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Long, long ago in archaic Japan, the "natives" needed certain things to get done. They needed leather, they needed people executed, but nobody wanted to do it. Why? Well, for one thing, the traditional beliefs of the Japanese, and Buddhist beliefs were pointedly against such practices; nevertheless the people needed to get things done. So during the Edo period a rag-tag group of poor, lowly Japanese, mainly beggars and the like, filled the holes that society gave them and did so for a few hundred years. Japan was and is, to put it mildly, a multi-tiered society where everyone knows their place. Soon these people who filled these necessary but undesirable occupations began to form a new level, and formed a group within society. They were called the eta (outcast) or hinin (inhuman). They were forced to prostrate themselves before the aristocracy (more so than normal Japanese), and were by today's standards treated rather shabbily.

After Perry forced the Japanese to open their cultural and economic doors, the Japanese came up with a euphamism for these people keeping with the optimistic spirit of the times. The name burakumin still holds today and means 'people of the village'. It's quite a step up from being considered inhuman, but the societal discrimination still holds to today.

Today the burakumin make up roughly two percent of the Japanese population. During the twentieth century much work was done to "liberate" them from work discrimination. But like the descendents of slaves in America, the descendents of the burakumin still face forms of social discrimination. It is not uncommon for people to perform background geneological checks on others before they marry to insure there is no burakumin blood in the family. But before anyone climbs up on their high horse to criticize, consider the fundamental character of the Japanese people and how they are raised to act. Groups and social heirarchy are built in to the language and dealing with uncomfortable subjects is nearly impossible to do without seeming unfriendly and impolite. In other words, unless the entire character of the Japanese people is altered, the existence of the burakumin will remain at large on some psychological level for the Japanese.

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