Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Nile-Japan Ainu Connection

The following is a fascinating conversation with Judith Hishikawa about the Ainu of Northern Japan. Judith is a former volunteer for missions with the Episcopal Church in Japan. She graduated from Middlebury College with High Honors in Anthropology-Sociology. Her honors thesis was on North American Trickster myths.

Alice C. Linsley

We began the conversation after she read an article that mentions the Ainu at Biblical Anthropology on “The Bible and the Question of Race.” Judith contacted me with some questions about the Ainu. She is familiar with the Ainu of Japan, but was not familiar with their Nilotic ancestors.


If Abraham's Ainu ancestors spread far and wide as Genesis 10 reports, we would expect them to be an early stock from which many other peoples come. This has been confirmed by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza's genetic distance studies which places the Ainu at the center.

The Ainu originated in the Nile Valley and migrated eastward as far as Japan and northward to Finland. From Finland, they crossed through Greenland and Labrador to the eastern seaboard of Canada. Today many Ainu descendants live in the fishing communities of northeast Canada. They are known to be excellent hunters. Some are called MicMak.

The Matagi hunters of the Tōhoku region of northern Japan have much in common with the bear cult of the Ainu. When I think of hunting, I recall two of Abraham's ancestors who were remembered for their hunting prowess: Nimrod, the son of Kush, and Esau who was said to be hairy and red.

The Arawa hunters in Niger and of ancient Kush are called maharba. This is the same word used for hunter among the Maori Arawa.

My Ainu friend from Canada tells me that the Ainu have a red skin tone and are bearded. Some have green eyes. The red skin hue may appear as rosey cheeks or a reddish tone over tanned skin like that of Egyptians who work in the sun (I Sam. 16:12; 17:42). King David was described as having this red skin tone. The Hebrew word for red or ruddy is edom. Edom is equivalent to the Hausa odum, meaning red-brown and to the word Adam, the first man formed from the red clay which washed down to the Upper Nile Valley from the Ethiopian highlands. These soils have a cambic B horizon. Chromic Cambisols have a strong red brown color.

Abraham means “burnt father” and refers to his reddish skin color. In Arabic, the word ham means burnt. The Nilotic peoples were referred to burnt because they had a reddish skin tone.

Best wishes,

Alice C. Linsley


What about a connection with early people living in the north of Europe? The early Finnish were bear-worshipers like the Ainu of Japan.

Ainu artist Koji Yuuki
None of the Ainu I knew seemed reddish in hue, as I recall. Although the Ainu I met in Hokkaido in the 1960's on a church work camp were not pure Ainu. As a volunteer for missions, we were helping rebuild an Ainu church.

In Japan, the Japanese I talked to thought of the Ainu as Caucasian in appearance. Ainu have angular faces, paler skin, deep eye sockets, are hairy, and hunted. Not Buddhist at all. They are often referred to in literature as the "hairy Ainu." Their faces contrast with the smooth, rounded, less hairy Asian faces of southern Japanese, many of whom can't grow a full beard. My brother-in-law, a Shinto Priest at Ise Shrine, was from Aomori Prefecture in Northern Honshu. He didn't look "Japanese" at all. He looked very Ainu with his square angular face, full mustache, sunken eyes and pale skin. I bet he was in that haploid group mentioned. The Ainu were once settled in Northern Honshu, but were later driven out to Hokkaido across the straits. Zenichiro Oniisan burned readily in the summer sun, and always wore a hat.


Judith Hishikawa


The Ainu of Japan and the Ainu who crossed into North America through Finland, Greenland and Labrador are in the same haplogroup. In the northern climates the bear appears to have been their totem, but in the Nile, their totem varied by clan and the animals totems included the lion, the dog, and the long-horned cow.

The red skin tone is not always pronounced, but other characteristics, such as beards, distinctive headgear and decorative motifs on the robes are evident among all the Ainu men. Compare these photos.

