okinawa to Sakhalin, for 7,000 years and likely longer.

Their Jomon pottery is found everywhere; it is characteristic although somewhat clumsy and can be dated from 5,000 B.C. until just before the Christian era. It is very attractive and is distinguished by the fantasy of its shapes with elegant and imaginative cord decorations.

Some of the most striking finds were the clearly anthropomorphic clay and stone figurines resembling pregnant females with mask-like faces and protuberant eyes; very similar to those found in many other parts of the world, especially in Europe.

A number of stone circles have also been found, similar to those in Cornwall (England) and Senegal (North-West Africa). A few still have the slender upright stone in the center, also found in the British Isles and elsewhere in Atlantic Europe and N.W. Africa.

Around 300 B.C. Mongolian type people moved in from Korea and aggressively forced the Ainu north onto the large island of Hokkaido where an estimated 17,000 of them are still living.

Some 10 dialects have been recognized, such as those of Sakhalin, Hokkaido and the Kurils, but several are at the point of being lost for ever.

In Hokkaido young Ainu are now making an effort to restore their ancient language and traditions.


There are many intriguing resemblances between the religious customs of the Ainu and the Shinto Japanese.

The Ainu called their God Kami while the Japanese called him Kamisama. The Aleut and Eskimo word kammi means "ancient thing" or "at the beginning," one of a great many correlations between Ainu and Inuktitut. (The Eskimo people call themselves the Inuit; note the similarity between the names Inuk and Ainu). Bear worship is still part of the Ainu religion and is described in detail by Joseph Campbell in Primitive Mythology.

This Paleolithic bear-worship may date back as far as 200,000 years, to the days of the Neanderthal people. It appears to have been practiced world-wide; wherever the bear was not found (mainly in Africa), its place was taken by similar panther-worship.

Bear worship was not tolerated in those areas later dominated by the major religions, therefore it was only possible for anthropologists to study the religion in the peripheral areas of northern Europe and Siberia. This gave rise to the idea that the Ainu must have moved eastward through Siberia, even though the nearest people of their type are found almost 5,000 miles away.

But bear-worship has also been reported from Indonesia where languages similar to the Ainu language are still spoken (to be discussed with the Indonesian language).

Could it be that the Ainu were part

of the mass migration of "Caucasian" type Sea Peoples who fled the burning Sahara and, among others, became the "Caucasian" looking Polynesians and Maoris?

The following language comparison for the Ainu seems to indicate that this was the case.


In books about Japan it is often remarked that many of the names of Japan's geographical features were taken over from the Ainu.

For instance the many names beginning or ending with ama (Goddess) are all thought to be of Ainu origin. In 1994 the newly married prince and princess of Japan travelled to the cave of the Goddess Amaterasu to ask her blessings for their marriage.

The name Amaterasu is agglutinated from ama-atera-asu, ama (Goddess) atera (to come out, to appear) asturu (blessings flow): Blessings flow when the Goddess appears.

Other well-known names were similarly assembled such as Hokkaido:

oka-aidu: oka (big meal) aiduru (looking foreward to): Looking forward to a big meal

Fujiyama, fa-uji-ama: fa (happy) uju (cry of joy) ama (Goddess): "A happy cry of joy for the Goddess" is uttered by everyone who reaches the top of the holy mountain, just like is still being heard on many other mountains of the world (e.g. at Croag Patrick in Ireland, on the last Sunday of July).

The Basques even have a word for this yodel cry for the Goddess, they call it the irrintzi .

The name Amaterasu is made up with the vowel-interlocking Ogam formula, which was surprising to me because in the Ainu language itself there is not a hint of this agglutinating formula. I then searched for more Japanese names and words which were assembled with the vowel-interlocking Ogam formula and found many such as Kamikaze and Samurai.

The surprise which came from this comparison was that those words which showed vowel-interlocking were usually associated with fighting and male domination. This appeared to be true all over the Pacific, including Peru and Mexico.

Could this mean that there were two major migrations, the first one many millennia ago from Mesopotamia which brought the peaceful people of the Goddess to the Pacific and a much later one, missionary based, bringing aggressive male domination and the language-distorting vowel-consonant-vowel (VCV) formula to these same areas?

None of the Ainu words were exactly the same as in Basque, but many were extremely close such as ikoro and koro (money), kokor and gogor (to scold), tasum and eritasun (illness), iska and xiska (to steal).

A surprise was the Ainu word nok (testicle) which is much like the Basque word noka (familiarity with women). In English slang the same word is used in "to knock up" meaning "to cause a woman to become pregnant." In Indonesian nok means "unmarried young woman," while dйnok means "slender, elegant woman."

In Dutch slang the word is slightly altered to neuk (sexual intercourse).

There is little doubt that the word goes way back to the Neolithic or even Paleolithic. From the following comparisons it seems clear to me that Ainu and Basque are genetically related. In comparing Ainu with Dravidian, I did not find such a relationship, although Dravidian itself is obviously also related to Basque. Two separate branches of the same tree?

The following words were taken from: An Ainu Dialect Dictionary edited by Shiro Hattori and (thank goodness) printed mostly in Latin characters. This work provided a wealth of excellent material for my comparison.

Don't forget that the Basque "s" is pronounced as a soft "sh" and that our sharp "sh" is written as "x" in Basque.

(The page column shows the word number/page number)

Category: Ainu

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