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Buraku Problem Q&A

Many journalists, researchers and students from abroad come to visit us at the BLHRRI. Although they come from different parts of the world, they come to us to learn more about Buraku problems and ask for much information. Among the many questions asked us, we picked out those most frequently asked in these occasions, and will try to answer them as a new series of "Q&A" in this news letter. We hope this will be a help in understanding Buraku problems.

  1. Do Japanese people still discriminate against Buraku people ?
  2. Everyone denies discrimination of the job and every company says that they don't discriminate. True?
  3. When and how was the Buraku born?
  4. why was the Buraku formed in this period?
  5. What kind of people were classified as Burakumin?
  6. What kind of organization is it?
  7. Buraku people are discriminated against because they live together in their own communities, aren't they?
  8. What is Denunciation?
  9. What is Literacy school?
  10. Why does discrimination still exist?
  11. Please explain the "Dowa Administration" and the "Dowa measure project"
  12. What is the report of 'Dowa Policy council?'
  13. Please explain about Dowa Education.
  14. Please explain about a Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation.
  15. Since the living environment of Buraku areas has been improved, we non-Buraku people feel that we are discriminated against. What can you say about this ?
  16. Is Buddhism free from Buraku discrimination ?
  17. " Don't-wake-up-a-sleeping-baby "
  18. At present how many people are studying at literacy classes ?

Q Do Japanese people still discriminate against Buraku people ? I heard people say that discrimination is going away and not here anymore.

A Nowadays, people do not openly use derogatory words, nor do they openly express discrimination against Burakumin as they used to do. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that discrimination has gone away and is not here anymore. For example, a survey conducted among people in a Fukuoka town asked them if they would allow a family member to marry a Burakumin.

32.9% answered favorably, 30.6% replied unfavorably and 19.4% answered "absolutely no". Just about the same ratio was observed in several other surveys conducted in other prefectures. Another survey conducted by the Area Improvement Measures Office(responsible for Buraku problems) of the Cabinet Management and Coordination Agency, November 1985, entitled "The Actualities of the Area Enlightenment Project(Intermediate Report)gives a breakdown of married couples in Buraku areas as : both partners of Burakumin origin,65.6%;Burakumin husband couples,21.5% ;and, Burakumin wife couples,8.8%. Those couples with non-Burakumin partners totaled 30.3%.

However a local newspaper, the"Kyoto Shimbun",said in its report in 1988 on marriage of Burakumin,"not even one case of love marriage, to say nothing of an arranged marriage between people living in close neighboring communities, is observed among 190 families"in a rural Buraku in Kyoto prefecture. The facts show that if anyone knew that the other party was Burakumin before they met, they didn't even fall in love! The increasing intermarriage with Non-Burakumin are all "love marriage" which overcome opposition and discrimination against their choice.

All discriminatory ideas normally hidden in everyday life, disclose themselves on the occasion of the marriage of close kin. Discrimination pulls apart two young people in love and sometimes leads them into doom. We still see many of those young lovers, when they find out that their partner is Burakumin, turning away from their partner as they meet strong opposition from parents and relatives who consider such marriage awfully "unrespectable."There are also countless numbers of divorces where Burakumin identities were disclosed after having been married for sometime .some even killed themselves after their lovers, husbands or wives left them. A private detective agent tells us that in about 90% of marriage inquiries, people ask them to be sure to investigate Burakumin identity.

Discrimination in marriage is not the only plight that keeps Burakumin suffering. Discrimination at their job opportunities and in jobs are still frequent.

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Q Everyone denies discrimination of the job and every company says that they don't discriminate. True?

A In 1975, a publication entitled "Buraku list",giving all information on discriminated-against-Buraku communities, was discovered being covertly on sale. The biggest buyers of the List were private companies, including many of the leading big companies of Japan. If they had no notion to discriminate, no one would have tried to make quick money in publishing such an "evil-minded"List.

Japan is far from free of such discrimination even after the discovery of the Buraku List. Discrimination still stay here. Discrimination keeps Burakumin out of the better income jobs and forces them to work at less stable jobs, even through they fully qualify for position. The unemployment rate among Burakumin workers is considerably higher than the non-Burakumin rate, making it harder to get by.

Many of them are compelled to work at temporary jobs or as day laborers. In most of the job environments where these people are working, dangerous and hard working conditions lead to higher accident and sick rates. Higher unemployment rate and sick rates eventually lead to an extremely high relief rate compared with the non-Burakumin community. Measures especially provided in Buraku Areas brought about better housing. Still, not all Burakumin families are provided with improved housing programs. Quite a few Brakumin families still suffer difficulties in their life.

Discrimination, however, is not always limited to these visible or perceivable aspects. A covert but strong discriminating mentality among many non-Burakumin citizens, as it is still prevalent, may come forward and show apparent discrimination. And this is what scares many Burakumin. They are not scared without reasons. They are scared because discrimination still is here and now in the mentality of people.

