Aborigines of Japan who may be descended from a Caucasoid people who once lived in North Asia. More powerful invaders from the Asian mainland gradually forced the Ainu to retreat to the northern islands of Japan and Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in what is now the Russian Far East. Today, they reside mainly on Hokkaido. Reduced in number, they live by hunting, fishing, and small-scale farming. The Ainu have attracted the attention of tourists, and some now make a living by selling reproductions of their cultural artifacts. Physically, they seem related to European peoples, i.e., they have more body hair than typical East Asians, but intermarriage has introduced Asian traits among them. Contact with the Japanese has led also to culture change and assimilation, which the Ainu have resisted in the past, with decreasing success. (from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2001-05 Columbia University Press).
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