A Critical Study Against Discourses of “Buraku Industry”

1. “Buraku industry” - the common understanding.

1.1 Reconciliation movement and the “buraku industry”

In 1932, after a two-year survey, the Foundation of Central Reconciliation Association (FCRA) published a mimeographed report entitled, “The Outlook of the Buraku Industries and Economy.” This appears to be the first use of the term, “buraku industry.” Their data results from the findings of these extensive inspections, in every prefecture, of various industries and working processes considered to be related to burakumin, make this a very valuable report. On the basis of its investigations, the FCRA (i) demanded government policies for the reduction of negative views toward burakumin, and (ii) explained that such policies were necessary for the construction of a modern nation-state. This FCRA report was definitive in the formation of any future discourse concerning “buraku industries.” The FCRA understood these industries to be feudalistic, primitive, and specific to burakumin. “Buraku industries” was not yet, however, at this time, an important theme common to the various elements of the buraku movement.

The term entered general usage after the Second World War - albeit without any authorized definition. By the 1960s, however, the term had acquired a sense of purpose. In 1965, the cabinet of the government of Japan gave the discussion of a resolution of the buraku issue to the Cabinet Dowa Policy Council (CDPC). This organization edited The Report of the Cabinet Dowa Policy Council (Council Report). Henceforth spread the recognition that burakumin were a particular people engaged in particular occupations.

1.2 Buraku Industries, according to Buraku Studies

The Council Report designated leather industries (furs and hides, shoemaking, and other footwear), bamboo crafts, straw crafts, butchering, and glue production as “traditional” industries of burakumin. Additionally, the Report described the continuance of these occupations as hereditary. Moreover, the Report stated that buraku industries were floundering in family operations under a “semi-feudal production relation.” At about the same time, scholars were writing about buraku industries, without, however, any strict definition of the term. “Buraku industry” was a fuzzy, ambiguous concept. Social scientists bounced around the adjective “traditional,” without ever showing an actual tradition. In this they made a pernicious error.

Any “industry” draws in the total number of activities involved in an item’s production, as well as related services: a point well made by Leonard Read in “I, Pencil.” One single social group cannot create an “industry.” Machinery manufacturing, raw materials production, auxiliary materials, and the manifold complex relationships between them - all of these must combine to form an industry. Without the leather, the stain, the nails, the rubber cement, the nylon, the plastic, etc., no shoemaker can ever make a shoe. Without wholesalers, retailers, and transportation systems, no products can be produced or brought to market. In like manner, no group called “burakumin” is even capable of sustaining ―let alone creating― an industry.

The Buraku Liberation League (BLL) seems to have recognized this truth. For the BLL explained, at its National Study Meeting for Buraku Liberation, that no so-called “buraku industry” exists without extensive co-operation between burakumin and other nationals. Therefore, it is impossible to correctly describe any industry as a buraku industry. However, for political purposes - viz. support for governmental policies regarding companies located within buraku - the BLL found itself frequently echoing the term, “buraku industry.” A certain amount of calculated cynicism is, perhaps, inescapable in practical politics.

Dr. Tomohiko Harada, a director of the Buraku Liberation Institute (BLI), wrote that buraku have strong and inseparable links with leather and meat production. Harada, as an executive head, was strongly influential. Kazuo Ueda, professor at the Osaka Municipal University, referred to butchering, tanning, shoemaking, and bamboo crafts as industries of buraku communities. Kazuyoshi Akisada divided buraku industries into two categories. The first category included shoemaking, meat production, straw-sandal making, footwear production, and bamboo crafts. The second category (according to Akisada) included the newly emerging industries of imitation—pearls and brush-making. Mitsuru Tanaka, in the Dictionary of Buraku Issues, one-upped Akisada by presenting no fewer than three categories of buraku industry. One, industries continuing from the feudal ages: leather and bamboo crafts. Two, industries of the modern age: shoemaking, meat production, and glove and mitten production. Three, industries of the post-war age: imitation pearls, waste disposal, construction, and civil engineering.

Other scholars have not used the term “buraku industry.” In 1955, Kiyoshi Inoue, an historian of some authority, used the term, “industry related to buraku.” Inoue traced the formation of large- and small-scale buraku capital before the Second World War, referring to government data. Yoshio Nakanishi pointed out the discontinuance of the leather and shoe industries between the feudal and the modern era. He wrote without using the term, “buraku industry.” Juichi Suginohara studied thoroughly a historical local industry, leather making, in his report on the Takagi district of Himeji City. In this extensive report, Suginohara never suggests that leather making is a “buraku industry.”

2. Buraku Industry as Characterized by Established Studies

2.1 Industries and occupations as “tradition”

The Council Report assumed buraku industry to be traditional in buraku. Scholars such as Harada, Ueda, Akisada, Tanaka, and their followers, made parallel claims. According to these scholars, modern-era slaughterhouses, leather production, bamboo craft, etc., evolved directly from Edo-era Eta or Kawata occupations. Nakanishi did not use the term, “buraku industry.” However, he did write: “Traditional businesses of burakumin, leather and shoe production, have been sustained since the feudal era.” These claims, however, are as yet undemonstrated hypotheses.

