To the north, lived another distinctly separate group of people from both the Yayoi and the Jomon People. While they may not have a lasting impact on the Jomon and Yayoi, their culture is unique, fascinating, and certainly deserves to be mentioned here. These people are known as the Ainu.
The Ainu inhabited Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. The majority of the estimated 25,000 remaining Ainu people living today still reside here. The origin of the Ainu people is largely unknown. Some claim they descended from a group of Jomon People who went north, breaking off from the main population and thus maintaining the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of Japan’s early settlers. It is also possible that they came to Japan as a completely separate group of people.
The Ainu have a distinct appearance. They have light skin, European-shaped eyes, thick wavy hair, and the men grow full, thick beards. The Ainu women were covered in tattoos. This began as a small black dot on the upper lip. As they matured, more tattooing was added until a black tattoo surrounded the woman’s mouth and eventually her forearms too. These were said to ward off evil spirits. The pain of tattooing was also supposed to prepare the woman for the pain of childbirth. In fact, a fully tattooed woman was a sign that she was of marrying age. Conversely, men never shaved past a certain age. Both men and women kept their hair at roughly shoulder length.