Burakumin - Terminology


The term 部落 buraku literally refers to a small, generally rural, commune or a hamlet. People from regions of Japan where "discriminated communities" do not exist any more (e.g., anywhere north of Tokyo) may normally refer to any hamlet as a buraku, indicating that the word's usage is not necessarily pejorative.

Romaji Kanji Meaning Annotation
Hisabetsu-buraku 被差別部落 discriminated community/hamlet is a commonly used, politically correct term, with people from them called hisabetsu-burakumin (被差別部落民 "discriminated community (hamlet) people") or

hisabetsu buraku shusshin-sha (被差別部落出身者 "person from a discriminated community / hamlet").

Burakumin 部落民 hamlet people is either hamlet people per se or an abbreviation of people from discriminated community/hamlet. Very old people tend to use the word in the former meaning. Its use in the Japanese language is sometimes frowned upon, although it is by far the most commonly used term in English.
Mikaihō-buraku 未解放部落 unliberated communities is a term sometimes used by human rights pressure groups and the one which has a degree of political ring to it.
Tokushu buraku 特殊部落 special hamlets was used in the early 20th Century but is now considered inappropriate.

A widely used term for buraku settlements is dōwa chiku (同和地区 "assimilation districts"), an official term for districts designated for government and local authority assimilation projects.

The social issue surrounding "discriminated communities" is usually referred to as dōwa mondai (同和問題 "assimilation issues") or less commonly, buraku mondai (部落問題"hamlet issues").

In the feudal era, the outcast caste were called eta (穢多, literally, "an abundance of defilement" or "an abundance of filth"), a term now obviously considered derogatory. Eta towns were called etamura (穢多村).

Some burakumin refer to their own communities as "mura" (村 "villages") and themselves as "mura-no-mono" (村の者 "village people").

Other outcast groups from whom Buraku may have been descended included the hinin (非人—literally "non-human"). The definition of hinin, as well as their social status and typical occupations varied over time, but typically included ex-convicts and vagrants who worked as town guards, street cleaners or entertainers.

In the 19th century the umbrella term burakumin was coined to name the eta and hinin because both classes were forced to live in separate village neighborhoods.

The term burakumin does not refer to any ethnic minorities in Japan.

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