2.2 The production relation constructing buraku community

According to Ueda, buraku industries were what define the life conditions of burakumin. Many scholars quote sentences from his paper positively. Therefore, the criticism provides further insights into Ueda’s theory. He explained the point as follows:

1,Buraku industry is a part of production relation as the base of the buraku community. Blood relations, marriage and “Ie”, which have hierarchy, group production relation in buraku. This grouping constructs the class relation and hierarchy in the production relation and forms the buraku community.

2,Buraku industry is reflection of buraku’s social and economic conditions. The chronic or semi unemployment in the labor market brings the labor force to the buraku industry. The divisional co-operations by the family encompass social dumping of labor costs. Premodern exploitation from livehood labor allows accumulation of capital. Buraku industry is based on this thin capital. All production of buraku comes from premoderen employment system such as subcontract, cottage work, apprentice and sideline. Those are traditional random tasks,and their thin capital never function organically. Not being independent, the industrial relation is based on “Ie”, blood relations, marriage and so on. Also, it creates the apprenticeship system.

2.3 The capital in buraku and slumism

Moreover, Ueda also explained about capital in buraku as follows:

1,Having no buraku industry, buraku is not able to form capital. Such buraku’s loss of social structure tends to turn communities into slums. Thus, losing out to competition the buraku industry comes significantly under the rule of non-buraku capital. Therefore, the buraku industry falls into additional crises. This brings more people falling into “slum winos” and economic and occupational crisis of burakumin’s life.

2,Those conditions tell the buraku industry exists alienating outside capitalism. This alienation gathered most capital and labor inside community. The division of labor in family makes them to be unable to form class-consciousness. There, therefore, are no modern employment relationships. After all, they connected in identity and interests in common as burakumin.

3. Critiques of Established Theoretical Concepts.

These characterizations have been been made of buraku industry: tradition; feudal or semi-feudal production relations; a correlation with the prevalence or increase of slums. Now to proceed with critiques of Ueda’s theory.

3.1 What is Tradition?

For modernity, “tradition” implies the transmission of cultural peculiarities from generation to generation, with the strong suggestion of great antiquity. In the case of buraku studies, a “tradition” is assumed to go back to the feudal age. However, three of the buraku industry pillars ―the leather industry, the shoe-making industry, and the slaughter industry― originated with the transfer of occidental technologies, co-inciding with the Meiji Restoration. As to who initiated these industries, this question shall be addressed later on in this paper. Now it is enough to introduce a theoretical problem concerning tradition. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger have demonstrated that many of the “traditions” believed to be ancient are, in fact, inventions of the modern period. In their investigation of the Welsh and Scottish cultures, these authors revealed the elaboration of British royal rituals during the 19th and 20th centuries. They also carefully documented the origins of British imperial rituals in British India and Africa; and the attempts by radical movements to develop counter-traditions of their own. Invented tradition, in short, filled the role of ideology, where ideology was absent or lacking, in the construction of nationalism. Buraku studies have not been sufficiently considered using the results of Hobsbawm and Ranger’s research.

3.2 Forming a Concept of Buraku Industry.

As yet there is no rational evidence that the concept of “buraku industry” has any traditional existence. It may, or may not, have existed so. An argument for its traditional existence must rest on a sound hypothesis. Namely, if the complex concept of “buraku industry” was formed traditionally, then two conditions must have been already in place. First, the simple concept of “industry” (sangyou) must already have been formed in Japanese society. Second, the term “buraku” must already have denoted what is today denoted by the terms “buraku” and “burakumin.”

(a) When did Japanese industry (sangyou) form?

No industry ever developed in feudal Japan. It was a creation of modernization. Youshirou Miyatake has shown that the establishment of Japanese industry (in the sense referred to) was between the years 1901 and 1906. By early Meiji, production of Japanese raw silk had acquired enough manufacturing capacity to allow for exports. However, these were handicraft products, not “industry.” It was only in 1895 that the capacity of production from machines exceeded the capacity of production from handicrafts. In 1901, three ironworks began operation: Yahata, Nippon, and Kamaishi. These set the base of Japanese heavy industry. At the same time, Japanese shipbuilding obtained global standards. In 1905, domestic production of manufacturing machines was begun, with copies of American lathes. In 1903, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was introduced by Shushui Kotoku, in his “The Essence of Socialism” - a landmark work that popularized the term “industry.” The term was being used by other scholars, also.

(b) When was the Term of Buraku Borne?

Well then, when did the term of buraku get to mean todays’ discriminated people? It was after the 2nd World War. Before that, buraku has double meaning. According to the Japanese-language dictionaries, for example Kojien published by Iwanami, buraku means a village or hamlet located in the countryside, and settlement. It is sometimes an administrative district in agricultural and fishery regions. With these meanings, buraku never connotes discrimination. However, the Japanese dictionaries now show another usage of this word. Buraku also means communities receiving discrimination because of social standings. Originally, buraku did not have any relation to social discrimination. Therefore, the prewar government applied buraku to agriculture villages and also fisherman villages. For example, the restoration of agriculture buraku means simply a reforming of general agriculture villages.