The evidence is in many of those increasing graffiti with broad remarks found in schools, train stations, public toilets and bridges ; discriminatory statements, too, are still frequent. Those more recent graffiti, however, are little different in encouraging and inciting other people to follow suit indiscrimination. They are more intentional, more persistent, more blunt and more challenging against all those movements to abolish discrimination.

Discrimination, however is not only limited to verbal offenses. Below the harsh words which are disclosed, lies the biggest part of an iceberg.


Q When and how was the Buraku born?

A It is said that the so-called BURAKU was formed during a period from the TOYOTOMI to the early EDO era, that is, from the beginning of the 16th century to the middle of the 17th century such a social class structure was legally and systematically fixed.


Q why was the Buraku formed in this period?

A During the period from the end of the 16th century to the 17th century, there were frequent riots caused by Buddhist (IKKO sect) or peasant in Japan. The military commanders in the age of civil strife, ODA NOBUNAGA, TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSI and the Shogun TOKUGAWA IEYASU were occasionally unable to manage them. As system in order to divide people's unity and to get them to decrease their power against authority. For that purpose the Burakumin was placed at the very bottom of the social structure.


Q What kind of people were classified as Burakumin?

A According to the latest research, a part of the peasants, craftsmen and other various classes of people in addition to the discriminated people in general at that time, were included and such a social structure was legally and systematically fixed.

Let's see how a man of power managed people in those days.

As the accompanying illustration shows, in the TOKUGAWA era the social structure was based on a levied tax mainly from the agricultural class since these people were major.

We can see a part of the difficult situation of farmers in those days through a historically based televised play. In those days, 2 million people of the SAMURAI class managed the other 28 million people. That is to say, one SAMURAI ruled over 14 other lower class people.

Such a social formation made the SAMURAI class fear that these people might unite and oppose the men of power. Accordingly, the ruling class formed a hierarchy classified as the illustration succinctly illustrates. As a results the social outcasts called by the derogatory terms "ETA" (extreme filth) or "HININ"(non human) were placed at the very bottom and the hierarchy was legally and systematically fixed.

"ETA" and "HININ" class people engaged in jobs such as the arrest and execution of criminals, etc. They were restricted even to the type of clothing that could be worn. It caused antagonism among the outcast class people, peasants and townsmen. The severe social system of feudal times is the origin of a discriminatory consciousness against the Burakumin.

Japanese NOH plays and KABUKI plays are traditional performing arts. The style of NOH was completed in the MUROMACHI period of feudal time by KANAMI and ZEAMI, who were discrimination people. And KABUKI was created by a lady who was called IZUMO NO OKUNI. She also lived at the bottom of society. Further, famous Japanese gardens such as those in GINKAKUJI temple (silver pavilion) and in NANZENJI temple were created by a discriminated class of people called KAWARAMONO.


Q What kind of organization is it?

A The Buraku Liberation League (BLL) is a grass roots organization formed by Buraku people to work toward their liberation and to fight against discrimination. Currently, the BLL has 200,000 members and 2,200 branches throughout 39 prefectures in Japan. BLL's antecedent, the National Leveler's Association (Suiheisha), was established in 1922. Before its establishment, Japanese society did not recognize discrimination against Buraku people as a 'social vice 'and efforts were made to 'correct'the way Buraku people wore their clothing and the way they talked.

Confronting the social attitude toward Buraku people, Suiheisha claimed that discrimination against the Buraku was a social problem, and demanded emotional and Suiheisha then developed a policy that sought a through impeachment of all social norms that led to discrimination against Buraku people. It adopted its founding declaration, as well as the first human right declaration in Japan, which closes with the statement, "Be warm-hearted to All!, May Light Be upon All Humankind!" As a result of its impeachment campaign against discrimination, people gradually restrained from making discriminatory remarks in public.

Suiheisha helped to end of the practice of overt and public discrimination in schools and the military. For example it denounced the guilty verdict of a man who refused to state that he was a Buraku person when he proposed to a woman for marriage. The Suiheisha held that the case in Takamatsu prefecture in 1933 was a clear example of discrimination, and turned the trial into a nationwide campaign demanding the cancellation of the verdict. It succeeded in convince the court to overturn the verdict.

The Suiheisha also developed a campaign that demanded the construction of improved housing and community facilities for Buraku people. This effort achieved significant results with the opening of new community centers and public bath houses. In spite of the achievement, a strong oppression was imposed on the campaign with the starts of World WarU, resulting in the Suiheisha being forced to dissolve. Its leadership, however, did not file official dissolution papers, but decided to allow a natural breakup.


