A law recognizing the Ainu ethnic minority as an indigenous people of Japan has been enacted.
The Ainu mainly live in Hokkaido, northern Japan.
The legislation was approved at an Upper House plenary session on Friday.
The law stipulates for the first time that the Ainu are an indigenous people, and calls for the creation of a society in which they can take pride in their heritage. It also holds the central and local governments responsible for promoting measures to achieve the goal.
It calls for establishing a subsidy program for regional revitalization aimed at helping local authorities implement projects to promote Ainu culture.
It also calls for deregulation to make it easier for the Ainu to gather wood in state-owned forests and catch salmon in local rivers, as part of efforts to help them conserve their cultural traditions.
Land minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters that it is important for the Ainu to maintain their ethnic honor and dignity and pass their culture to future generations to create a vibrant society of coexistence.
He added that his ministry will work toward steady implementation of the law by taking into account views expressed in Diet debate.