The Ainu or the Aynu (Ainu アィヌ Aynu; Japanese: アイヌ Ainu; Russian: Айны Ajny), in the historical Japanese texts Ezo/Emishi/Ebisu (蝦夷) or Ainu (アイヌ), are an indigenous people of Japan (Hokkaido, and formerly northeastern Honshu) and Russia (Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands and formerly the Kamchatka Peninsula).
The official number of the Ainu is 25,000, but unofficially is estimated at 200,000 due to many Ainu having been completely assimilated into Japanese society and, as a result, having no knowledge of their ancestry.
The Ryukyuan or Lewchewan people (琉球民族? Ryūkyū minzoku, Okinawan: Ruuchuu minzuku), or Uchinaanchu (Okinawan: ウチナーンチュ) are the indigenous peoples of the Ryukyu Islands between the islands of Kyushu and Taiwan. Politically, they live in either Okinawa Prefecture or Kagoshima Prefecture. Their languages make up the Ryukyuan language family, considered to be one of the two branches of the Japonic language family, the other one being Japanese and its dialects.
Ryukyuans are not a recognized minority group in Japan, as Japanese authorities consider them just a subgroup of the Japanese people, akin to the Yamato people and Ainu. Although unrecognized, Ryukyuans constitute the largest ethnolinguistic minority group in Japan, with 1.3 million living in Okinawa Prefecture alone. There is also a considerable Ryukyuan diaspora. As many as 600,000 more ethnic Ryukyuans and their descendants are dispersed elsewhere in Japan and worldwide; mostly in Hawaii and, to a lesser extent, in other territories where there is also a sizable Japanese diaspora. In some countries, the Ryukyuan and Japanese diaspora are not differentiated so there are no reliable statistics for the former.
Recent genetic and anthropological studies indicate that the Ryukyuans are significantly related to the Ainu people and share the ancestry with the indigenous prehistoric Jōmon period (pre 10,000–1,000 BCE) people, who arrived from Southeast Asia, and with the Yamato people who are mostly an admixture of the Yayoi period (1,000 BCE–300 CE) migrants from Northeast Asia (specifically the Korean peninsula). The Ryukyuans have a specific culture with some matriarchal elements, native religion, and cuisine which had fairly late 12th century introduction of rice. The population lived on the islands in isolation for many centuries, and in the 14th century from the three divided Okinawan political polities emerged the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429–1879) which continued the maritime trade and tributary relations started in 1372 with Ming dynasty China. In 1609 the kingdom was invaded by Satsuma Domain which allowed its independence being in vassal status because the Tokugawa Japan was prohibited to trade with China, being in dual subordinate status between both China and Japan.
During the Meiji period, the kingdom became Ryukyu Domain (1872–1879), after which it was politically annexed by the Empire of Japan. In 1879, after the annexation, the territory was reorganized as Okinawa Prefecture with the last king Shō Tai forcibly exiled to Tokyo. China renounced its claims to the islands in 1895. During this period, Okinawan ethnic identity, tradition, culture and language were suppressed by the Meiji government, which sought to assimilate the Ryukyuan people as Japanese (Yamato). After World War II, the Ryūkyū Islands were occupied by the United States between 1945–1950 and 1950–1972. During this time, there were many violations of human rights. Since the end of World War II, there exists strong resentment against the Japanese government and U.S. military facilities stationed in Okinawa, as seen in the Ryukyu independence movement.
United Nations special rapporteur on discrimination and racism Doudou Diène in his 2006 report, noted discrimination and xenophobia against the Okinawa people, with the most serious discrimination they endure linked to the American military bases on their island for which should be launched an investigation in respect to the fundamental human rights.