Cultural Landscapes as an Indigenous Policy: A Critical Policy Analysis of the Ainu Cultural Landscapes in Japan





Published date: 

六月, 2022


Chih-Tung Huang


In 2007, the Japanese government selected the project “Cultural landscapes of the Saru Valley Formed by the Ainu tradition and reclaimed in recent times” as being especially important in regard to cultural landscapes. This selection marked a turning point in Japan’s Ainu policies. Given its significance, this article attempts to scrutinize the case through the theoretical framework of critical policy studies. By treating “cultural landscapes as an indigenous policy,” this article argues that the system of cultural landscapes introduces a dynamic view of culture. Based on this view, culture is considered to be deeply rooted in people’s daily lives, which provides a multicultural understanding. The Ainu therefore comprise an important cultural layer in Japan. Nevertheless, from a more critical perspective, the system of cultural landscapes is somehow of limited value in promoting indigenous rights. For one thing, cultural landscapes are deeply embedded in the settlers’ understanding of modern history. The Ainu, however, view the modern history of Hokkaido as nothing but a process of internal colonization. For another, the concept of cultural “landscapes” in fact says nothing about (indigenous) lands. Using the term “cultural landscapes” may somehow obliterate the cause of land deprivation. As a result, this article argues that a land-based discussion on cultural landscapes is needed.