The Ainu, also called Aynu, Aino, and in historical texts Ezo, are an indigenous people in Japan and Russia.
Historically, they spoke Ainu and related varieties. Most of those who identify themselves as Ainu still live in this same region, though the exact number of living Ainu is unknown. This is due to confusion over mixed heritages and to ethnic issues in Japan resulting in those with Ainu backgrounds hiding their identities. Intermarriage with Japanese has blurred the concept of a pure Ainu ethnic group. Official estimates of the population are of around 25,000, while the unofficial number is upward of 200,000 people.
|A captive bear drinking from a large bottle held by an Ainu tribeswoman. (Photo by Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1955
|An Ainu tribeswoman holding a group of threads to her mouth. (Photo by Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1955|
|An Ainu woman from northern Japan with tattooed lips. The upper lip is slashed during childhood and ashes are rubbed in to leave a scar. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1960|
|Ainu, aboriginal people of Asia occupying parts of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Russian Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1950|
|The Ainu people of Japan and eastern Russia, noted for their prolific facial hair, circa 1930. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)|