The Ainu people are one of the indigenous groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and lived in Hokkaido, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin. Today, the remaining Ainus still live mostly in Hokkaido but due to intermarriage between them and the “Yamato” Japanese, the concept of a pure Ainu group is no longer feasible.
Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island near in the south of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for salmon trout.
The origin of the Ainu people in Japan is unknown and the Ainu speak a language that resembles no other language on Earth. The great majority of the Ainu live on Japan's 2nd largest island, Hokkaido. Ainu are light-skinned. Some have red or brown hair and green or blue eyes. Scientists have not been able to determine where these people came from. According to the Ainu themselves, their ancestors came from the sky, in other words, they are of extraterrestrial origin.
No one knows where Japan's indigenous Ainu language, or the people who spoke it, came from. The language is not part of any known linguistic tree. Now, a dedicated group of Ainu and linguists from around the world are trying to unlock the language's secrets before it dies out. A 25-minute podcast accompanies this article about the Ainu language.