Japan’s commitment to the rights of its indigenous people has been questioned after organisers of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics dropped a performance by members of the Ainu ethnic minority from the Games’ opening ceremony.
Members of the Ainu community, originally from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, had been expecting to showcase their culture to the world in a dance at the Olympic stadium, but learned recently that the plans had been scrapped.
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee said the performance had been dropped from the ceremony due to “logistical constraints”.
The public broadcaster NHK said last week that an Ainu ceremonial dance would be included in a cultural exposition at the Tokyo National Museum in March, but Ainu representatives said performers, who had already started rehearsing, had been anticipating an appearance on a much bigger stage.
The decision sits uncomfortably with recent moves by Japan’s government to improve the status of the Ainu. In May last year, parliament passed a law that legally recognised them as Japan’s indigenous people, obliging the government to protect their cultural identity and ban discrimination in employment, education and other areas.