The modernization of Japan produced huge transfers of buraku population, as it had of peasants generally, because of the failures of the government economic policy. Buraku in urban areas distended extremely, and the poverty of burakumin became direr. The burakumin situation was miserable. There was inveterate unemployment, ignorance and loss of culture, and unhygienic conditions. These circumstances made the Japanese government and local administrators unwillingly institute some welfare policies, albeit very small in size. Soon, a very important historical incident occurred: the Komesoudou. This was a series of riots, throughout the country, in 1918. Citizens demanded a reduction in the price of rice, and the discharge of stocked rice by wholesalers and retailers. The government was forced to take the so-called Reconciliation Policy. The Komesoudou riots had included large numbers of burakumin.

Facing demands for welfare policy, the government had to designate the target districts in which they should invest. They defined those districts and people as distinct from the general public with different adjective descriptions. The governments named their districts hinmin-buraku, shin-buraku, shinhennyu-buraku, saimin-buraku, tokushu-buraku etc. (Also shin-heimin, which did not use the word buraku.) It is difficult to translate these into English. Buraku means community or tribe. Hinmin means poor and miserable people. Saimin is a person who picks up a scanty livelihood. Tokushu means a particular kind. Shin means a person who has newly become a human being.

These expressions began in 1885 in An Annual Report of Health and Medical Bureau that was published by the Japanese government, and continued until 1945. The appellation of buraku was mainly the job of the central and local governments. Consequently, the central and local bureaucrats invented more than 20 words similar to these. From these, tokushu- buraku became official language in 1938.

These words soon became stigmas, which included a very strong discriminative consciousness of the general public against burakumin. All of the adjective descriptions accentuated burakumin differences with the general public, and expressed discrimination. Presently, the word buraku itself came to have a discriminative connotation.

After 1945, because the word was too discriminative to be spoken with construction of the Japanese democracy, tokushu-buraku disappeared from official language. Alternatively, scholars who study the buraku problem increased, and they intended to give two new appellations, which were mikaihou-buraku, and hisabetu-buraku. The former meant un-liberated buraku and the latter was buraku that are discriminated against by other Japanese. Because none of the Japanese were ever liberated perfectly, mikaihou-buraku did not have scientific rationality. Therefore, scholars and the BLL chose hisabetu-buraku.

However, the government regally created a new word that defined buraku in 1965. It was so called the dowa-chiku. Originally, dowa was a word based on the ideology of the Emperor system, meaning that all Japanese are fellow countrymen, and should reconcile. Chiku means district or region. So, frequently, the dowa-chiku of the government included buraku and districts of the general public. Dowa-kankeisha, that means persons who affiliate with dowa, is an official, fiat term to express buraku and burakumin. Not only members of the BLL but most burakumin also avoided the aggressive use of dowa – except when they argue and fight with the government for buraku communities.

Sometimes the discriminative word tokushu-buraku has been used. “Tokushu-burakumin throughout the country: Unite!” This phrase is the first line of “The Declaration of the Suiheisha”. The Suiheisha was the first organization of burakumin, established, by themselves, in 1922. They paradoxically spoke out against this discriminative word to foment their cohorts’ resentment against the Japanese government, the general public, and their society.

Today, the very word buraku has a discriminative connotation. However, burakumin usually use this word, for two reasons. First; without the term buraku, they could have no suitable word that expresses themselves well. Minorities in Japan, such as the Japanese Korean, the Ainu, the Uchinanchu (Okinawan), etc. have appellations developed historically by themselves. However, burakumin had no self-made appellation. Second, the self-consciousness of being burakumin makes them glow with pride. Provided this, persons not organized by the BLL have had no tendency to use the term, “buraku” for themselves.

Furthermore, around the early 1970s, a discussion of politically incorrect terminology commenced in the mass media. Most broadcasters and publishers produced glossaries of terms judged discriminatory against minorities. Unusable words were periphrastically listed and analyzed in these glossaries. The term, “buraku” was most certainly included. Hence, a hamlet-sized community of the general public must now be called a shuraku, as a buraku could hereafter mean only a community of discriminated-against burakumin. This is when the term “buraku” became absolutely discriminatory. This, therefore, is when the term fossilized into the connotation of today.

Arguments (a) and (b), then, demonstrate that the concept of “buraku industry” can only have appeared subsequent to 1965, and that it was never traditionally expounded. It is in this same time period, moreover, that “buraku industry,” in the common understanding, came to mean industries in which discriminated-against buraku were engaged.

4.About the Slaughtering Industry

4.1 The Meat Taboo and Modernity

Today, it is widely believed that in feudal Japan, the eating of meat was taboo. According to a document of the Meiji government, this meat taboo came from Buddhism. Meat-related industries, such as butchering and tanning, were designated as lowly occupations. However, these theses do not have any basis in evidence. Current studies deny the alleged meat taboo, with three pieces of actual evidence. Therefore, these show meat taboo was a constructed idea.

From the end of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese made their meat-eating diet popular in Japan. At the same time Christianity spread. Meat-eating had no relation to Christian doctrine. The feudal powers, however, including the traditional religions, linked and denounced them both. They succeeded in prohibiting Christianity. They failed to do away with meat-eating. Archaeological evidence discovered by Akira Matsui, visiting professor, Kyoto University, shows that an abundance of feudal-age livestock bones bear traces of butchering blades. Matsui explains that the wealthy were well able to enjoy their meat diets, toward which they devoted substantial amounts of money.