Ainu of Eastern Canada

Ainu elder of Hokkaido Japan

The Ainu are in mtDNA haplogroup X. The dispersion of haplogroup X is shown below. The greatest concentrations are indicated by the darker shade. MtDNA traces lineage by the mitochondria, received from the mothers.

Note the small dot in Southern Siberia.  This is the only known archaic HgX population in that entire region, indicating that the Ainu did not come to North America across the Bering Strait.

Best wishes,


Also, about the Ainu motifs, these share traits with the motifs of the Northwest Coast peoples and the Maori.



The Ainu and Maori share many similarities in their history and culture, and recently efforts have been made for these peoples to learn from one another. Those motifs are similar also to those found among the fishing communities in Eastern Canada, Labrador and Greenland. That is where the Ainu crossed over to North America from Finland, and originally from the Nile Valley.

A friend from Niger recently called to my attention to the discover of twin pyramids in Zinder, Niger.  He said that in discussion about Hausa origins the connection between the Arawa of Niger and the Arawa-Maori of New Zealand was noted. He explained that the Songhaï (Zarma) people are called "Maori" in Niger and both groups of Arawa claim a common ancestor named "Tama."  He notes also that the names of many Maori towns sound Hausa example: Arawa, Gizo, Buka etc.

It is reasonable to speculate that a confederation of Ar clans traveled across the seas. Genesis 10 speaks of the clans of Ar who controlled the Red Sea and the Mediterranean island kingdoms of Tyre and Arvad. These were seafaring people. This appears to be a typical Kushite 3-clan confederation, consisting of Ar, Arvd and Arkt. The last two clans are called “Arvadites” and “Arkites” in Genesis 10:15-18. They are the peoples of Sidon and, with other clans living in Canaan, are classified as under the general label “Canaanite.” They spread eastward with the Kushite expansion. Their Mesopotamian kin are called "Arameans" in the Bible.

The Ainu are fascinating and rightly can be called a "first people," but there is still much to learn about them. Were they the predecessors of the Ar clans?

Does your brother-in-law speak English? I would love to communicate with him. Might he be willing to share some of the stories about the Ainu?

Also this shrine you mention... Ise reminds me of Isis or Hathor, the mother of Horus who was called "Son of God" among Abraham's Horite ancestors. This appears to be the origin of Messianic expectation, long before the Jews emerged in history as a distinct people.

Best wishes,



I'm afraid that my brother-in-law has passed away. Ise Shrine is the most important Shinto Shrine in Japan as it is the one dedicated to the ancestors of the Imperial family. It is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-o-mi-kami, the mythological founder. (The god who lights up heaven) This area of Japan is still thought of as an area where women are very strong. It was once a matrilineal society.

One of the shrine's functions was as an agricultural guide, telling people when to plant what etc. My brother-in-law was in charge of their agricultural museum for a while.

It is where people go to pray at New Years for a good year to come. Babies are taken for a blessing, and thank you. I was told by my mother-in-law that engaged couples shouldn't go there because Amaterrasu-o-mi-kani would get jealous and break up the marriage!

There is a forest preserve around the shrine that has been a natural forest since ancient times, something very rare in Japan. There are many lesser Shrines around the main one, all in the forest. The architecture is like southwest Asian style. The main buildings are rebuilt every 20 years, so they are always fresh and new.

The shrine is a small rather modest structure with a white cloth and scared paper hanging in front blowing in the breeze. There is nothing inside usually, although some have an emblem of the deity. You go and pay your respects by first cleaning your hands and mouth at a watering place, then you sprinkle salt as a purifier on the ground in front of the shrine, and you clap your hand three times to get the attention of the deities, (some places have a rope and bell) and you silently make your case: thanks, requests, whatever, bowing your head.

People who earn their living by gathering seaweed to sell, or making silk, or anyone who depends on a product of nature for their livelihood, take offerings to the shrine to thank the deities for nature's blessing.

