Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Burakumin (Japan’s unclean caste)

The word burakumin (“People of the Hamlet”) refers to Japan’s traditional “unclean” caste, also known as “Eta” (“abundant pollution”) and “Hinin” (“non-human”).

During the Tokugawa Period, they were forced to live in separate villages and perform society’s dirty jobs, including grave digging, butchery, executions, and making tatami floor mats.

2% of Japanese people are buraku, and although they are racially identical to other Japanese people, discrimination is rampant. Caught in a vicious cycle of poverty and prejudice, many people are forced to invent “clean” family histories.

The class was officially abolished in the Emancipation Act of 1871, but it’s common for an employer to check an applicant’s background for buraku heritage.

Protective parents, worried about having sullied grandchildren, often hire private detectives to make sure their child’s potential spouse doesn’t have any buraku or Korean blood.

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Congratulations on exposing this human rights problem. I lived in Japan for three years and researched the topic for a Kansai Scene magazine article I wrote on the buraku. You might like to have a look at it here:


  2. N

    (sigh) Every time I hear “burakumin” I can’t help but hear “black man” the way a Japanese might say it.

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