According to Yusaku Matsuzawa, the processing of cattle carcasses became an agenda of council in Kumagaya Prefecture, in 1875.

In 1967, up in the north of Hiroshima Prefecture, the scholar Tsuneichi Miyamoto found, in a farmer's warehouse, two ancient harquebuses. These were not for meant for conflict. Sometimes, in late Edo era, peasant riots occurred, however, they did not use any weapons. And certainly they were not mere collector's pieces. The two harquebuses were for hunting wild animals: rabbits, deer, and wild pigs. The flesh of wild animals would be a welcome enrichment to the tables of peasant farmers. People butchered these animals by themselves. What the Edo government prohibited was not the eating of all meat, but the eating of domestic draft animals, namely, cattle. Feudal Japanese did not eat beef. All game was fair game. Because, cows and horses were very important labor force, farmers kept them in the sheds being connected to the each other. In short, the slaughtering is not traditional industry.

For the Meiji government, on the road to modernization, feudalism was an absolute evil. Most statesmen, thinkers, and cultural leaders of the time considered that the primitive Japanese culture should be replaced with the Occidental-style culture of the more accomplished Western civilization. They, therefore, rewrote the history of Edo. Edo Japanese, they said, ate no meat; and this was a sign of their backwardness. By so doing, as Takahisa Oki has made clear, the government restructured the concept of filth1 . This revisionist-historian evidence is similar to the evidence against the Policy of Seclusion of the Edo government2.

4.2 Prohibition and Sovereign Act

After 1868, it conducted a free business to treat edible meat. However, it did not mean free engaging of slaughter treatment. In 1871, the Meiji government prohibited butchering by former kawata. According to a historical paper of Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1872, the government prohibited the trade in dead cattle and horses, and forbade the establishment of slaughterhouses. This was done on the grounds of hygiene. "Poor hygiene" became a pronouncement of anti-civilization, and a stigma of burakumin. The government dispersed the policy of hygiene into every corner of society3 . Because eta or kawata engaged in the meat and leather industries, they were unhygienic, was the logic. As Michel Foucauld demonstrated, a government involved in "hygiene" will get involved in anything - for hygienic reasons. Hygiene was a most important policy of the powers rushing to modernization.

In 1909, for guarding against anthrax infection, the government established laws for the slaughterhouses, and essentially prohibited butchering outside of these. (1) When the local government established slaughterhouses, the private facilities received an order of abolishment. (2) Home Minister lied down establishment of the slaughterhouse when the need comes. (3) The abolishment of slaughterhouse needed permission from the provincial governor. (4) The government proposed state-owned land for the local government establishing slaughterhouse. (5) Any private citizen’s slaughterhouse was strictly under the control of the government and said laws.

4.3 The Slaughterhouse and Burakumin.

1)City Plan Documents of 1938-39 for Onomichi City show that the city hall established a new municipal slaughterhouse in the Yoshiwa district outside of town, to the west. Construction was at governmental direction, and under governmental control. The location was not related with any buraku. The previous slaughterhouse’s location, also, was unrelated to any buraku. Hiroshima Prefecture 1913 data for Onomichi demonstrated that the city’s burakumin had no relation with butchery. Moreover, a 1970 investigation concluded that Onomichi burakumin had no connection with the slaughterhouse.

2)Fukuyama City has owned and managed a slaughterhouse since 1936. It moved from Honjo-cho to Nakatsuhara-cho in 1967. Neither place was home to a buraku. A 1913 occupational survey of Fukayasu and Fukatsu townships (in today’s Fukuyama City) had no record of burakumin engaged in slaughterhouses. This trend (an absence of burakumin in slaughterhouses) continued after WWII. Data of 1971 from the figures of the General Administrative Agency of the Cabinet lists 6 persons (burakumin persons) in the meat business, all of them business owners on the retail side. Five of the six answered questions. They all gained commercial independence after the war. One in 1960, and the others during 1967-68. Their independence came with the rapid economic growth after the war.

3)Fukushima-cho, Hiroshima City, had a slaughterhouse. It is now gone. According to the buraku industry discourse, a huge number of buraku households were engaged in Fukushima-cho, in butchering. Table 1 gives the jobs data from 1922 for buraku (Onaga-cho included).
“Industries” included butchering, and leather and shoe production. Tairo Ito insists that the 30 households engaged in “industries” does not give the true scope. The actual number of workers in the slaughterhouse was nearer to 60. They processed 48.9 head of cattle a day, on average. These 60 workers’ wives and children also helped, unofficially, as “shadow work.” Notable here are 2 points. (1) There were 4 big companies in Fukushima. As a certain poor worker of Fukushima wrote to Meiji-no-Hikari (May, 1917), by cost-free by-products such as blood and bones, used in fertilizer and chemicals, those four companies’ owners accrued huge wealth. Able to employ burakumin at extremely low wages, the owners built millions in wealth, being able to afford, for example, live-in tutors for their children. (2) Excluding these 60 workers and their relatives, burakumin in Hiroshima City engaged in “Physical Jobs” and “Random Tasks” accounted for about 77% of the population. In short, most residents of Hiroshima City’s buraku did not have any connection with the “buraku industries” defined by Professor Ueda. Physical Jobs and Random Tasks did not exist as industries in themselves. These workers were low-wage laborers in various industries, such as shipbuilding, iron production, construction, and so on.