We always liked that part because brother-in-law would bring home his share of the seaweed and we got to eat it, usually in miso soup, and I have a lovely pink kimono that my sister-in-law had dyed for me from a roll of white silk that had been a thank-offering.

The priests make a new fire every morning using the old techniques of bow and stick and tinder, brother-in -law was good at that. They also pray for peace in the world at the same time. Neat place!

There are special chickens, called "Phoenix Chickens" in English which roam around the shrine ground. They are the messengers of the Sun Goddess. I've seen carved Roosters on the top of a wooden church in Bergen, Norway. They seem to know when to crow, don't they!

The origin of the name ISE is not clear, but it was a place name long before writing came to Japan in the 800s, along with Buddhism. I can tell you that the name "ISE" is an old one from a time of oral language only. The Chinese character that was chosen for the "I" part means "that one" and is used in other contexts in combination for "dandy' "showy dresser" etc. The "SE" part uses a character that stands for "energy," "influence," "power," "military power," "might" and is used in combination for words like "influential family."

As for sun worship, when I went to Japan in the 1960s, I saw older country people get up and bow to the sun and saying a prayer with their hands held up together in front of them. When I asked, it was dismissed as something old people did. Native Americans in the southwest do the same thing, or so I have read.



The veneration of the sun is extremely ancient. Among Abraham's Nilotic ancestors the sun was regarded as the emblem of the Creator and sometimes shown as the Deity's solar boat.  In some images, such as this one found at Anghor Wat, Horus appears in the form of a falcon flying above the sun.

Angkor Wat faces west toward the Nile. Angkor Wat and the Egyptian royal tombs correspond in form to the number 72. The number 72 represents the numerical sequence linked to the earth’s axial precession, which causes the apparent alteration in the position of the constellations one degree every 72 years. It has been noted that Angkor Wat is located 72 degrees of longitude east of the Pyramids of Giza. The name Angkor correlates with the ancient Egyptian Anhk-Hor, meaning "May Horus Live." This was likely a Horite shrine before it became a Buddhist temple. The Horite ruler-priests are responsible for the diffusion of Horite religion across the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion.

The practices you describe are common in Africa. If the Ainu came to Japan from the Nile, this should not surprise us. I asked about Ise because the name reminded me of Ishtar and Isis. Earlier she was called Hathor among the Proto-Saharan and Nilotic Ainu. Abraham's father was Terah (Tera) and his name was associated with the royal Ainu of the Upper Nile. Tera-neter means one devoted to God. Tera indicates a priest and ntr refers to God. The name is associated with Het-u temples. The Het lived well after the time of the Patriarchs. In Genesis 10 they are listed as Noah's descendants by his grandsons Sidon and Het and are indicated as the original inhabitants of Canaan.

The Proto-Saharan word for throne is es or is. It is associated with serpents. The proto-root for vein, river, tongue, sinew, lightening and serpent was NS. Originally, the S would have been a pictograph representing a serpent or anything serpentine. It also indicates "great" and can mean "Man" (Egyptian - sa), and throne (Proto-Saharan es or is). The serpent was a sacred symbol to the Kushites, especially to the metalworking clans such as the Hittites of Anatolia who called themselves Nes.

With kind regards,



Hum... in current Japanese, "tera" is the word used for "temple" as in Buddhist Temple. A throne is not an original Japanese concept. Rulers sat on a higher tatami mat or higher floor part, or one closer to the center of the room in the back. Snakes, as far as I can tell, are just used for medicine and are often thought of in a benevolent way. They help the farmers by eating rats and mice. We had an aodaisho, a large black-blue snake in our neighborhood, and I was directed to treat it with respect because of it's age and usefulness. It was round and quite long and went about it's business undisturbed until it found its way into the cage of the baby parakeets that the manager's wife had left hanging on her eaves when she went shopping. What a scream she let out! I went over to help. Our friendly neighborhood snake had gotten itself into the cage and eaten so many baby parakeets that it couldn't get out. I was going to take it down for her and open the door to let it out, but she wanted to wait until her husband came home. In any case, the snake was let loose again.

