Ainu remains returned to Japan from Australia

Remains of Japan's indigenous Ainu people, which were kept in Australian museums, have been repatriated after more than a century. They were taken from their homelands in the early 20th century for research.

The remains had been held in Melbourne and the capital, Canberra, after Japanese academics gave them to their Australian peers between 1911 and 1936.

They were originally taken from the northern prefecture of Hokkaido and the then Japanese territory of Karafuto.

Japanese scholars collected Ainu remains, sometimes dug from their graves, and hundreds are believed to still be in collections around the world.

Four sets of ancestral remains were handed back to a delegation of Ainu people on Saturday.

A member of the delegation said the ancestors have been feeling lonely for a long time, having been removed from their homelands as research material. He added he wants to console their souls properly.

The Australian government announced in 2017 its intention to send back the remains. It took years of negotiations to make the plan a reality.

Records show that remains of Australia's indigenous Aboriginal people were also provided to Japan in exchange for Ainu remains.

The Japanese government says negotiations with Australia are ongoing over returning the Aboriginal peoples' ancestral remains.