Smiles of Ainu womenBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/smiles-of-ainu-women
Ainu – an ancient nation that appeared about 13 thousand years BC. They inhabited the island of Hokkaido (the second largest island in Japan) and the southern half of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, the southern third of Kamchatka and the lower reaches of the Amur River. The Ainu are not one of the varieties of the Mongoloid race, whose representatives have inhabited this region since ancient times. Scientists say that their facial features are more similar to Austroloid or even European. Unlike the Japanese, who were practically beardless, the Ainu men wore full beards, which had to be held with special clothespins during meals.
A distinctive feature of this nation was a tattoo of the lips and hands, starting from the hands and up to the elbow joint.
Moreover, only women were tattooed and tattoos were also applied only by the women themselves.
Incisions were made on the skin with a special ceremonial knife, and then charcoal was rubbed into the cuts.
The first tattoos were made for girls at the age of 7 years. It was just a dot pattern around the lips. Then several lines were added each year.
And finally, the long-term ornament was completed by the groom during the wedding: he drew a "smile".
Ainu women had their marital status tattooed on their faces. By the patterns on her lips, cheeks, and eyelids, you could tell if a woman was married and how many children she had.
Very diverse tattoos are found on the hands, between the fingers. Just like in other nations, the abundance of tattoos on women symbolized her endurance and fertility.
When the Japanese banned this rite, the Ainu believed that it would anger the goddess and bring misfortune.
Many, despite the ban, continued to follow the ancient custom.
In addition to the "smile", the area around the eyebrows was tattooed with wavy lines, and the hands were decorated with a pattern.
The last fully tattooed Ainu woman died in 1998.
Currently, some women of the nation apply a temporary tattoo during holidays and ceremonies.
The traditional Ainu religion has also almost disappeared, with only the bear worship ceremony being practiced, and then mostly as a tourist attraction.