Languages & Cultures of East Asia

Trad 101, Sections 18-19-20-21   Fall 2000

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Lecture Outline, 10/23/00 - Marginalized groups in Japan

Marginalized groups in Japan

1. Ainu
2. Okinawans
3. Koreans
4. burakumin

1. Ainu

earlier lived in: Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Kuril, northern Honshu, Hokkaido

now live in: Hokkaido

racial ties with people in Siberia

Ainu people (approx. 20,000??)
     essentially no pure Ainu
     disease, low birth rate, and mixing with ethnic Japanese

     close to extinction; isolated

traditional lifestyle
     hunting (bear, deer)
     fishing (salmon)
     gathering wild plants
     houses built fr wood and grass
     clothing made fr bark/animal fur

assimilated to ethnic Japanese
     policy by the government
     prohibition of deer-hunting, salmon-fishing, tattooing, the use of Ainu.....

2. Okinawans

Okinawa, other Ryukyu islands

1 million people

language (Ryukyuan)
     related to Japanese (split 1500-2000 years ago?)
     mutually unintelligible"dialects"
     declining - only people over 50 yrs old can use it

     beginning in 1372, paid tribute to China
     1429, the Ryukyu Kingdom was established
     the 17th century, came under the rule of Japan
          the royal family was allowed to remain
          tribute to China continued
               subordinate both China and Japan
     the late 19th century, became part of Japan
          little political autonomy
          people moved to the U.S., Brazil, Peru, and the mainland

3. burakumin ("village" + "person")


identical to other Japanese racially, ethnically, culturally, linguistically

not linguistic minority

2-3 million (the largest minority group)

pre-modern social classes in Japan:
     hinin ("not" + "people")
          beggars, prostitutes, fugitives from justice, diviners, mediums....
          committing certain crimes: adultery, attempted double suicide..

history of the burakumin
     dates back to at least the 13th century
     traditionally handled certain occupations:
          butchering animals and making leather products
               blood/death - impure (Shinto)
               killing - no good (Buddhist)
     residential segregation

     employment, marriage

discrimination today
     2/3 haven't encountered it
     3/4 marry non-burakumin

poverty, low education, unemployment (50%), crime, alcoholism

4. Koreans in Japan

690,000 (plus 100,000 naturalized)

     1910: the annexation of Korea to Japan

          mass migration to Japan due to economic pressure and exploitation by the JPN government in Korea

     1938-1945: war

          2,000,000 Koreans were forcibly transported to Japan
               cheap laborers and soldiers