Master - An Ainu Story Book Campaign

by Adam Isfendiyar in London, England, United Kingdom

Total raised £2,018

raised so far



I'm trying to raise funds for a bilingual photobook about the Ainu - indigenous people of Japan.

by Adam Isfendiyar in London, England, United Kingdom

My name is Adam Isfendiyar and I have been a photographer for 6 years. I started taking photos when I was living in Japan - where I was based for over 8 years. During my time in Japan I was intrigued by stories of the Ainu people - an indigenous community of Japan that few people seemed to know much about. 

In early 2016, after some research I found an Ainu centre in Tokyo and paid them a visit. It is a small office with a couple of shelves of books and some videos. They run Ainu language lessons every week and have information about upcoming Ainu events across nationwide. I was given a flyer for an Ainu festival happening in May 2016 in Toyama, on the west coast of Japan and decided to make the trip across the country to attend it.

At the festival I met a group of Ainu dancers and Kenji Matsuda - who, as chairman of the Akan Ainu Cultural Preservation Society, was one of the organisers of the event. I managed to get an invite to come and stay with Matsuda san and that led to me to apply for funding from the Sasakawa Foundation, which allowed me to begin this project.

I have always had a desire to tell stories and wanted to use photography to help me to gain an understanding about the Ainu. Matsuda san let me document his life and stay with him in him home in the Ainu Village in Akan Onsen.

Over a period of two years I regularly travelled to Akan to stay with Matsuda san and learn more about the Ainu community, culture and history and about his life and the lives of other members of the Ainu community and how they have been affected by the Japanese occupation of their land and attempts to eradicate their culture.

Master, An Ainu Story provides a rare insight into the lives of modern-day Ainu. The aim of having a book which tells the story of the Ainu, is to highlight the issues faced by not only the Ainu, but all indigenous groups who have faced discrimination and had their culture threatened.

Through the personal experiences of Matsuda san, the photos tell the story of survival and adaptation of the Ainu. It shows how the effects of laws imposed by the Japanese government instilled a lasting shame in the Ainu people due to their cultural heritage.

Matsuda san, known as “Master” (which roughly translates to “boss” in English) to his family, colleagues and patrons, has grown up sandwiched between two generations of Ainu which have very different attitudes towards their heritage. While his grandparent’s generation encouraged their children and grandchildren to assimilate for fear of discrimination, recent generations have started to demand recognition of their indigenous status, which was finally given in February 2019.

The book will consist of around 80 pages of text and photos. Included in the text will be a history of the Ainu people and culture and excerpts of interviews with Matsuda san about his personal experiences growing up as an Ainu in Japan and how being a member of the Ainu community affected him.

Starting with the text section in English and Japanese, the book will contain around 70 photos of Matsuda san and the surrounding environment and community members, which will be displayed without text. All photos were taken and edited by me and and curated with the help of Ryan Libre at The University of Colorado.

The project has been exhibited at The School Of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, as well as at Sway Gallery in London and Stockholm and most recently at The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, where I also gave a talk on the subject to the Japan Society. The cover photo of the book has also been featured in National Geographic Traveler, China.

Indigenous cultures are a part of our shared human heritage and I would like to do what I can to help to keep these cultures alive and growing. I hope that other people will recognise the importance of keeping alive a part of our shared human story and help to support the production of the book.

I am hoping to raise enough money to order a print run of  books and I decided to setup this campaign as they are usually quite expensive to produce as single items, so by making the production cost smaller the book will be more affordable and accessible.

Donations of £15 will receive a signed postcard from the 'Master, An Ainu Story' exhibition which was held at The Brunei Gallery, SOAS.

Donations of £45 will receive a signed copy of the book.

Donations of £75 will receive a signed copy of the book and an A4 print from the 'Master, An Ainu Story' series.

Donations of £100 will receive 2 signed copies of the book and an A4 print from the 'Master, An Ainu Story' series.

Donations of £250 will receive any combination of 2 signed copies of the book and 2 A3 prints of your choice.

Donations of £500 will receive any combination of 2 signed copies of the book and 2 A3 prints of your choice and a photoshoot in London with me.

Please note, shipping costs are not included. Here's a rough guideline of costs per book:

Australia £23.50

USA £21.50

Japan £21.50

Europe £12.50

UK £9


2016年の初めに、いくつかの調査の後、東京にアイヌセンターを見つけ、訪問しました。これは、いくつかの本の棚とビデオがいくつかある小さなオフィスです。彼らは毎週アイヌ語のレッスンを行っており、全国の今後のアイヌのイベントに関する情報を持っています。 2016年5月に日本の西海岸の富山で行われるアイヌ祭のチラシをもらい、全国を旅することにしました。








この本には、日本語と英語のテキストセクションから始まり、松田さんと周囲の環境やコミュニティのメンバーの写真が約70枚含まれており、テキストなしで表示されます。すべての写真は私が撮って編集し、コロラド大学のRyan Libreの協力を得てキュレーションされました。













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