I don't remember any snake motifs around shrines. People did catch them and make snake wine, though.

The Japanese word for snake is "hebi." The Egyptian sign for river is very similar to the Chinese character for river. The Egyptian one looks like a "W". The Chinese character is three vertical lines in a row, the last being longer. If you let your brush touch the page lightly between strokes, it can look like "W". "River" is "kawa", "vein" is "joumyaku', "tongue" is "shita", "sinew" is "tsuji", lightening is "kaminari."  Kaminari can be translated as "from the gods" or "the gods are up to something" or simply "from above." Terasu is "to shine."



The sinew that the angel touched on Jacob’s thigh is called gid ha'nasheh in Hebrew. There is a relationship between nasheh and nahushtan, the bronze serpent on Moses' rod. Reeds, sinews, veins, lightening and rivers are like serpents. It is easy to see how prehistoric man might have thought of lightening as God's serpent. Where it struck there was a connection between heaven and earth. That place would be considered the sacred center, just as the Nile was the sacred center between the Pole Star and the rising sun, and the Jordan was the sacred center between M-nasheh/Ephraim and M-nasheh/Gad.

In the older Proto-Saharan languages spoken by Abraham's Kushite ancestors, N at the end of the word designates the plural form. Appa is father, but appan means fathers. When N comes at the beginning of the word, it refers to God, as in the Egyptian ntr. The original root for vein, river, serpent, sinew and lightening was probably NS. It would have represented the idea of connection between heaven and earth, and between God and man.

Best wishes,


Such interesting topics! The origin myth of Amaterasu-o-mi-kami has her parents, Izanagi and Iznami, who are the progenitors of all the gods, standing on the "bridge of heaven" (a rainbow) and stirring the ocean with a long pole. The places where they stirred the bottom up became the 8 main islands of Japan. If you remember the opening ceremonies for the Nagano Olympics, you will remember that the world was shown the ancient art of raising a large pole using ropes. Such a pole could be used in building a large structure. When Izanagi and Isanami were married, they walked around the main pole. As the story goes, Izanami, the female, was too anxious for the union and she walked around and met Izanagi first. This was considered inappropriate, and they had to do it over again. The gaikokubashira or main pole of a house, is a term used to describe someone who quietly supports the people around them. In a traditional Japanese house, there is a raised platform half-way across the back of the parlor, the zashiki or receiving room. This platform is about 8 inches high and usually there are sliding doors and a storage area over it under the ceiling. This is the place of honor in a home where you hang a scroll to match the season and put a flower arrangement and maybe a special ornament. This tokonoma has a decorative pole to the right of it that is made of special wood, highly polished and given respect. There are many grades of wood used for this supporting pole and the trees used are specially grown for this purpose.

The Japanese language consists of consonant-vowel syllables, except for the N sound which only comes at the end of a word. The N sound in Japanese can come at the beginning of a word as part of a consonant+vowel syllable. When it stands alone, it can only come at the end. Generally speaking plurals are not always given, but understood. When necessary for clarity, there are word endings which can be added depending on the type of word. I remember distinctly getting a letter from school in which I was asked to provide my daughter with hakko for a kindergarten project. So I went and got a special kind of soap that came in a very pretty little box, when actually they wanted all sorts of used boxes for the children to tape together and make whatever object they wanted. Sigh!

Father is ottosan, or more formally in the old style chichiue. As for the connection between heaven and earth, that was provided when Amaterasu-o-mi-kami came down to live in Ise in human form. The gods are not far away. You can go to any shrine and talk to them anytime you want to. You don't have to wait for Sunday services, or pay for special sacred dances, or musical performances, or shrine festivals. Shinto shines are everywhere, sort of ''fast-food" gods, ready at our convenience. The inari jinja are special shrines to the fox god who is clever and good for merchants and shop keepers. You can find them near busy shopping streets. There are local shrines to a multitude of gods. You name it, somewhere there is a shrine to it. Natural objects, like a pine tree, for instance, that is especially old and has weathered many storms, can be inspirational. Such a tree will have a shimenawa or sacred rope with sacred paper streamers attached to it to show respect for the courage of the tree. Especially noted rock formations will have shimenawa, or waterfalls.

