The Japanese government has introduced a bill to recognize the country's ethnic Ainu minority group as an "indigenous" people. It is the first time Japan's government to do this. It comes decades lobbying and campaigning Ainu people to be recognized. The Ainu are an indigenous people Japan originating Japan's northern island Hokkaido, north-eastern Honshu, and islands Japan and Russia. Their official number today is around 25,000, but many observers estimate a more accurate figure to be 200,000. Many Ainu have been completely assimilated Japanese society and have no knowledge of their ancestry or historical roots, traditions and culture.
The Japan Today website wrote the hardships the Ainu have faced. It said: "The Ainu people...have long suffered the effects a policy of forced assimilation, and while discrimination has receded gradually, income and education gaps the rest of Japan persist." Japan's government spoke about the importance passing the new legislation. It said: "It is important to protect the honor and dignity the Ainu people and to hand those to the next generation to realize a vibrant society diverse values." Ainu spokesman Tadashi Kato said: "It feels like we woke up now a truly deep sleep....It will lead to building a society where we cohabit together. We think this is the first step."