In Japanese history, the Emishi were the inhabitants of Northeastern Japan (Tohoku). Ethnically distinct from modern Japanese, they seem to have been descendants of the Jomon people and the ancestors of the Ainu natives of Hokkaido. The Emishi language differed greatly from Japanese and has defied all efforts at reconstruction. Chinese chronicles referred to them as the "hairy men" (毛人), and described them as being exceedingly hirsute, a description also often applied to the Ainu.
The Emishi had a complex, stratified society and formed multiple kingdoms which were at times hostile to each other as well as to the Japanese. They were fierce warriors and were noted for their guerrilla tactics and mastery of the bow and arrow. The Chinese-style peasant conscript armies of the early Japanese imperial state suffered numerous defeats at the hands of the Emishi, leading to the evolution of the mounted archers known to history as samurai.
Eventually (by the Kamakura Period), the Japanese succeeded in wiping out or assimilating the last of the Emishi on Honshu, leaving Hokkaido as the last refuge of the Emishi/Ainu.
The main character of Hayao Miyazaki's renowned animated film Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka, was an Emishi.