Showcasing the Ainu and Ryukyu indigenous food culture of Japan

The first ever Ainu Indigenous food festival, Indigenous Terra Madre Asia and Pan Pacific, was held October 11-14, 2019, in Ainu Moshir, the land of the Ainu Peoples in Hokkaido, Japan. Hosted by the Ainu Women’s Association, Menoko Mosmos, in collaboration with Slow Food Nippon, Slow Food and the Indigenous Terra Madre Network, the event was held to commemorate World Food Day. The first Indigenous Terra Madre was held in Jokkmokk, Sweden, the land of the Sami Peoples in 2011, then was followed by an event in Shillong, India, in 2015.

On October 16, initiated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Day is observed worldwide to raise awareness about food systems, production, and distribution. The Ainu brought together over 200 Indigenous representatives, chefs, and agricultural producers from 27 countries, mainly from the Asia and Asia-Pacific region, for a symposium to discuss Indigenous food system and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples under the theme of “Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems: Climate Change and Sustainability.”

There are two Indigenous Peoples in Japan —the Ainu and Ryukyu. The Ainu live on the northernmost of the islands and Ryukyu live on the southernmost islands of Japan’s archipelago. “Being Ryukyu, an Indigenous person in Japan, it was my dream to connect the Ainu from the north and the Ryukyu from the south  in one place, to talk about wisdom, challenges, and issues, and bring them to the attention of the world,” said Remi Le, president of Slow Food International, Japan, one of the organizers of this year’s Indigenous Terra Madre festival.

Strategically, the Ainu Indigenous Food Festival was organized to bring attention  to the plight of Ainu Peoples, to highlight their distinct identity, culture, rituals, and food traditions. The Food Festival provided Ainu and Ryukyu Peoples a platform to showcase their foods and culinary heritage.

“The celebration of food culture is a more subtle yet powerful way of fighting for rights, therefore, this event was meaningful for celebrating the distinct cultures to realize rights of Ainu Peoples,” said Remi Le. “Umami, the traditional cuisine of Japan, is much talked worldwide today and has been registered as UNESCO’s intangible heritage. Umami, the delicious food also known as food of Japan, is out food. Without us, the Ainu and Ryukyu Peoples, you would not be able to enjoy that taste when you visit Japan.”

In this program, Remi Le, president of Slow Food International, Japan, describes about concept about the first ever Ainu Indigenous food festival, Indigenous Terra Madre Asia and Pan Pacific.

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