4)The relationship between the formation of buraku and slaughterhouses in Kure City was different from those in other cities.
At present, there are 4 buraku in Kure City. The largest buraku, having about 230 households and 500 residents, is in Yamate-cho. For convenience’s sake, this paper will refer to this buraku as “Yamate.” According to one document from the Edo era, the buraku of Kure City consisted of 10 households of Kawata, on average. The largest Kawata area had only 31 households. Yamate, at that time, did not exist. Therefore it is absent from the records. The buraku of Yamate did not appear until the Meiji period. Yamate was, according to a document of the time, an agricultural land, receiving good sunlight, with 3 (or fewer) farmers’ sheds. As late as 1907, going by official street map, the area had no houses, no roads, nor even any geographical name.

In 1886, construction of the Imperial Naval Station was commenced in Kure City, a heretofore languishing port. Creation of the 2nd Navy Ward Naval Port required a complete redevelopment of the city. News spread throughout the country. Anyone could get a job in Kure City. Huge numbers of laborers congregated, as did many businessmen seeking contracts. Food shops, rice traders, barbershops, beauty parlours (both traditional and modern), inns, restaurants, etc. mushroomed with the inflow of workers and sailors. Kure City grew from 15,281 population in 1873 to 66,396 in 1902. Having then grown from 176,234 in 1928 to 200,709 in 1936, reaching 413,000 in 1944. A tiny local port town had been transformed into a strategic metropolis.

This sudden increase of population, naturally, demanded the growth and enhancement of social amenities. In 1902, a business operator built a small private slaughterhouse in Yamate. The small crematories that were scattered around the city became one large crematory, in Yamate. In 1909, Kure City constructed a new public slaughterhouse in Yamate, with a cattle market and feeding pens. Also in 1909, the naval prison moved to Yamate. In 1922, the jail, and in 1942, the naval cemetery appeared. The private crematory, and the private slaughterhouse, were taken over by the city. The unemployed, and the underemployed, came to Yamate for work, and exceeded the employment capabilities of the facilities. During these years, Yamate acquired its reputation for its buraku. Yamate residents began to receive overt discrimination from the general public. However, these people were not of buraku ancestry.

In 1922, an elementary-school boy, a resident of Yamate, threw himself under a train. In his suicide note, the boy cursed his life for having been born a burakumin. He had long endured discrimination from his classmates. A similar case happened in the naval yard. One of the burakumin laborers killed himself, unable to go on receiving discrimination from his superiors and co-workers. In 1942 there was a murder case in Yamate, involving dismemberment of the corpse. Without any evidence or information, the police conducted an aggressive investigation of all Yamate residences, convinced that such a horrendous murder could only have been committed by a burakumin. One woman born in the 1930s testifies: “Whenever anything happened, as a student my teacher always suspected me. He always told me that, because I was a criminal, I had to keep standing in the center of the school ground. So I was not able to study hard, even though I strongly desired to.”

Local government did not give much attention to the infrastructure of Yamate. Blood, from butchering, was directly released into the Nikho River, which sometimes flowed red. One woman, a teacher at the Shion-kai nursery school, often bathed her children in this river. She contracted an infection, and succumbed to it, and died. It is believed that the health of many residents - including children - was badly affected. Leeches in this river grew to enormous sizes, bloated on blood. The crematory, meanwhile, was busy. Bodies were burned day and night - the smoke billowing, and the ashes falling down upon the houses. Sometimes the ashes blew right in the windows, and into the meals laid out on the tables. Every corner of this valley stank of death, whether animal or human. The bridge over the bloody Nikho River came to be called, “Jigokubashi,” the bridge to hell. All of this contributed to people’s prejudice and fear of Yamate.

According to newspaper records, 2 head of cattle were butchered in 1887, and 270 head of cattle in 1888. By 1902, 4,840 head of cattle were being butchered per year, or roughly 16 animals per day. But this did not require a lot of labor. Ten households were engaged in this business. (See Table 2.) It is difficult to see how a mere 3.3% of the population is enough to justify the designation of butchering as a “buraku industry,” as Kazuo Ueda has done. Such a small slice of labor did not sustain very many burakumin. But rather, if such a thing as “buraku industries” existed, they must have had to do with fishing, or general labor, or day-labor, because these occupations employed the largest numbers of burakumin. Ginso Kobayakawa, from interview testimony, has established that many (general population) persons worked as butchers. It was never the preserve of the buraku. In nearby Kure City, the “buraku industry” slaughterhouses managed to operate without any buraku connections whatsoever. And, as has already been observed, the residents of Yamate had no connection with the former Kawata. It is evident, then, that the discrimination against the people of Yamate was a construction of modernity.

5 About the Leather industry and Shoe Making

As with animal slaughter, so too were the leather industry and shoemaking. Scholars of buraku studies have painted a scene of burakumin devoted to these occupations, designated as filthy. This scene, however, contradicts both the historical evidence, and the reality of these industries today.

