What did Burakumin look like?


In my novel, I have a character who is one of the “untouchables” of Japan, an Eta, or Burakumin. These were the leatherworkers who were deemed untouchable by Buddhist vegetarians.

Eta were discriminated against though it was outlawed. Apparently even today,some people look into family backgrounds to make sure there are no untouchables in families before marriages take place.

Wanting to know what they actually looked like, I found this image on Flickr from the Tom Burnett collection.

1873 Japanese Leather Workers (burakumin)
1873 Japanese Leather Workers (burakumin)

I’m wondering, like the folks who commented in the link’s comments, why this outcast status did not apply to fishermen or, in particular, whalers since whales are mammals. Discrimination, it seems, is always hypocritical.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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