Q Buraku people are discriminated against because they live together in their own communities, aren't they? I think they wouldn't be recognized if they live apart in different places.

A Whether one is a Buraku person or not, most of us live in communities. It is very common for human beings to live in communities. For example, in 'shataku'(housing built by corporations for their employees), people of the same trade live together. Housing built by a developer attracts people who have a similar income, age, and family structure, because a certain amount of income is required to live there. But we have never heard about discrimination against those who live in such housing communities. Therefore, living in collective communities is not a reason for Buraku people to be discriminated against. Why, then, did Buraku people start living in their communities?

In the Edo era, the movement of Buraku people was restricted and they were not allowed to choose the places where they wanted to live, due to the discrimination policy of the Shogunate. They were forced to live in inconvenient, mountainous areas or swamps near the rivers. Since the Meiji era, everybody has had the freedom to choose where to live, but the situation of the Buraku has not changed. It is partly because they have been deprived of the right of access of jobs and education, which resulted in a lack of opportunities to live outside the Buraku communities. They have managed to survive in the community by helping each other and by attending to families, relatives and neighbors.

If someone had dared to move out of the Buraku where he came from, would have been discovered by his neighbors and he would have been expelled. It was also hard for an 'exiled Buraku person' to keep up with the Joneses' in his new neighborhood. He could not help but go back to his old community.

In the first place, one should be free to decide where to live. No one should force Buraku people to move out of their communities. The Japanese Constitution states "Everyone has the freedom to reside, move and choose one's occupation. "" It should be by their free choice to decide whether to move out or not, and where to live

Just as everybody has his own home town, Buraku communities are the home towns for Buraku people. No one can deprive then of their home towns which they loved very much. It is most essential that we make our society one where Buraku people, no matter where they live, and free from both psychological and material discrimination. Discrimination itself should also be eliminated.

In 1941 before the war, a Buraku community in Gifu prefecture was compulsorily dissolved. After several years most of the residents came back anyway. Some Buraku communities in big cities were completely burnt down by air-raids or by the atomic bombings. Many people returned to their Buraku communities after they were reconstructed. Because a discrimination against the Buraku still remains, they would have harder operation if they lived isolated from their communities, and could not obtain jobs there.

By the way, how would you feel if a stranger asked you, "Why don't you move out, because your place is not good?" You probably would not feel comfortable about it. On the notion that something ugly and filthy had better be shattered down. But something we really should shatter down is our attitude to discriminate against the Buraku.


Q What is Denunciation?

A When someone discriminates against another person, there are not enough legal means to prevent that person from discrimination again, or not help victims of discrimination. Even among those who are in charge of protecting human right at the Human Right bureau of the Ministry of Justice and the Human Right Defense committee of the Legal Affairs Bureau, only a few actually understand Buraku problems very well.

A majority of them just preach about the issues to satisfy their duties. The offices do not function to prevent people from discriminatory behavior or to make them reflect on their actions, or not occur again. The Japanese Constitution includes statements about respect for human rights. In reality, however, there is not control over discriminatory behavior by law or institutions. Buraku people would have to put up with discrimination practices against them, if there were no Buraku Liberation Movement.

Denunciation allows Buraku people to accuse persons who discriminate against them. It seeks to have them reflect and apologize. Through this process, both the discriminating person and Buraku people discover the background in society which produce discrimination. The ultimate aim of denunciation is to educate the person who was discriminated against, to help probe why discrimination still exists and to awaken the dignity of humanity.

Denunciation meetings are held as an organizational activity. One of the reason for this is that even through a discriminatory incident may be a very individual matter, it arouses the anger of the whole Buraku community. Various types of discrimination related to marriage and employment occur just because the people involved are from the Buraku.

Secondly, people who do not have power are in the weak position, and cannot protect themselves without a group action.

Thirdly, it is almost impossible in the present social situation to get an individual who discriminates to frankly admit his deed, apologize for it, and change him/her into a person who does not tolerate discrimination, if the victim takes only an individual action.

This can be easily understood when one learns the attitude of the persons who discriminated before the Suiheisha (National Leveler's Association) was established. Protests from victims had no effect on those who discriminated, and in communities where the Liberation Movement had not been well promoted, the victims were compelled to put up with the situation as it was1 Fourthly, prejudice is not an individual consciousness. It exist in a lot of people's minds. In other words, it is a social group consciousness. For example, some individuals know that discrimination is wrong but worry about how other people think of them when they got involved with Buraku. They also think that it is no use to protest against discrimination by themselves, and so they follow the prejudice of others. Therefore, an individual's efforts has to go beyond the individual level and cooperate with organization which fight against discrimination in order to conquer prejudice in society.

