Episode 371 – The First Frontier, Part 1

This week, we’re starting a multi-part series on the history of one of Japan’s major islands, and its first colonial frontier: Hokkaido. Today, we’ll talk about the early centuries of history between the Japanese and the Ainu, the aboriginal people of Hokkaido.


Walker, Brett L. The Conquest of Ainu Lands; Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800.

Pearson, Richard. “Japanese Medieval Trading Towns: Sakai and Tosaminato.” Japanese Journal of Archaeology 3 (2016)

Tanaka, Sakurako. “The Ainu of Tsugaru: The Indigenous History and Shamanism of Northern Japan.” PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2000.

Onishi, Hideyuki. “The Formation of the Ainu Cultural Landscape: Landscape Shift in a Hunter-Gatherer Society in the Northern Part of the Japanese Archipelago.” Journal of World Prehistory 27, No. 3/4 (December, 2014)

Plutschow, Herbert. “What Pre-Modern Japanese Travel Writing Tells Us.” Review of Japanese Culture and Society 19 (December, 2007).


An early Meiji woodcut depicting Ainu tribes sacrificing a bear.
Though Shakushain’s revolt was suppressed, he remains a symbol today of Ainu pride. This statue is located at Shinhidaka, near where Shakushain’s main base of power was.
Matsumae castle, the base of Japanese power in Hokkaido during the Edo period.
This map shows distribution of the different languages within the Ainu language family; it also gives you an idea of the extent of Ainu settlement.
A close up map of the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido’s Oshima Peninsula (in the north) and mainland Japan (to the south).
A 1795 woodcut depicting an audience between the Matsumae daimyo and Ainu leaders. Note the subservient attitude being depicted here.




1 thought on “Episode 371 – The First Frontier, Part 1”

  1. As someone who worked in Hokkaido for a bit, I was really happy to find out about your podcast with this episode as my gateway. You make the material clear and entertaining. Thanks a lot for your devotion to this project. I look forward to hearing more about Japanese history through your podcast.

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