Monday, 15 July 2013

The origin of the Japanese people (as it was seen a hundred years ago)

The origin of the inhabitants has always been a much studied and debated  theme in most countries. That is also the case with regard to Japan

In the early 20th century researchers in Japan believed that the Japanese were not of pure Mongolian origin, but a mix of Mongols and Tatars, and that they thus were related to Finns and Turks. The Japanese scientists also believed that the indigenous Ainu people, living on Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands were the "purest" representatives of the original Finnish-Tatar population. 

At the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 the Japanese government, in accordance with the international habit of that time, exhibited a number of Ainu people. 

The way the the Swedish Allers Familj-Journal in 1904 reported about the Ainu exhibited in St. Louis, is also typical for the time:

"The inhabitants of these islands are called Ainu, and Japan, which has a large presence in the St. Louis fair, has sent sent a number of these Ainu people, some older and some younger, to the exhibition. They are not very intelligent, and a sharp observer can easily see the similarity between these people and the Finns and the Tatars. Just look at the amazing resemblance of the old man in our illustration and the Russian author Leo Tolstoy. The researchers could really be right when saying that they are of Tatar-Finnish origin."

Japanese Ainu people exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. 

A portrait of Leo Tolstoy, published in the Allers Familj-Journal.

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