Let’s get our Anthropology on, y’all!
I’d heard of the Ainu before. Always in context with the “Atlantis” argument or some such. The Ainu are residents of Japan, but they are clearly of a different ethnic stock than the typical Japanese. They are more “white,” which is just a non-PC way of saying they have more Caucasoid than Mongoloid features. They are harrier. Scientists weren’t really sure where they came from, but it was believed they were the original inhabitants of Japan, before the arrival of the more traditional Asians. They must, then, be descendants of the survivors of Atlantis! Or Lemuria! Or somewhere!
Yes, I’d heard of the Ainu. But I’d never before heard of their reverence for bears. I didn’t know that, prior to 2006, the Japanese government didn’t officially recognize the Ainu, that it considered them undesirable, because they contradicted the notion that the Japanese nation did not consist of only one “race.” (See, we’ve already learned something new!) It’s the bear worship thing that gets our attention here, though. The ancient Ainu lived alongside fierce bears, relatives of the American Kodiak grizzlies, and deified them. The Ainu may have even transported living bears from one island to another by raft. We can safely assume a shamanistic relationship, then, between Ainu mystics and bears. The Ainu may or may not have held to belief in werewolves, but it’s almost a certainty that they would have believed in were-BEARS.