More Views From the Invisible Minority


TOKYO (majirox news)Due to the popularity of Masaru Goto’s article Majirox News decided to post some more of his photos and captions.

NIHONJIN, BURAKUMIN: Portraits of Japan’s outcast people

The Burakumin compose one of the main minority groups in Japan, along with the Ainu of Hokkaidō and the Ryukyuans of Okinawa. Despite being thoroughly Japanese, racially and ethnically, the Buraku-Min still face discrimination.

History of the “untouchables”

The Buraku problem is a social problem that originated during the Edo period (1603-1867) when outcast groups such as the Eta (extreme filth), Hinin (non-human), Kawaramono (riverside dwellers), Tosha (butchers) and Kiyome (cleaners) were considered “untouchables” and discriminated against.

Burakumin usually lived on the riverside, and engaged in landscaping, public entertainment, disposing of dead cattle, manufacturing leather, and cleaning shrines and temples. While some people looked down on them because of their occupations, they were also thought to have extraordinary abilities and were held in awe by others. Their status was not fixed but changing.

Click on photos to enlarge

Midori Takeda -- College Student

I have become who I am because I was brought up with support from my family and people in the community. In receiving human rights education and Dowa education (education directed to the elimination of discrimination against Buraku people) in elementary school and high school, I have seen teachers and adults who are trying to deal with the problems of children in tough family or social situations.

The fact that I grew up in such a school and a community gave me pride and confidence. By knowing where my roots lie, I can expand the boundary of my world through meeting many people and encountering various situations.

I’m studying to become a teacher. Like the way I was brought up, I want to nurture as many children as possible who are capable of choosing their lives by themselves. When there are more children like that, I believe our society will be more energetic, compassionate and free.

Shuhei Otono Former -- Meat Industry Worker

I started to understand things when I saw two real events with my own eyes. One was people’s prejudice and discrimination against the slaughterhouse that was bolstering the local economy. The other was the fact that my brother couldn’t get married because of our locality and his job. I felt resigned to these realities. But I also felt resentful and wondered why such injustice was allowed. Later on, through encounters with many people, I realized that these problems had roots in Buraku issues.

I often get invited to schools and talk to children about my experiences and thoughts. In my stories, I suggest that through encounters with genuine people and things, they can cultivate their humanity and break the circle of apathy and neglect with their friends. I believe that leads to solving problems.

I want to tell many things to many people; things about reality; things that are hard to see.


Reiko Minamida -- Civil Servant

We decided on getting married after much worrying and fretting. We left home despite disapproval from our families, and when we started living together, my husband told me about his Buraku issues. I wondered why he had to be discriminated against simply because he came from a Buraku.

After our child was born, we started living in my in-laws’ house and I was busy with child-rearing and household chores. I was still wondering about what is Buraku, and that’s when my husband suggested that I get involved in local Buraku activities.

Thanks to friends who took care of me – a novice with a lot to learn – I have been able to plant roots in the community and have lived while facing the issues here. I will continue to live right here, surrounded by my beloved family and grandchildren and my friends looking after me.

Keigen Ishida -- Bamboo Artisan

My father was a bamboo artisan who was contemptuously called a “bamboo crafter” by the public. I, too, was ashamed of him. Recalling it now, it is quite sorrowful. My father never let go of bamboo until 2 months before he died at 84 years old. Shortly before he passed away, he encouraged me by saying, ‘You’ve been watching the things I’ve done. It’s never too late.’

I picked up my father’s unfinished Souki (weaved tub) and happened to think of completing it as his final work. I was more than 40 years old and this was the first time I had worked with bamboo in earnest. In the workroom I’ve inherited from my late father, I keep making bamboo crafts as a sort of wordless conversation with him.

Meanwhile, I have been taken with its charm. That’s when I started to sense my father’s pride; my father’s pride is my pride.

Yasushi Kawaguchi -- Storyteller

I was born and raised in a Buraku district in Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture, which was discriminated against. I first felt the negative look of society against Buraku in my bones when I began studying at a college in Osaka. I kept it secret — the fact that I came from a Buraku — during my college life.

I wrestled with the contradiction between the real self and the sham self. But I learned the thoughts and feelings of my Grandma, Dad, and people in my community who carried on their lives through harsh discrimination, and I came to think I had nothing to be ashamed of. Since then, I decided to live my life again without hiding who I am. Now, I give lectures at schools and in communities all over Japan, to let many people know the reality of this “invisible discrimination.”

Contributing Majirox New’s Photojournalist Masaru Goto has 24 years experience photographing social and human rights issues in Asia and South America. His photographs highlight he plight and resilience of ordinary people who are caught in conflicts, suffering under oppression or economically disadvantaged.

Link to see more of Goto’s work:

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