I met my old acquaintance Mr. Imaoka for the first time in about 7 years. It was the end of 2023. He is in his 50s. As a businessperson, I have never had a personal conversation with him. Hence, I tried to settle the conversation with a polite greeting, but he said, “I read your book, Dr. Kobayakawa.” He told me that he had read my book after learning about it from an ad in the newspaper.

I was a little offended when he said, “Even now, there are problems like that. It's terrible, isn't it?” Then he said, “I have a client from the Dowa district.” I hid my discomfort and asked, “How do you know about that?” He told me that he had heard customers gossiping about him. I asked him again if he or any other customer had been harmed in any way. He replied, “No, nothing like that. He is a gentleman, family oriented, and a good customer. He pays his bills neatly, and he never haggles. He doesn't seem to have any personal relationships with other customers, but when he leaves, I hear people there whispering rumors about him. The more people gossip like that, the dirtier their payments are. Really.”

At first, he talked like he was talking about something else, but gradually I began to sense resentment in his context. I asked, “Is there something you want me to do about it?” This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me. However, not many people say things about other people. He said, “No, it's not that I want you to do anything about it, it's just…..” He took a breath and said, “Um, the daughter of my friend got married,” and his topic took a different turn. “Is that separate from what you're talking about now?” When I interrupted his speech, his expression became more serious as he spoke, “It's another story, but…., okay?” When I said, “Okay, tell me.” He told me the following story.

A family member of Mr. Imaoka's very close acquaintance had a daughter who got married a year ago. The husband was from the next town over, and they were classmates in high school. Let's call the woman Sakura and the man Satoru. Both grew up in wealthy families. By chance, they went to the same famous university. They both had to return to their hometowns for different reasons. In addition, they went to different places of employment, they were drawn to each other and ended up getting married. Neither Sakura’s family nor Satoru's parents seemed to object to their marriage, partly because of their mutual good personalities and partly because they were both graduates of the same university, which was the alma mater of Satoru’s father. However, Satoru’s father told her, “I'm going to do a formal investigation.” This meant that a background check would be conducted by a detective agency. Sakura agreed, not knowing her origins, and not knowing what a background check would entail.

That was just the beginning of the trouble. The background check revealed that Sakura was from a family of Buraku origin. Satoru's father changed his attitude, stating that he was absolutely against the marriage and urged them to break it off. However, they remained firm. Satoru was prepared to marry Sakura, even though he be cut off from his family. This is commendable. However, the final terms of the marriage were problematic. I do not know what kind of communication took place between the two parties, but in the end, Satoru's father agreed to the marriage under certain conditions.

The condition was that Sakura be adopted by an unrelated “Ie” and then married. This is a very foolish method, but this is what Buraku discrimination is all about. This method was used in the past when the women of the Buraku were forced to sell themselves to red-light districts. In other words, since women from Buraku were regarded as less valuable than sex commodities, this is the same method used to sell them at a higher price once they were adopted.

I have no way to estimate Satoru's awareness, so I cannot speak lightly about it, but there was a real difficulty in overcoming Buraku discrimination. The marriage also conjured up images of a time when, after all, sex was openly commodified. In turn, Mr. Imaoka spoke of two topics, but how did he know so much detail about the latter in particular? With what positionality did he tell me of the seriousness of the situation? What did he really want to say?

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