Against Japanism
Against Japanism
Apr 25, 2023
Caste Oppression and the Buraku Liberation Movement w/ Buraku Stories
Play • 1 hr 13 min

Niki from Buraku Stories joins the show to discuss the history of the struggle of a discriminated outcaste people in Japan known as Burakumin. 

The term “Burakumin” originated in the early twentieth century, “Buraku” meaning “village” or “hamlet,” and “min” meaning people. However, the oppression against the Burakumin people originates from the pre-capitalist status hierarchy consolidated during the Tokugawa or Edo Period between the seventeenth and late nineteenth centuries known as Shinōkōshō. The shinōkōshō designated the four main classes that consisted of the status hierarchy of this period based on their occupations: Shi refers to warriors,  to farmers,  to craftsmen and artisans, and Shō to the merchant class.

Although this was the official, state-sanctioned view of the class system and did not necessarily reflect the actual class composition of Tokugawa society during this time, it had profound implications for those who fell outside and below these four categories such as the ancestors of the Burakumin people who were called “Eta, Hinin, and Others” as their occupations were considered dirty or spiritually impure by the dominant Shinto & Buddhist influenced ruling class ideology. While many Japanese people today are aware of the derogatory nature of the term “Eta Hinin,” the oppression against the Burakumin people continues to this day despite Japan’s transition from feudalism to capitalism, and its international status as a “democratic” nation.

In this episode, we discuss the history of the development of the Burakimin as an oppressed minority group, the oppression they continue to face today not only from the non-Buraku Japanese people as a whole, but also from the reactionaries online and in real life such as J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard law professor who is known for his denial of the comfort women issue, and has also targeted the Burakumin people in his lucrative academic career financed by the Mitsubishi Corporation, one of the biggest capitalist monopolies in Japan.

We also discuss the history of the Buraku liberation movement led by militant mass organizations such as Suiheisha (Levellers Society) and the Buraku Liberation League. These organizations have struggled not only against the barbaric status discrimination, but also against the Japanese state’s attempt to diffuse their militancy and divide the community through policies known as Yūwa  (reconciliation) and Dōwa (assimilation).

We conclude the discussion by talking about the state of the Buraku liberation movement today, instances of inter-national and inter-communal solidarity the movement has engaged in, and the important work Niki is doing through Buraku Stories to publicize and educate the English-speaking public about the struggle of this community little known outside of Japan.

Intro: Cielo by HumaHuma

Outro: Liberation Song (Suiheisha Anthem) 

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