Fifthly, individual protests against discrimination sometimes can get out of control. When people who discriminate do not honestly admit what they have done and do not apologize, the anger on the part of the persons who were discriminated can sometimes lead them to act violently, possibly even commit murder. There are some who want to solve such incidents with money, taking advantage of the implanted image that the Buraku is something to be feared and the lack of understanding of Buraku problems among people at large.

Denunciation should be done orderly and systematically. It can be recognized in society as a means to urge people who discriminate to reflect on their attitude. At the same time, it should encourage people who are discriminated against to become aware of discrimination. The Buraku Liberation League clearly states the basic principle of denunciation in its struggle against discrimination:"Denunciation does not accompany violence threat, or banter. It should be done with a certain modesty depending on the attitude of the person who discriminates. The struggle against the violation of human right has to hold the position that the human right of the opponents should not be violated as well."How the denunciation is performed systematically should be decided on by analyzing the nature of the individual case: who or what kind of group or organization is involved; and whether it was done intentionally or not. Denunciations are not always done by a large group of people.

The history of the Liberation Movement it also the history of denunciation: the Movement has made a big progress through denunciation. It discouraged deep-rooted discrimination in society, including any carried out in the name of the law.

Without denunciation, discrimination could have become rampant. Various circles including education, mass media, corporations, and religious group could not have noticed Buraku discrimination.

Denunciation has greatly contributed to the improvement, not only of the Buraku community, but also of Japanese society. It reformed the employment exam system for the junior national civil servants, which used to be influenced by the occupations of applicants' parents. It has also brought about other significant results, including the inhibition of free reference on birth certificates.


Q What is Literacy school?

A It is of particular note that a significant number of Buraku people, being unable to go to school due to the poverty caused by discrimination, have remained illiterate.

According to the Buraku survey conducted in1982, in the Osaka area 7.4% of those surveyed had not finished their primary education or had never been to school. In comparison with a nation-wide survey conducted in 1980, the average was 0.3%. It was almost more than 24 times the national average.

In regard to literacy, 8.2% were completely illiterate or hardly illiterate. These figures tell us that the Buraku people's right to education has been seriously deprived. Under these circumstances a voluntary literacy movement started out of Fukuoka Prefecture in1963 and it spread to the coal -mining areas in Fukuoka Prefecture.

At first, people began to learn Hiragana (Japanese phonetic letters)and Katakana in a private home, using a wooden apple box as a writing desk. This dedicated effort ignited the fire of literacy movement and developed literacy classes which are held in two-thirds of the community liberation halls nationwide.

Most literacy students are women and literacy instructors are teachers from primary and junior-high schools in the neighborhood, the staff of the community liberation halls young members of the Buraku Liberation League and others.

Most literacy classes are held regularly in the evening once a week. The literacy class is the place where Buraku people acquire the resilience of their right of literacy which was deprived by discrimination. And at the same time it is the place where Buraku people promote their own self-awareness of Buraku liberation.

The literacy movement has been developed not only for the Buraku people but also for Koreans in Japan and for people who are studying at night school. The United Nations designated 1990 as "International Literacy year" and called for action. Throughout the world various literacy movements have been actively developed within people's liberation movements or in the process of nation building after independence.


Q It has been almost 120 years since the Emancipation Edict was established in the Meiji Era, and it has been more than 40 years since the new Constitution was established after World War U. Why , then does discrimination still exist?

A In 1871(the 4th year of Meiji), marriage among peerage , Samurai descendants and commoners(farmers, craftmen and merchants) become legalezed. The four social classes became eaual, and the social status system was abolished. In August of the same year, the Meiji government enacted the Emancipation Edict, Which abolished the titles, 'Eta'(extreme filth) and 'Hi-nin'(non-human) for Buraku people , and their social status and their choice of occupations were equalized with commoners.

But the edict did not acutually liberate Buraku people from discrimination. In farming villages, lands were never geven to Buraku people, who had nothave their own lands. Buraku people living in cities for example were never guaranteed the right to become civil servants. Those who had their own businesses were not able to get loans. In the name of free competition, Buraku people were deprived of their rights which they had exclusively obtained before.

On the contracy, the Samurai descendants enjoyed some spacial treatment. They could receive public bonds to start new businesses, and were geven the priority to become civil servants if they wanted to. Under the Emperor who had absolute power, the court nobles and the ex-feudal lords were given the titles of peerage, and they became the new governing class to support the imperial family. The Samurai descendants and commoners were placed under them.

The Buraku people were put in the lewest class in the new society. They were called 'hi-nin'(new commoner). They still experienced discrimination. Tenant farmers of Buraku had to pay excessively high rents imposed on them. Laborers were never hired by major corporations, and had to work for low wages, no better than being out of work.

Since the Meiji Era and before World WarU, The Japanese government had adopted a policy for building up a rich country with a strong army. The government had taken adbantage of discrimination and invaded neighboring country in Asia. The peerage system was abolished by the democratic reforms after the War. But no reforms had been taken for the Buraku and no social education was done to eliminate discrimination. That is why discrimination is still deeply rooted today.