5.1 The Leather Production in Hiroshima Prefecture

In Tadanoumi (in Takehara City), evidence comes from the Jinshin family registry. It shows, in 1873, a kawata community with a population of 180, divided among 43 households. Their most common occupation was leather craftsman, producing leather armor, saddles, and so on. Thirty-three households worked at this until the end of the Edo Period. The population of Takehara City's 9 buraku increased from 525 to 1,332 between the years 1873 and 1973. The buraku population of Tadanoumi, however, decreased around the same time, from 180 to 80. The reason for this was the displacement of the feudal modes of production by the new capitalist modes of production. Today, the Tadanoumi buraku population is 7, divided between 2 households. Certainly, it goes without saying that they lost their feudalistic occupations today. This fact means that the leather industry did not reach Takehara. Presented herewith are two maps, published in 1654 and 1684. The old city of Hiroshima is shown, along with the name of each town, and the individual names of the residents. On these two maps, Kawaya-machi is reported to have 16 and 18 houses, respectively. The name of the town, Kawaya-machi, was abolished in 1965, as a remnant of the feudal era. Only an historical plaque beside the road keeps the name.

Kawaya-machi was the leather-goods town. Among its residents was one Kawaya Hikozaburo, a leather craftsman and retailer of leather products. Merchant-craftsman Hikozaburo belonged to the general-public class of chonin. So did all of his neighbors. None of them was related to either the East or West kawata that the Hiroshima clan had established in the early 1600s. The former Kawaya-machi was connected neither to the kawata of yesteryear, nor to the buraku of today.

The following question asserts itself. If the leather-goods town of Kawaya-machi was inhabited and run exclusively by the general-public chonin, and by zero kawata (burakumin), then in what possible sense can the leather-goods industry be properly described as a “buraku industry”?

The same general-public chonin membership of the leather goods industry existed also in Wakayama.

In Tokushima, in 1844, the Osoba-goyonin (Lord Attendant) of a bushi requested the clan to grant him exclusive administration of all dealings in leather products. In return for this license, he insisted, he would forgo the 1% commission that was charged by the eta in charge of leather goods. And so, all interested parties might benefit. This Lord Attendant, covering the eta’s leather trade, was a samurai with access to the daimyo. He bore a surname, and two swords on his belt. He had an income of 500 koku4 of rice. The incident might seem to be anomalous, as occupations in the Edo era were tied to social standing. Nevertheless, in the forefront of capitalism, all things were becoming commodities to all people of all classes. In comparison with the profits to be had, the diminishing consciousness of “filthy” was losing significance. Indeed, class membership was itself being commoditized. A farmer, if he paid enough money to a clan, could enter the ranks of the bushi.

At the same period, there was another symbolic phenomenon even in feudal clans about the leather industry. In the Wakayama clan, one which was run by a Tokugawa shogun's relative began tanning as a new occupation of bushi. They imported the Occidental skills, and constructed factories. Their skills and method for producing leather spread, and became the standard. In Shizuoka clan, also new leather production began. In Edo era, the occupation belonged to each strata of hierarchy, and eta people processed death farming animals. Therefore, the head of eta, called Danzaemon by inheritance, insisted to the new government to have it be a monopoly for burakumin ruled by Danzaemon. The new government however, was a child of capitalism, and his desire tripped before arriving at the gate of new world. The new investors, who were exbushi took a strategy not using dead cattle. They aggressively used skins of slaughtered castles. Compared to this, Danzaemn adhered to the feudal concession. He did not take notice to the way of the new investors. Therefore, Naoki Dan (from Danzaemon) was forced into deep difficulties for his business.

Asakusa, well known as Dan's home ground, had 9 leather production companies, 7 of the 9companies came from outside of buraku. 2 companies originated in Asakusa buraku. Because the labour charge in Asakusa was very cheep, the most important companies concentrated in Asakusa. Certainly, many burakumin got jobs from those companies.

According to an investigation of the Department of Agriculture, 1910, Fukushima-cho of Hiroshima City hosted, at that time, two leather-producing companies. The larger of the two was owned by non-burakumin. The company did, however, locate within a buraku area, and did employ burakumin. The motivation is simple enough. Here was the cheapest land and cheapest labor. A study by Hiroshima City, 1950, did not record any laborers engaged in the leather production. Statistics of Hiroshima Prefecture from 1881 through to 1935 fail to list any leather production. Although two companies existed, they were too small to be taken notice of by the prefecture.

As of 1912, only 15 slaughterhouses remained in Hiroshima Prefecture. Raw hides from these were exported to other cities. Thus, the sizeable buraku population lacked the basic condition for a leather industry: a supply of hides. Other conditions (water, climate, social circumstances) also helped to decide against the sustenance of the leather industry. For the last 100 years and more, no business deserving to be described as belonging to the leather industry has existed in any of the other 471 buraku (Fukushima-cho excepted). All of these buraku, however, survived without this staple “buraku industry.” Today, Hiroshima Prefecture does not have any leather makers.