In modern American, we had "The Old Man of the Mountains" in New Hampshire, for example that was made much of, or Walden Pond. Natural caves and land bridges are admired and turned into parks. We admire the "handiwork."

All the best!



Reflecting some more on matrilinial families, that tendency is still present in modern Japanese society.  I know that the Emperor only has a daughter and the authorities are dithering about succession, that's a whole story in itself.  If they looked to the past they would not dither.

Anyway, if in modern Japanese society, you have property, let's say, and only a daughter to inherit, you can adopt a male legally, and he will change his family name and marry your daughter.  He'll marry in. This is usually a second son who didn't inherit. That's what my mother-in-law did.  She went off and found herself a husband and her parents legally adopted him, he changed his last name. This is not uncommon.

Also, in certain prominent families with say, traditional occupations such as flower arranging, dancing, acting etc,  the males will have several different personal names over their life time to indicate that they've mastered new skills.  I believe Native American had the same practice.
What about Africa?




Matrilineage is a significant feature of Abraham's Horite people who originated in the Nile Valley. To this day, Jewish identity is traced through the mother, not the father. I have identified the marriage and ascendancy structure of the Horites and can confirm that line of descent and blood line are traced through the mothers.

It was the Horite custom for the ruler or high king to have two wives. The first wife was a half-sister (as was Sarah to Abraham) and the second wife was either a patrilineal cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham). The wives lived in separate households on a north-south axis. The east-west axis was considered God's territory as the Sun traveled this direction over the Earth.

The second wife was taken shortly before the heir ascended to the throne, as in Isaac's case. With two wives, there was a question of succession of two firstborn sons.  The firstborn son of the sister wife ascended to the throne of his father. So Isaac became Abraham's heir and successor.  The firstborn son of the cousin wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named.  So Abraham's firstborn son Joktan ascended to the throne of Joktan the Elder, after whom he was named.

Sons were also born to concubines, although it appears that each ruler only had two concubines.  The sons of concubines and the younger sons of wives were sent away to establish territories of their own. This marriage and ascendancy pattern drove the Kushites expansion out of Africa into Mesopotamia, India, Nepal, Cambodia and Japan. The Kushite expansion has been attested by DNA studies.

Related reading: The Kushite-Kushan Connection;  From the Nile to the Philippines: Tracing the GurjarsThe Nilotic Origins of the AinuAinu at the Center of Cavalli-Sforza's Genetic Distance Chart; A Kindling of Ancient Memory; Does Genesis 10 Describe the Ainu Dispersion?; Solving the Ainu Mystery


DDeden said...

Per one source (Philip Graham), Hebrew "hor" meant "mount" (so 'Mount Hor' in was a Greek translation error, the original Hebrew text just has Hor). Perhaps it meant the altar on high? [similar to Urartuan Halde]

But per Origumi: "hor" (=hole, Aramaic, Hebrew) and "hur" (=free, Arabic, Aramaic?, Hebrew) whose plural is "horin" (Aramaic, borrowed by Hebrew). "hor" and "hur" share (in Aramaic, Hebrew) the same root h-r-r (h stands for Aramaic and Hebrew ח, Arabic ﺣ). http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1730880

Alice Linsley said...

HR had the meaning of high place or mountain. Noah's ark landed on HR-Meni which has been inaccurately interpreted as Armenia.

Jabal Har-un is the Arabic for Aaron's Mountain. It is also called "Mount HR." Mount Hor is in the heart of the ancient Horite territory where Abraham's people lived. Horite territory apparently extended north-southeast between Mount Hor above Kadesh-barnea and Mt. Harun near Petra.

The Jews still call their ancestors "Horim."

Jonathan said...