Our sociaty still has the base which creares discrimination against Buraku people. In 1965, the Dowa Policy Coundil submitted a report about the dual structure of the industrial economy in Japan. It says: there is a big gap and difference in quality between the major corporations and minor enterprises or small farmers.The Japanese economy depends on low wages, long working hours and poor working conditions.

Nowadays, people are controlled by sophisticated means; not only in labor and productivity, but also in mental aspects so that people in power can easily take greater adbantage. In order to maintain this situation in which some people are forced to work with lower wages and a low standard of living, they make use of discrimination against the Buraku and create more ways to discriminate rather than to eliminate it.


Q Please explain the "Dowa Administration" and the "Dowa measure project"

A The Dowa Administration is a public administration in order to eliminate discrimination from Japanese sociaty, and the Dowa measure projects are various projects are for the same purpose.

The Dowa Policy Council reported that the Dowa Administration is an administration which should be done according to the Constitution under the responsibility of the government and it should be promoted as long as discrimination against Buraku remains in the society.

Discrimination against Buraku is seen everywhere deep-rooted in the daily livesof Buraku people. We should try to eliminate discrimination in various aspects of the environment, social welfare, industry, jobs, education, culture and any other fields. It is necessary to coordinate among all these different fields and to develop plans for this purpose.

It is also necessaty to make persistint efforts to educate all of the citizens for understanding the situation, because deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination against Buraku still exist in our sociaty. The Dowa administration has the great responsibility in leading Japanese sociaty to take the problems seriously.

In this way, the Dowa administration aims at establishing human rights for the Buraku people who are discrimination against. Through this process, it has played the major role for fellfelment of social security and the establishment of human right fot everyone in Japanese sociaty. The achievements of the Dowa administration have influenced the social security of other various people in the same situation.

The Dowa administration existed before the World War U. The Interior Ministry implemented the Buraku Improvement Project. But the project sought the cause of discrimination in the emvironment, public morals and the condition of life of Buraku, and left the Buraku people to be sucrificed.

The National Leveller's Association was established in 1922. The Government started the project to reorganeze the area assigned to be improved and made a fund for scholarship. The Government also dicided to work to eliminate discrimination against Buraku.

Along with these projects, the Ten-Year Yuwa (conciliation) Project was planned.The conciliating organizations requested the government to budget 50,000,000 yenin 10 years for their industrial economic facilities and environmental improvement facilities. But the Japan-China war started the following year and those projects faded away into war promoting plans.

In the confusion after World War U, the Government and the occupying G.H.Q. could not restart any project until 1953, when the Public Welfare Ministry budgeted to construct 'Rinpo-Kan'(comminity centers).

On the other hand, the administrators of prefectures and major cities organized the National Dowa Measure Council in 1951. The organization joined to work with the Buraku Liberation National Committee to establish the Dowa administration.


Q What is the report of 'Dowa Policy council?'

A The government did not formulate any policies for the Buraku problems for more than ten years after the World War U. Because of that, the National Convention was formed and led by the Buraku Liberation League in January, 1958, and demanded that the government deliberate the Buraku problems as a national policy.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the Japan Socialist Party, and the Japan Comminist party sent their representatives to the Convention. Later, the demanding movement was developed and the Buraku problems have got national concern.

Responding to the movement, the government held the Cabinet Members Meeting forthe Dowa problem and the bill aimmed at establishing the Dowa Policy Council was passed by the Diet.

The council is an organization that reserches and discusses the Buraku Problems seriously. The council was inquired of by the Prime Minester regarding fundamental policies to resolve the various socio-economic issues about the Dowa districts. Five years later, it submitted a report in August 1965.

The report was an epoch in the history of the Buraku Liberation. It clearly states that the Dowa problems involve the issues related to the universal principle of the freedom and the equality for all humankind, and the problems concerning Fundamental Human Rights which the Japanese Constitution ensures. It also says that the Buraku problems should not be left unsolved and that solving the problems are the responsibility of Japan and the task of its citizens.

It states that the origin of the Buraku is the social status system dating back to the feudal era, and that the reason for keeping the Buraku problems is the double structure of the industrial economy of Japan which reflects its social andcultural system. The Buraku problem does not exist.,or'The problem will be disappear naturally by just leaving it as it is. '

It says that there are two different kinds of discrimination, psychological ans actual, which make the vicious circle of creating discrimination by one affecting the other. The report asserts that equal opportunity for employment and education is the way to break the vicious circle of discrimination. It also summarizes the history of the Dowa Administration with deep regret.

