The Ainu are a group of people with a cultural and racial background which is different from the ethnic Japanese. Last time, they are mainly populated around Hokkaido, northern Tohoku,the Kurile Islands and Sakhalin. However, there is only a small population of Ainu people remaining in Hokkaido today.
According to one of the several theories, Ainus are descendants of Mongoloid migrants who entered the Japanese islands before the Jomon period. They were later displaced when the ethnic Japanese expanded their territory northernwards.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Ainu received the status "former aboriginals". However, they suffered official discrimination for few years. And in 1997, a new law was passed which provides funds for the research and promotion of the Ainu culture.
Traditional Ainu culture was quite different from Japanese culture.
The men of Ainu had full beards and moustaches as they stopped shaving after a certain age. Both men and women wear their hair at shoulder length. The women of Ainu tattooed their mouths at a young age. The tattoo is a small spot on the upper lip, slowly increasing with size.
As for their traditional dress, it is spun from the inner bark of an elm tree. Varios styles of clothing were made, it generally consists of a simple short robe with straight sleeves, which was folded around the body, and tied with a band about the waist.