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February 09, 2004

New Children's Book About Ainu

A pair of English teachers have translated a children's book based on the childhood memories of a prominent member of the Ainu people. Peter Howlett (48), a teacher at Hakodate La Salle High School in Hokkaido, first came across "The Ainu" in 1989. Written by Shigeru Kayano (77), the first Ainu member of the House of Councillors and the director of the Sisirmuka Nibutani Ainu Museum, it tells of his upbringing in the traditional culture, with scenes such as his grandmother telling folk tales and his family eating salmon around an open fire. Howlett was surprised to find that many of his students were unaware of the culture of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Working together with colleague Richard McNamara (45), now teaching in Kumamoto in southern Japan, and with the advice of former teacher Noriyoshi Owaki, Howlett finally got the 32-page book into print through US publisher Charles E Tuttle. It goes on sale this week for ¥1,700.

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