This film is part of Free

The Ainus of Japan

This ethnographic film offers a brief overview of the traditional culture of the Ainu, an ethnic minority in Japan.

Interest film 1913 3 mins Silent



The Ainu are Japan’s indigenous ethnic group native to Hokkaido and parts of Russia's far east. As implied in the German title, by 1913 they were regarded as a ‘dying indigenous population’. The film appears to be a brief anthropological study of the Ainu culture, documenting their traditional dance, their drinking ceremony, and also the custom by which married women receive a moustache-like tattoo on their upper lip. Today, the Ainu population of Hokkaido is about 17,000. (Kosuke Fujiki)

BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon adds: This film was made for the Selig Polyscope Company by American anthropologist Frederick Starr, who made a particular study of Japan and the Ainu. He negotiated for a group of Ainu to go to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (the St Louis World’s Fair) of 1904 as an exhibit, an all-too common racist practice at World’s Fairs during the 19th and early 20th centuries.