'Measures taken by the government has been stimulated by the serious demand and the grass roots movement of the residents of the Dowa districts who have seriously suffered from discrimination since the Meije Era until now, and it was usually used as an appeasement to respond to them. It also critisizes the insufficient legal control over Buraku discrimination, against which victims cannot take any actions.

The report finally suggests which direction the Dowa Administration should take. It suggests the enactment of the Law on Spatial Measures for the Dowa Project, enpowerment of the National Financial Treatment, and the establishment of the General Annual Project.

The report indicates the basic understanding of the Buraku problems (and the Dowa Administration), summarizes the history, and sets out the direction for the future. The report offers a lot that can be learned as a reference for the complete resolution of the Buraku problems and for the Dowa Administration.


Q Please explain about a Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation.

A There have been three kinds of laws enacted in turn since 1969 up to the present aimed to solve Buraku problem; namely the Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects, the Law on Special Measures for Regional Improvement, and the Law Regarding the Special Fiscal Measures of the Government for Regional Improvement Projects.

The implementation of the laws contributed to improve in living environment of Buraku areas to a certain extent. However, we cannot find considerable improvement in enrollment ratio to schools of higher grade and stable employment of Buraku people.

In addition, the laws were not so efficient to eliminate discriminatory incidents and consciousness. As a matter of fact, characteristics of the government policy in solving the discrimination lasting over the centuries has been constant since prewar period in terms of setting a short term for each of the three laws. Among others, the Law on Special Measures for Regional Improvement enacted in April 1982 appeared no to bring a complete solution of Buraku problem due to its character of merely paying attention to settle remaining projects.

In reaction to the government policy, a Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation was drafted and released in May 1985 by the Central Executive Committee for the National Movement to Demand for a Legislation of a Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation. The committee is presided by Mr Ohtani, head priest of the Jodoshinshu Honganji sect of Buddhism, and joined by members from Buraku labor, business, academic, education, religious, and other circles.

The draft bill has two main objectives as below. The one is to solve Buraku problem quickly and fundamentally, including eliminating discriminatory incidents and consciousness as well as improving environment. The other is to create discrimination-free society. Tackling the Buraku Problem will necessarily lead to Elimination of all forms of discrimination. In order to attain these objectives, the Fundamental Law proposes as follows.

----The government must improve poor conditions as a result of discrimination by special and active measures, such as, improvement of living conditions, promotion of social welfare, public hygiene, agriculture, forestry, small and medium-sized enterprises in Buraku areas as well as employment, school and social education for Buraku people.

----The government must eliminate discriminatory consciousness and enhance ideas about human rights through systematic education and enlightenment.

----The government must regulate vicious behaviors of discrimination, such as, family background investigations and discrimination in employment relations against Buraku people. In addition, the government must form a human rights committee to establish a relief system for the victims of the discrimination.

With regards to legal measures to regulate the activities of such private agencies, there are several ordinance enacted in local government level. Osaka Prefecture enacted in 1985 the Ordinance to Regulate Personal Investigation Conductive to Buraku Discrimination.

The law drafted also urges the government to investigate actual conditions of Buraku areas every five years and to set up the Buraku Liberation Deliberation Council consisted of individuals of learning and experience with regard to Buraku discrimination that would recommend its opinions for the solution of Buraku problem. At present, wide range of National Movement for the Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation has been deployed.


Q Please explain about Dowa Education. I am afraid that Dowa Education might affect the scholastic achievement of the children.

A The aim of Dowa Education is to teach the Buraku problems correctly. The various discriminatory cases show how dangerous it is to be ignorant of the Buraku problems. Discrimination originates in the ignorance of the truth. Learning about the Buraku problems correctly is very essential for the Buraku people as well. Though this learning gives them pain just like cutting out their own bodies, it is inevitable to do so to know the origin of the pain they have now. They have to continue studying to overcome and terminate discrimination.

Buraku people are the victims in the Buraku problems. Victims are the products of the assailants. Therefore, learning about Buraku problems correctly is important for everyone of us. It is necessary to teach it not only at school but also at home with help from schools.

Learning about the Buraku problems is not just getting various knowledge.It is to recognize correctly what is happening around us, at home and in our communities, and to learn about people who support our lives and their efforts.

Learning about the Buraku problems is, in a word, to know the meaning of valuing human rights. We will learn where our pains come from; we will know the pains of other people; and, we will gain the power to overcome difficulties by cooperating with others through the learning process.

The people who can get good scores, but do not have an interest in what happens in society, and do not appreciate their own homes and the hardships of their parents, will easily lose their confidence when they face some minor difficulties. Real scholastic achievement can be gained through having vitality and the desire to learn. Therefore, learning about the Buraku problems accelerates the learning of the basic subjects.

Dowa Education has been guaranteeing the right of education for the children in the Buraku whose educational opportunities had been taken away for a long time.

