RELIGST 2TT3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Only Time, Burakumin, Chopsticks
Course CodeRELIGST 2TT3
October 23, 2014 (Buraku Presentation)
-definition of taboo.
-he likes to talk about dirt. Even the idea of dirt is flexible. Its not a constant, it moves, it
-ex. Might be rude to show your feet in some cultures, but others, its cool. Wearing shoes inside
house compared to going in barefoot.
-in a society, when you see something being classified as dirty, you’re actually seeing a system in
-there’s nothing with something being dirty or not, it’s about “dirt is matter out of place”. Whats
happening is a system is being put in place, rules being enforced, often very subtly.
-when you see rules about dirt, and being dirty, its rules entrenched deep in a system.
-lot of words like dirty: unclean, rebellious, non-Christian, etc
-remember the class system in the Tokugawa period.
-mostly when you think about untouchables, you think Indian caste system. But Japan has it too,
till this day in fact.
-definitions on the pdf: burakumin, eta, hinin
-this discrimination based on occupation. Not on skin, or anything. Some occupations seen as
impure and they were performed by these people. Ex. Butcher, things to do with death (but only
some of it, cuz priests deal with death do), people working with leather.
-the caste literally not seen as people. Ex: if a burakumin killed one person, then you’d have to
kill 7 burakumin.
-in 1871, the class system was abolished. But the burakumin persisted that. Depending on who
you talk to, there are around 1.2 million burakumin today. Activists say the figure is around 3
-played a video with a burakumin woman being interviewed.
- woman says a lot of the burakumin were Koreans.
-people talk about the economic miracle of japan after the war, how quickly they rebuilt their
infrastructure and stuff.
-but whats not told is that a lot of this stuff was built on the backs of Koreans.
-mostly identify Burakumin by where they live, neighbourhoods. Even till today, this applies.
-background checks: say you wanna work for a company, part of the background check is where
you live. If you even live near a burakumin neighbourhood, then chances are you wont get a job.
Activist went through interview process, and concluded that lot of peeps got rejected cuz they
lived near burakumin neighbourhood.
-Ex. When Rowe was thinking about buying a house a few years back, he saw an awesome
building and went to a coffee shop nearby to check out the scene, etc. the guy working there
basically told Rowe that you don’t wanna live here cuz it’s a buraku hood. And even his wife
didn’t wanna live there (shes jap) cuz it would create problems ex. Sending their son to school.
-realtors in Japan have two maps: one is the map of the city, another has shaded in areas of the
-one way to escape this buraku neighborhood stamp is to move several times. Cuz only spots on
the register so previous addresses would get replaced.
-but even if you have the money to move so many times and get this hidden, investigators can go
-1979, secretary general of the SotoZen, Machida?, and said theres no such thing as
discrimantion in Japan. So obvio burakumin activists in Japan got pissed, and came up with
proof that there`s a shit ton of these instances. Ex. Grave stones: when you die, Buddhist funeral,
you also get a Buddhist posthumous name. in other words, youre kinda ritually turned into a
Buddhist monk on your death and given a Buddhist name. and these death names would be
Buddhist and have multiple characters, and in Tokugawa period, even the death name would
reflect on the class you were in. ex samurai had better names, more elite, cool sounding names.
-Kaimyo is Japanese word for Posthumous Name.
-on the kaimyo slide, the first character means zen. The second word, 2nd character isn’t actually
a character. But it means leather.
-Hence, you can tell what class the person was from depending on their Kaimyo.
-there were rituals, to protect other people from deceased burakumin.
Google an article called Zen and the art of discrimination which covers all this material he just
-so the activists are pissed, show the gravestone proof. Hence, thousands and thousands of
-one point lesson: in japan, number of taboos around death. Never have mismatched chopsticks.
Only time you use mismatched chopsticks, is in a funeral to pick up the bones of the dead.
Another taboo, you never pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks. Only time you pass chopstick
to chopstick, is during funerals with the bones again.