5.2 Shoemaking in Fukuyama City

Eighteen shoemaking concerns existed in Fukuyama in 1912, according to a catalogue of shoes and leather goods. Of these eighteen “buraku industry” concerns, the majority (ten) were non-burakumin owned.

There was also a small factory producing military footgear. Former shoe craftsman Yoshio Kataoka testifies that around 100 Koreans labored like slaves in that factory - and a few non-burakumin also worked there, as craftsmen. These latter came from Kyushu.

Mr Kimitaka Nakamura, executive director of a shoe retailer, deposed that his father, born in the Meiji era, visited the United States, and there visited highly profitable manufacturers of military footgear. Upon his return home, Nakamura Senior started a company selling footgear to soldiers.

The two firms referred to by Kataoka and Nakamura are still in business. Both firms are very rich and influential. Both firms built their success on government contracts with military interests. The historical empirical evidence, therefore, appears to suggest that shoemaking is much more a military industry, than a “buraku industry.”

Haruo Tsutsumi, born in 1939, became a 2nd-generation shoe craftsman. His testimony: “Shoemaking work, in this district, began with my dad’s generation. But it’s pretty hard to apprentice under family. It’s hard to keep that master-apprentice relationship. So I left home. I went to Asakusa, Tokyo.” Mr Kataoka, born in 1938, was likewise a 2nd-generation shoe craftsman. He took over the shoemaking studio that his father had established in the 1920s. Both retired craftsmen used to reside in the 50-household Oonishi buraku in Fukatsu, Fukuyama City. In 1940, the Oonishi buraku was home to only 3 shoe craftsmen. Yet these three were deemed significant enough for BLL activists and scholars to nickname this buraku “the shoemakers’ town.” Such a forced designation may have been convenient to the prevailing “buraku industry” narrative. The most common employment in the Oonishi buraku was factory worker. But “factory workers’ town” would not support the BLL mythology.

Shoe production in Fukuyama has a short history. It started in the 1920s, too recently to call it “traditional.” It peaked in the 1950s. By the 1960s, however, Japan was in a period of rapid economic growth. The Japanese were abandoning geta and zori, and wearing instead leather shoes. This was disastrous for the individual shoe craftsman, for, mass consumption invited mass production. Soon, large shoe factories were flooding the country with cheaply made shoes. At Daiei department store, in 1965, all-leather men’s shoes were offered for 980 yen. This was affordable even for high-school boys. Medium-sized companies followed the large companies into the shoe market. The local small shoemaker, burakumin or not, could not compete. In 1963, Hayakawa Rubber Co. Ltd. of Fukuyama began producing leather shoes. Tsutsumi, and most of his heretofore independent colleagues, closed their own shops and accepted employment at Hayakawa. It was a brief employment. Hayakawa quit the shoemaking business after two years. That was the end of shoe production in Fukuyama.

Fukuyama City today has 37 buraku. No buraku has any leather-related industry. As well, let it be noted that no buraku has any sort of business or industry that is unique to buraku. Please refer to tables 5-1 and 5-2, showing the occupations of one small, typical buraku in the north of Fukuyama City. The employed and those receiving pensions account for about 60% of the total. The rate of the employed is rather lower than the national rate of 41%. But so is the rate of those receiving pensions. The national pensioner rate is 50%, but in this buraku the rate is only 32.4%. These are common patterns.

5.3 Shoemaking in Kure City

Please refer again to table 2. In 1920, Kure is said to have had 17 shoemakers from the buraku. Data from 1912, however, show that Kure City had 44 shoe-related businesses, of which not one was buraku-connected. Even the BLL admits this. From where, then, appeared these 17 buraku shoemakers in 1920? The answer was suggested to the present author by a woman who lived in the Yamate buraku. She guessed that there were 17 “jack-of-all-trades” sort of fellows who would occasionally, as one of many random tasks, repair shoes.

5.4 Contradictory Data from the Leather Industry, and Real Conditions of Buraku in Hiroshima City

Leather production hardly developed in Hiroshima Prefecture. Therefore, in terms of Hiroshima, all things labelled “leather production” means, in actuality, shoe production. What follows is a brief outline of shoe production in Hiroshima.

In the buraku in Onaga-cho (Onaga), 1936, there were 103 households engaged in shoe and leather crafts. In 1920, there had been only 27 such households in Onaga and Fukushima-cho (Fukushima). Within 15 years, the number of Onaga-area households occupied in shoe production had increased by four times.

Vocational Population in Buraku in Hiroshima in 1950 showed 510 shoe-related workers, including 330 shoe repairmen, in the buraku of Fukushima and Onaga. Shoe repair, being a service business, is not included with industrial occupations. Therefore, of genuine shoemaking craftsmen, there were 180 such persons: in Onaga, 153 and in Fukushima, 27. According to the Annual Report of Hiroshima City, 1950, there were 280 people across 76 firms. This list includes firms with fewer than three persons. In both of these surveys, 180 shoe-workers are shown to come from the buraku. This leaves a remaining 100 shoe-workers not from the buraku.