The following are the problems which the children in Buraku have been facing. Nobody is in charge of the class which just started a new semester. Teachers are transferring one after another during a school year. Some children in the same school district go to a school in other districts. The facilities of the schools deteriorate and never improve.

Some children do not have any desks for studying at home, and spend most of their time helping their parents work. Some can not go to higher grade because of economical reasons or their poor scholastic achievement at school. They can find employment through their relatives or somebody they know, but they often have to leave and change jobs. Those situations are still not completely improved now.

To solve those problems, teachers and parents have been cooperating and making various efforts. They brought back the children who could not go to school for a long time or who never had been there because of poverty. Then they started the movement to demand free compulsory education textbooks for children who could not afford to buy them. Because of the movement, the measure for free distribution was established in 1963.

In 1968, they took up the problem of enrollment in another school districts. Schools whose students were mainly from poor families had been in a poor educational environment because these students' parents could not donate money to build new facilities.

But after the movement, construction of new buildings and restructuring of facilities was completed. They also campaigned to set the maximum per class limit at 30 students in order to teach students more effectively. These improvements of the educational environment brought advantages to students who were not in the Buraku communities as well as Buraku students.

School education has to ensure that all children achieve solid scholastic ability. On the contrary, schools now have a serious problem with dropouts who cannot read, write, or calculate. Dowa education investigates the cause of dropping out; rearranges the content and the method; decreases the number of students per class; increases the number of teachers; and demands the improvement of facilities.

Results appear in some public junior high schools in Osaka pref. which are Dowa Education Promoting Schools and have Buraku communities inside of their districts. The average percentage of the graduates in Osaka pref. who went to national and other public high schools (excluding night high schools) in March, 1988 was 53.9%. The percentage of non-Buraku students of Dowa Education Promoting Schools going to high schools is 63%, and the percentage of Buraku students is 59.2%.

When we think about the past when the percentage of going on to higher education for both non-Buraku and Buraku students in promoting schools was lower than the average, we have to admit that the efforts of improving the basic scholastic achievement of Buraku children is improving the scholastic achievement of all students.


Q Since the living environment of Buraku areas has been improved, we non-Buraku people feel that we are discriminated against. What can you say about this ?

A You would come across a high-class residential area along a quiet street where each house has well-kept gardens. While you might envy the houses and the area, you wouldn't get irritated or angry with the residents. At worst, you might be jealous.

However, you might be jealous, hateful feeling toward nice houses under the special projects for Dowa measures and residents there. Why is this ? You might think Buraku people have been specially treated.

The fact is that Buraku people are not the only ones specially treated. In addition, some specially treated people are hated and others are not. People who are hated are mostly discriminated against, such as Buraku people and the handicapped.

You would be irritated when you feel that you are even partially surpassed by people who you consider to be in a lower position than you are.

It is sad to say, but those who are not well-off sometimes tend to be jealous of the improvement of the living environment in Buraku areas. Although it is said that Japan is today one of the richest countries in the world, we do not actually have such a feeling.

Since the government has reduced the budget for welfare and education, in line with a policy of administrative reform, people feel that they have become poorer. Thus the budget for Dowa projects came to draw people's attention. Those who have are jealous do not join together in order to protect their own life. However, it is not possible to improve the living standard if people are only jealous of each other.

Buraku areas have been neglected by the administration as a result of a centuries-old discrimination, without proper infrastructure projects, including housing. For instance, the administration had not installed even a fireplug in many Buraku areas where the houses had stood close together. In the past people were rendered homeless by big fires.

Dowa measures have been implemented to get rid of such discrimination in the administrative projects. However, the government has not explained well the reason of the Dowa projects to people living outside Buraku areas. As a result, some people feel that they are discriminated against by the administration when they compare themselves to Buraku people.

Implementation of the Dowa measures leads to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people as well as the improvement of Buraku areas that were the most disadvantaged areas in the past. Dowa measures certainly would bring a positive effect to the entire society.

For example, the system of free textbooks for all the children in compulsory public school started as a Dowa measure in response to one of the demands of the Buraku liberation movement and were applied to all pupils. Community halls, parks and playing grounds constructed in Buraku areas benefit not only Buraku people but also non-Buraku people as public facilities.


Q Is Buddhism free from Buraku discrimination ?

A There is a tradition that people carve a religious name for the dead on the face of a tomb as a sign of worship. That is a practice for many Buddhist religious organizations. The name for the dead is Kaimyo, posthumous. Kaimyo is given by a Buddhist priest and is recorded in a post-memorial-notebook at the temple the dead belonged to.

Of late, it was discovered that discriminatory names and characters in the notebooks and on the faces of tombs exist. Those were given by Buddhist priests to the dead who were of Buraku origins.

The names include the characters for beast, humble, ignoble, servant and many other kinds of derogatory expressions.

