'Burakumin' descendants still sufferingQuote has been trimmed
Links to former outcast class bring misery to relationships, workplace
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
The Associated Press
A daughter's engagement is a time of joy for any proud father.
Not so for Ikuo Aoki: His daughter was thrown out of her boyfriend's family home when the young couple went there to announce their plans to marry. The reason was unstated but well-understood - Aoki is a descendant of Japan's former "burakumin" outcast class, a distinction that has brought his family a lifetime of ridicule, discrimination and abuse. "I almost rushed over to their house to condemn them, but I didn't because her boyfriend was still considering marrying her," said Aoki, 68. His restraint made no difference; the couple eventually broke up.
Ethnically identical to other Japanese, the burakumin suffered for centuries at the bottom of the feudal hierarchy, digging graves, chopping meat and performing other jobs associated under Buddhism and the native Shinto religion with the impurities of death. In recent decades, the former untouchables have made vast strides. Slums have been cleaned up, education levels have risen and many burakumin descendants have quietly blended into the rest of society.