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"They are ethnically Japanese, speak Japanese, follow the similar religious and cultural practices as other Japanese, and thereby ought not to be considered a separate ethnic group. The question that invariably follows, then, is this: How do people know who is or is not burakumin."

 - Christopher Bondy in his book:

Voice, Silence, Self: Negotiations of Buraku Identity in Contemporary Japan (2015:15)

What is 
buraku?

Buraku means “village” or “hamlet” and is a common used word referring to someone's residence.
However, the buraku issue is based on the locations called tokushu buraku (special hamlets). The use of tokushu buraku emphasized on their “differences” to the “normal” villages. The term towards the outcaste groups was changed to buraku/burakumin removing the negative connotation the word tokushu created.

Nowadays, we call the location either buraku or hisabetsu buraku (discriminated against hamlets).

Careful!


The term tokushu buraku is a derogatory term and should only be used for the historical narrative.

 

Who are the burakumin?

The term burakumin refers to people who are

  • descendants of outcaste groups created by the feudal class system during the Edo period

  • working in "unclean" occupation such as butchers

  • living in a hisabetsu buraku


​The term burakumin refers often to the descendants of eta, hinin and other outcaste classes, but it consists all different groups of people who were and are living in the buraku. Like the term hisabetsu buraku, we either call the people burakumin or the hisabetsu burakumin.

"Unclean" refers to the japanese word of kegare. We explain that here.

The three mentioned references were commonly used and are now obsolete. We discuss that here. 

Where are the burakumin and how many are there?

Unless someone tells you that they are burakumin, no one can know. This coupled with the discrimination and stigma the term buraku bears restricts their freedom. Additionally, many aren't even aware that they are descendants of burakumin/former outcaste group.

All this creates an unclear picture of the number of burakumin currently residing in Japan but the number is estimated in between 1.5 to 3 million.

There are buraku areas throughout Japan except in Okinawa and in Hokkaido and most are in western Japan.

What is the buraku issue?

The buraku issue (jap. buraku mondai) refers to the discrimination the burakumin suffer. The stigma of the buraku denies them the chances of occupation or marriage. Often described as a historical issue, it is however still existent in current Japan.  

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