Recent findings in the field of genetics have shown that the Ainu of Hokkaido and the native people of Okinawa share similar inherited traits. This is despite the fact that the two peoples live in polar opposites of Japan’s islands.
The research, a joint effort by the National Institute of Genetics, the University of Tokyo, and other institutions, involved examining DNA samples from 36 Ainu collected and stored about 30 years ago and comparing them with DNA from 35 native Okinawans, 245 Japanese living in Honshu, Japan’s largest and main island, as well as ethnic Han Chinese in Beijing. The results revealed that Ainu DNA most closely resembled those of people who have lived in Okinawa for generations. Ainus also shared inherited traits, but to a lesser degree, with modern-day Japanese from Honshu. Professor Naruya Saito from the Division of Population Genetics in the National Institute of Genetics pointed out that this situation was contrary to the norm where genetic traits diverge as the distance between peoples grow.
The findings also showed that the Japanese living in Honshu displayed genetic similarities with South Koreans and Chinese, supporting the theory that the Japanese people originated from the intermarrying of two different groups: the Yayoi who migrated from the Asian continent, and the Jomon who where native to the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. It is the genetic characteristics of the original Jomon genome that the findings showed to be more prevalent in the Ainu and native Okinawans. The results of the research will be published in the Journal of Human Genetics on November 1.