Formation and Extinction at Present

Maizuru city, Kyoto prefecture, has fifteen Buraku. According to the final governmental Buraku survey in 1993, the total Buraku population then was 2,587, in a city of 95,000. Four of the city’s fifteen districts were late-modern Buraku, formed in the early 1900’s during the establishment of a Chinju-fu naval station of the Imperial Navy. Construction of a naval station needed huge numbers of laborers. Being originally formed from several small towns and villages, Maizuru could not provide enough workers. Therefore, from 1897 to 1898, the recruiting agencies of the Imperial Navy contracted laborers from other prefectures, such as Hyogo, Tottori, Shimane, Niigata, Hiroshima, Ishikawa, and so on. These were temporary workers. When the project finished in 1899, most left Maizuru and returned to their hometowns.

Some laborers however, including Burakumin, for various reasons remained in Maizuru. Some had started families there. Some were engaged in agrarian disputes, and had been banished by their families or landowners.  Some could not return home because they were entangled in infidelities. Thus many people lost connection to their hometowns. They remained in Maizuru, in poverty. Many squatted in vacant and undesirable places. By 1905, they established four communities in the bamboo woods, and beside a garbage and human-waste disposal yard. Each community was started by three or four families.

The Imperial Navy imposed new recruitment condition. Its new recruitment agency must, 48 hours upon request, be able to supply 1,600 workers. Additionally, the navy’s own officers and men, and its labor force in Maizuru, were off-limits. The recruitment agency naturally eyed the Buraku communities, whose combined population had grown to six hundred. These were therefore admitted into the labor force. As these burakumin workers had families, the recruiter was able to calculate, and rely on, future population growth. The Buraku helped to modernize Maizuru. But they suffered discrimination. Peasants even hired yakuza to destroy their homes and drive them out.

By the 1923 Washington Naval Treaty, Maizuru Chinju-fu was downgraded to an echelon naval port. This caused the city population to decrease, even while military and naval towns generally were growing. The four Buraku, however, increased in population, both organically and by welcoming outsiders: working women; unemployed railway men; discarded women; the bankrupt; and so on. Hard-up folk found new life opportunities in the Buraku, although these opportunities came with poverty, hard labor, and sudden discrimination. Several household communities expanded.

The Maizuru region was agricultural. Most people were peasants. Some received priority positions in neighboring communities under the government’s reconciliation policy. Some acquired new farmlands under the Land Reform Policy of the GHQ. Residents of the newer Buraku were not only ignored by the government, and mistreated by the common folk, but also received discriminatory treatment from residents of traditional Buraku. Residents of new Buraku could not marry residents of traditional Buraku. There were inter-Buraku conflicts in the schools.

The new Buraku population swelled above capacity. Some moved to public housing out of the Buraku. More than 160 houses existed at this location, most occupied by non-Burakumin. However, the area became Buraku very quickly. An official document of Maizuru city states that non-traditional Buraku increased from four to six. Two new Buraku had been established. A city hall official named this public housings area as one.

It is unclear whether the residents of this public housing project identify as Burakumin. However, the local government designated an area that was not, until then, Buraku, as Buraku. Finally, by 1993, two-thirds of the 2,587 Buraku population was new Buraku. Buraku created during Japan’s modernization occupy the mainstream of Buraku. One man engaged in the Maizuru Buraku issue since the 1970s remarked, angrily, that local politics are forming new Buraku. However, one of the traditional Buraku has already disappeared; and another is in the process of disappearing.

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