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The concept of impurity (kegare)

Kegare (pollution / impurity) is the pollution resulting from negative occurrences including the following:

  • Death of a person or an animal

  • Birth, menstrual periods, pregnancy

  • Catastrophes

(Kobayashi 2016:142)

By proximity or touching “pollution” (shokue) and the consequence of becoming such, people believed that kegare is contagious and stayed away from “polluted” people and areas (Kobayashi  2016:142).

burakumin and impurity

Before the outcaste groups eta, hinin, and other became institutionalized through the class system in the Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo period), there were various other similar instances of marginalized groups through the concept of impurity. 

All the various cases throughout history that were marginalized and discriminated through the concept of impurity occupied work that related to the afore-mentioned "reasons".

In the case of the eta, their close relation to the work of tanners or removing animal corpses from the streets made them "impure". Vice versa, when someone conducted such work without "being part of the eta group", one could be considered as such

In contemporary times, the arbitrary pointing in relation to the impurity exists. Many who work in slaughterhouses or in waste disposal are often seen as burakumin although they are not.


  • Kobayashi, Kenji. 2016. Sabetsugo - Fukaigo [Discriminatory Terms - Unpleasant Terms]. 1st ed. Tōkyō: Kabushiki kaisha ningen shuppan.

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