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Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005

READERS IN COUNCIL

Ainu place names in Tohoku


By HUGH E. WILKINSON
Tokyo

In his Nov. 7 Counterpoint article, "Say 'cheese' and snap out of such fanciful thinking," Roger Pulvers speaks of place names of Ainu origin being found as far afield as western Japan. The idea that the Jomon people were Ainu has been largely discarded, although it is clear that an Ainu element exists in the Japanese racial composite.

It is only in Tohoku that there are place names with clearly Ainu elements, such as -nai or -betsu. This is the area that was inhabited by people with a non-Japanese culture who were known in former times as the Emishi.

The word kami, which Pulvers says is a Japanese borrowing from Ainu, in fact, went the other way: The Ainu kamui was taken from the old Japanese kami.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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