The Ainu are indigenous, ethnic group who live on the island of Hokkaido and part of the Russian Sakhalin Island. They are distinct from the Japanese and before the Tungus invasion from mainland Asia the whole archipelago was inhabited by them. They are animist, believing that everything in nature has spirit. The most important being grandmother earth (fire), then the mountain (animals), then the sea animals and lastly everything else. There are no priests by profession.
The women adorn their hands, forehead, arms and mouth outline with blue tattoos. The mouth tattoos begin at a young age as a small spot on the upper lip and gradually increasing. About 200000 Ainu live in Japan today and have suffered much discrimination from 1899 the government instituted a policy of forced assimilation by imposing compulsory Japanese-language education and denying their right to continue traditional practices. They were left with control of approximately 0.15% of their original land. Today fewer than 100 speakers of the Ainu languages remain.