2013: Brief History of Buraku Discrimination

Buraku Liberation Center (BLC), ein Werk der Vereinigten Kirche Christi in Japan (Kyodan)

A Brief History of Buraku Discrimination in Japan
By Tim Boyle
Buraku Liberation Center, United Church of Christ in Japan Osaka, Japan

As with any aspect of human culture developing over a long period of time, Buraku discrimination is not something that can be comprehensively described in a short essay. It is a subject that is difficult to explain in terms easily understood by people outside the culture.  Nevertheless, I will attempt to give an overview of how this insidious form of discrimination developed in Japanese culture and why it has been so difficult to eradicate. I will be basing most of my observations on a textbook (“Korede Wakatta! Buraku no Rekishi” – “Now I Understand It! Buraku History”) written by Uesugi Satoshi, a lecturer at Kansai University in Ōsaka, Japan, while adding a few points I have gleaned from other sources and from my own observations. While the detailed factors that conspired together to create the monster of buraku discrimination in each area differ considerably, the basic principles are common to all, and since this is to be a general overview, I will focus on the broad strokes and delve into local details only as they illuminate these broad stokes.

Sense of Defilement: The Underlying Rationale
A key concept in understanding any such form of religiously-sanctioned class discrimination is that of “defilement.” What is it that makes something or someone “defiled” and “unclean?” The basic concept is that something is “defiled” when it is out of its “proper” place in society. This is, of course, related to the basic worldview that was common to almost all ancient societies – namely that the natural order of nature and its relation to human society are controlled by events in the realm of the gods and by the whims of the gods. ....

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