BLHRRI Holds 60th General Meeting

BLHRRI held its 60th GM (General Meeting) on June 23 2004, with around 150 participants. Sueo Murakoshi, the Executive Director of BLHRRI, opened the meeting with an opening address, which was followed by addresses given by Mr. Shigeyuki Kumisaka, the President of the Buraku Liberation League, and Mr. Hideo Izutani from the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education.

Since project plans and budgets for 2004 were discussed and approved during the 59th GM, which was held in March this year, the 60th GM mainly focused on the reports for 2003. Some of the highlights of activities that were conducted during 2003 included the preparation of the 2nd Plan of Action of BLHRRI for Human Rights Education and other projects relating to the UN Decade for Human Rights Education, the 35th anniversary of BLHRRI, which was celebrated by the holding of the "Buraku Problem from International Perspective" symposium on June 27 2003, and the running of an exchange program with Korean scholars and organizations under the theme of the "Paekchong," an oppressed group in Korea.

The 60th GM was followed by a symposium, entitled the "History of Buraku in Osaka ? the Modern and Contemporary Periods," to celebrate the recent publication of three books with the same title. Authors, including Mr. Toyoji Kitazaki, a Professor at Osaka Economic University, Mr. Yoshikazu Akisada, the Director of Liberty Osaka (a human rights museum), and Mr. Toshio Watanabe, a BLHRRI researcher, were invited to be speakers on the panel with Mr. Ryuhei Satogami, a member of the Osaka Buraku History Research Group under BLHRRI, as coordinator.

Summary of the Panel Discussion.


Mr. Satogami: The project to compile "Osaka Buraku History" started in 1995. Five volumes of the books, containing many historical materials, have been published so far. These include Volume 4 covering Modern Times 1, Volume 5 covering Modern Times 2, Volume 6 covering Modern Times 3, Volume 7 covering Contemporary Times 1 and Volume 8 covering Contemporary Times 2. The Osaka Buraku History Research Group would like to maximize the use of these books not only for the purpose of Buraku history research, but also for educational purposes.

Volume 4 (1868-1913)

Mr. Kitazaki: I first paid attention to the development of the issuance of the 1871 Emancipation Edict and to the history of the oppressed people after the Edict, the introduction of the family registration system and other modern regulations, and the merger of towns and villages. It was also important to trace the changes in traditional Buraku industries, including leather, shoe-making, and slaughtering during those periods. This brought the problem concerning the relationship between urban Buraku and slums to light. In collecting historical materials, it has become clear that the democratic movement during the first decade of the Meiji Era and the social movement during the third decade of the Meiji Era both gave attention to the Buraku problem and tried to develop contact with people in the liberation movement.

During the periods, Osaka was one of the most advanced areas in the country in terms of relief work for the poor. The book examined Osaka City relief programs with regard to the Buraku improvement projects that began at the end of the Meiji Era.

The book also focused on the areas of education, industry, philosophy and religion, to identify how changes that took place during Meiji Era affected Buraku.

Volume 5 (1914-1927) and Volume 6 (1928-1945)

Mr. Akisada: Osaka City has been a large industrialized city with significant numbers of people moving in and out of it. Discrimination against Buraku diffused within this environment. While traditional connections between community residents weakened, acceptance of the Levelers' movement advanced.

The inflow of labor from Korea during its status as a Japanese colony intensified during the 1920's, and some Buraku communities in Osaka were forced to compete for jobs and housing with new arrivals from Korea as a result. A limited number of Buraku people shared jobs and housing with Koreans during this time.

During the period that stretched from the "Showa Panic" to WWII, Buraku industries were placed under state control, and many factories were forced to change trades or close business. These conditions saw the progression of the mergence of the Levelers Association with pacifist groups.

Volume 7 (1945-1960) and Volume 8 (1961-1975)

Mr. Watanabe: After the war, Japan underwent drastic changes and rapid economic growth. The rapid economic growth especially had a great impact upon Buraku. The changes after the war did not result in attitude changes amongst Buraku people, but the rapid economic growth weakened Buraku communities. At the same time, gaps between people within Buraku intensified.

The rapid economic growth also had a significant impact upon Buraku industrial activities and work structure. Some Buraku industries were driven into downsizing or conversion, which forced many Buraku people to look for work outside of their Buraku communities.

Meanwhile, the competitive and cooperative relationships between Buraku- min and Korean people living in Buraku continued despite the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule.

After the war, discriminatory incidents continued to occur at the same level as they had previously. For the book, many historical materials that illustrated discriminatory incidents were collected and used in an effort to clarify discrimination related attitudes. Through the compilation of the book, it has become clear that more attention should be paid to the fact that the liberation movement undertook a diverse range of approaches. It should also be noted that the administration initiated Dowa projects immediately after the war by continuing the improvement projects that were run before the war.