David Janson

Faculty Advisor

Jiacheng Liu

Document Type


Publication Date



My research project will be examining the Ainu exhibits at the 1903 Fifth National Industrial Exposition of Osaka and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition of St. Louis. These two expositions, the first sponsored by the Empire of Japan and the second sponsored by American Anthropologists, featured live members of the aforementioned Hokkaido group, the presentations of whom allow for us to view the perceptions of the Ainu by the Japanese who were in the process of colonizing them and the more traditional colonizers in the West. With this view in hand, this project seeks to examine the ways in which the Japanese and the West made the distinction between “barbarian” and “civilized”. The two expositions work as a framing device, however in order to provide additional information this essay includes a number of secondary sources to serve as backdrop for the attitudes of both Japanese and Western audiences. The main primary source for this research is Frederick Starr’s Ainu Group at the St. Louis Exposition. This short work follows Frederick Starr’s journey through Hokkaido, in order to acquire the figures he wishes to put on display. The book also recounts his travels with the Ainu, as well as the reactions of locals towards his entourage in both Japan and in the United States. The Japanese viewed the Ainu as inferior due to their cultural differences, however there was a strong belief that with enough time these “savages” could become Japanese. The West, meanwhile, viewed the Ainu through a racial lens, referring to them as “lost Aryans,” which resulted in greater sympathy towards Ainu culture among Western intellectuals.


This presentation is a finalist for the Undergraduate Developing Scholars Research Excellence Award.