Does the word Ainu point to any special cultural distinctives of Abraham’s Horite ancestors that we can identify, having to do, maybe, with their study of wisdom, or their love of sacred knowledge which was conveyed through riddles and stories? If you trace back the etymology of our word “enigma” (1580s, earlier enigmate (mid-15c.), from L. aenigma "riddle," from Gk. ainigma (pl. ainigmata), from ainissesthai "speak obscurely, speak in riddles," from ainos "fable, riddle," of unknown origin) you seem to arrive at a point where it might coincide with the word Ainu (?). (The foregoing is from the Online Etymologicial Dictionary -- hope that it is trustworthy!) So, likewise, when the disciples of the Lord came, and said to Him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables (Heb. meshalim)?” (Matt 13:10), the Lord, when answering, was quite adamant that the parables (or “proverbs”, or “riddles” -- which I think might amount to all pretty much the same word in Hebrew as “parable”: cf. Prov. 1:6 mashal) were all very crucial to His evangelical message and represented something of a key to the Kingdom of heaven. I am thinking that the Lord’s answer would have, in a certain culture, been a strong affirmation of the lifelong quests of any of those who were devout students of wisdom (Cf. Matt. 11:19; Mat. 12:42). We can surmise that the Lord, as well as the prophets, forerunner and all the other righteous faithful who made up His family tree (as well as neighbors such as the “wise woman” of II Samuel 20:16-18), were eager to soak up and appropriate the whole wisdom literature of the Hebrew scriptures. But do we know if this distinctive habit of “wisdom”-scholarship or respect for “riddles” and “parables” is in any way characteristic with the Ainu culture?

Alice Linsley said...

You are on to something here, Jonathan.

The oldest known tradition in story telling involves the sacred accounts, told by the priest, shaman, or tribal griot. Griots are often women.

Since the Ainu originated in the Green Sahara (10,000-1800 BC) we do well to investigate the word’s meaning in that region. Among the Hausa speaking Bori, the supreme Spirit is called Anné/Anu. (The Green Sahara is a reference to the Holocene Wet Phase.) The word "Bora" is an Ainu word and refers to Spirit or wind (probably equivalent to the Hebrew ruach.)

You asked, "Do we know if this distinctive habit of 'wisdom'-scholarship or respect for 'riddles' and 'parables' is in any way characteristic with the Ainu culture?"

Regardless of where they are found around the world, all Ainu populations are recognized as having an ancient storytelling tradition. Ainu prayer songs and dance are a feature of "Night of the Porotokotan" which is open to visitors of the Ainu Museum in the town of Shiraoi on the island of Hokkaido (Japan). Likewise, the Ainu (Micmac) of Canada are known for their songs, dance and tribal tales.

This is how traditional wisdom is conveyed through the generations. I’ve written about the reliability of oral tradition (versus written history which is continually revised) here:

Ma-shal reflects a very old Afro-Asiatic root – Ma - which refers to mother or female. In Hausa, Ancient Egyptian and Sanskrit, Ma-ta means women. In the Bori cult (Niger) the ruling women preserved the sacred wisdom (cf. “wise woman” of II Samuel 20:16-18). This feminine designation is reflected in the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Carlos Lascoutx said...

the Ainu have a connexion with the cave-dwellers of Mexico, the Otomitl

Alice Linsley said...

The Otomitl likely are in Haplogroup X with some European and Andean admixture. If so, they share a genetic history with Africans and a small number of Pacific Northwest Native Americans (Torroni 1994b, 1996, 1998; Forster et al. 1996; Richards et al. 1996). African populations exhibit the largest extent of mtDNA variation, a result that supports the hypothesis that Africans represent the most ancient human group and that all modern humans have a common and recent African origin. The age of the total African variation was estimated to be 101,000-133,000 years before present (YBP), while the age of haplogroup L was estimated at 98,000-130,000 YBP. These values exceed the ages of all Asian- and European-specific mtDNA haplogroups.