Understanding Buraku: Its Historical Context and Significance in Modern Japanese Society


“Buraku” is a complex concept that emerged from Japan’s unique social and historical background. While it can generally refer to small settlements or communities, in Japan, the term is also closely tied to a specific historical context in the form of “discriminated buraku.” This article delves into the historical background and contemporary meaning of this term.


The Historical Context of Buraku

The term “buraku” in Japan holds significant historical importance, particularly in the context of “discriminated buraku.” This concept originated from the institutionalized caste system during the Edo period, where certain occupational groups and socially ostracized communities were referred to by this term. These groups, primarily engaged in occupations such as leatherwork or the handling of dead bodies and waste, were labeled as “eta” (meaning “filthy”) or “hinin” (meaning “non-human”) and subjected to discrimination.

Despite the legal abolition of these caste distinctions following the Meiji Restoration, social prejudice and discrimination persisted. People from discriminated buraku communities have long faced unjust treatment in various aspects of life, including education, employment, and marriage.

The Buraku Issue in Contemporary Japanese Society

Today, while discrimination is officially prohibited by laws and policies, the buraku issue remains a significant challenge in Japanese society. Buraku discrimination exists not only in the form of direct discriminatory acts but also through unconscious biases and stereotypes. To address this issue, educational initiatives and awareness campaigns are being implemented to promote the elimination of buraku discrimination.

Efforts Towards Resolving Buraku Discrimination

Human rights education and anti-discrimination efforts in educational settings are considered crucial for resolving buraku discrimination. Additionally, economic support for the independence of individuals from discriminated buraku communities and the revitalization of their local communities are being promoted. Furthermore, spreading accurate knowledge and fostering understanding about buraku discrimination is essential throughout society as a whole.


The term “buraku” is not merely a geographical designation for settlements; it carries deep historical and social significance in Japan. Buraku discrimination remains a critical issue in contemporary society, and its resolution requires education and societal understanding. By learning about and deepening our understanding of this issue, each of us can take the first step towards building a more equitable and just society.