Upon the disclosure, Buddhist organizations started to widely investigate notebooks and tombs in response to the requests of the BLL. They found discriminatory Kaimyo, at many Buddhist sects in most parts of Japan. While the majority seem to have been given a long time ago, there are some names given even since the 1940's.

The fact suggests that Buddhist priests in the past did not treat Buraku people as a human beings not only in their life time but also after death. The priests were instructed by their organizations what Kaimyo they should give to Buraku people.

In addition, temples located in Buraku communities were called "Impure Temples" and were not allowed to communicate with temples in non-Buraku areas. Buraku people were falsely urged to be patient to discrimination based on the doctrine of karma.
Even in recent years, some Buddhist temples gave information about the family backgrounds of their believers when anybody inquired in investigations for marriage, etc.

In spite of such facts, the Director-General of the Soto Sect of Buddhism made a speech at the 3rd World Conference on Religion and Peace, held in the USA, in 1979, stating that there was no longer Buraku discrimination in Japan and that there were some people clamoring for Buraku liberation even though neither the government nor people discriminate against Buraku people.

The statement was strongly criticized by groups struggling for the liberation, especially the BLL. In this reflection, the Solidarity Conference of Religious Group for the Solution of Dowa Problem was founded in 1981 consisting of 59 religious sects, joining hands with the BLL.


Q "Don't-wake-up-a-sleeping-baby "

A That is a so-called concept of "Don't-wake-up-a-sleeping-baby " which some people believe. You may think that as far as we do not know about the Buraku at all, we will neither talk about the Buraku nor discriminate against Buraku people.

In reality, there are people who disclose the family background of others and who want to know it. In addition, detective agencies are engaged in investigating it as a business to give customers information in preparation for marriage and job recruitment. Ten kinds of Buraku lists that give the locations of nationwide Buraku areas have been found so far.

As indicated in such instances, it is not realistic to follow the concept of " Don't-wake-up-a-sleeping-baby " to eliminate Buraku discrimination. The idea only negates the need to correctly teach about the issue.

Anyhow people know the existence of Buraku people. In many cases, people in their early years are first impressed by the prejudice of others close to them, such as parents and friends, who often say that Buraku areas are dirty and that Buraku people are horrifying.

In such ways they grow up with false understandings about the Buraku. When they later face Buraku people in marriage, etc, " a sleeping baby ", discrimination consciousness, will raise its head.

It is important, therefore, for everybody to be correctly taught about the Buraku problem without having the reality covered over. If we leave "a sleeping baby" as he/she is, prejudice and false understanding will be taught for generations and Buraku discrimination will be continuously reproduced.

On the other hand, there are also some Buraku people who seemingly support the concept of " Don't-wake-up-a-sleeping-baby ". Those people choose to keep silent in fear of facing further discrimination since they have been seriously discriminated against in society.

They would not tell their children that they are of Buraku origin probably based on the idea that they won't have their children suffer from the same hardship as they, even though they are strongly angry about the injustice.

Judging from those facts, it is wrong for non-Buraku people to insist that even Buraku people insist "not to wake up a sleeping baby." If you say that just by keeping quiet, discrimination will go away, you are just telling them to be patient with discrimination.

While we have to try to understand the background of why some Buraku people keep silent, we should respect the rights of Buraku people who raise their voices denouncing discrimination and appeal for Buraku liberation.

All the people, including non-Buraku people, should tackle the issue.

( reference; "Dowa Education" published by the Buraku Liberation Research Institute in 1995 )


Q At present how many people are studying at literacy classes ?

A While up-dated nationwide statistics are not available, the Board of Education of Osaka Prefecture made a first survey in 1996 on how many literacy classes are being organized in Osaka prefecture, in cooperation with the Board of Education of Osaka cities and organizations related to literacy classes.

According to the results, as of March 1996, 120 classes were held with a total number of 3,663 students, including 43 classes in Buraku areas, 36 classes at community halls, and 22 classes at civic voluntary organizations.

While women constitute 78% of the entire students, half of the students are foreign nationals, including Korean residents.

Aside from these literacy classes, about 2,000 adults are studying Japanese literacy at 10 night schools classes in Osaka.Classes exclusively for foreign migrant workers are held in many places.

Literacy classes were originally designed for Buraku people who were unable to go to school because of the poverty caused by discrimination. The illiteracy rate of Buraku people was much higher than that of non-Buraku people.

Under such circumstances, a voluntary literacy movement started at coal mining areas in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1963. The movement spread nationwide and developed into the present form.

While the majority of the students are women whose right to education has been seriously deprived compared to men, literacy instructors are teachers from elementary and junior high schools in the neighborhood, and staff of the community liberation halls. Most classes are regularly held in the evening once a week.

The class provides the students with self-awareness for Buraku liberation as well as literacy.


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