Report of a Survey of the Current Living Conditions of Onaga Buraku, also 1950, conducted by the Hiroshima Educational Committee, counts 9 shoemakers, 137 shoe craftsmen, and 32 shoe repairmen among the 486 residents of Onaga. The report thus calculates that 36.6% of Onaga residents were engaged in shoe production. But the authors made the error of conflating shoe repairmen with shoemakers. In 1952, the Annual Report of Hiroshima City showed 322 people in the leather industry (read: shoemaking). There remained, therefore, 153 shoe craftsmen in Fukushima. Certainly, shoe repairmen were not counted among them. If 153 residents of Fukushima were now shoe craftsmen, then their number had increased 5.7 times in only 2 years. From where did they come?

The City of Hiroshima in 1959 investigated the practice of dowa policies in Onaga. According to this investigation, residents engaged in shoe and leather-related work numbered 225, or 31.4% of the population of 716. The Annual Report of 1959 explained that 167 worked in the leather industry, and their shipments were valued at 145,172,000 yen (0.3% of the entire value of industrial shipments of the city for that year). The shoe industry in Onaga, such as it was, surpassed the shoe industry of all the rest of the city.

Scholars of buraku have written their histories without sufficient reference and comparison to others’ work. They also have tended to neglect the official annual reports. Any study may be said to contain a fear of contradiction. Official organizations, also, allow errors to slip into their reports. For these reasons, scholars have failed to stay objective and accurate in their studies.

Consequently, the following may be said. Burakumin in Hiroshima City were, historically, engaged in the shoemaking industry. However, it may also be said that many non-burakumin were also engaged in the shoemaking industry. But it is incorrect even to call it an industry. The shoemaking business was too small to be designated as an independent “industry” in the publications of the day. It is impossible, therefore, to define the shoe industry as a buraku industry, when (i) it employed almost as many non-burakumin as burakumin; (ii) it was too insignificant to be considered an “industry” by contemporary studies.

Hiroshima City was also an army and navy town. There was a huge demand for military boots. However, the Imperial Japanese Army had its own mechanized factories. The armed forces did not require a labor force from the buraku.

Memories and experiences tend to be exaggerated, in their retelling. This is especially true when the memories include suffering. It is certainly true that the Japanese had an idea, or a sentiment, that meat and leather production were “filthy.” The Declaration of the Suiheisha complained that “they were the victims of base, contemptible class policies, and they were manly martyrs of industry.” In speaking with burakumin workers in such industries, it is clear that they consider themselves to have suffered. As surely they did. It is equally clear, however, that they can exaggerate their sufferings. At a time when 80 head of cattle were butchered a day, in all of Hiroshima Prefecture, an old slaughterhouse worker in Fukushima can testify that he and his coworkers were butchering 100 or 200 head of cattle a day. He is not lying. But he is remembering wrongly. A shoe craftsman remembers shoes “flying off the racks” at 1,200 yen a pair, in 1950. But this is inconceivable when the salary for a university-educated banker was 3,000 yen a month, and a fresh public servant earned only 5,000 yen a month.

Burakumin may also be led on to exaggerate by investigators who desire tales full of copious sufferings. Power relations exist, and respondents can be only too happy to accede to the wishes of their inquisitors.

6. The Relationship between Bamboo Craft and Buraku

6.1 It is commonly held that the bamboo crafts are a buraku industry.

Certain bamboo-craft web sites assert that their wares are typical products of buraku in Hiroshima. Holders of such ideas are neither malicious nor deliberate tellers of falsehoods. They have merely erred in quoting from the social scientists and dowa education teachers, and have not investigated the matter for themselves. Bamboo craftwork, the social scientists and dowa teachers claim, came from the winnowing equipment and kitchen baskets made in the buraku. What they fail to mention, however, is that the combination of cheap Chinese-made goods, and mechanized agricultural techniques have made the production of such items economically redundant in Japan.

Kazuteru Okiura, a historian belonging to the Ecole des Annales, demonstrated the following, after having visited 300 buraku in agricultural districts, and having written on the relations between bamboo crafts and buraku:

1.Since the Middle Ages, bamboo craft has been a traditional western-Japan buraku industry.

2.In Kyushu, Shikoku, and the Chugoku region (especially Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures), burakumin were typical bamboo craftsmen.

3.According to Okiura’s fieldwork in the several hundreds of buraku throughout the six prefectures that make up the Kinki region, roughly one-third had bamboo craftsmen producing farm tools and housewares for sale.

A survey of the Department of Agriculture reported, in 1922, “In Tottori, Shimane, Hiroshima,

Kagawa, and Miyazaki prefectures, the production of bamboo crafts was an occupation engaged in only by burakumin, as part of their ancient heritage. The general public therefore abominate this work, and the bamboo craft industry has slackened.” The government thus placed the ultimate blame for the slackening of the industry on the burakumin. However, reports from Hiroshima, Shimane, and Okayama prefectures make clear that the bamboo craft industry belonged to burakumin and non-burakumin alike. Indeed, in 6 prefectures, the industry engaged only non-burakumin!

6.2. Both the general public, and burakumin, worked in the bamboo crafts.

This study shall prove that the bamboo crafts were not a typical buraku industry. For this purpose, focus shall be concentrated on the conditions prevailing in those prefectures where Okiura and the Department of Agriculture have designated bamboo craft a buraku industry.

In Shimane prefecture, according to a 1922 survey, there were no (zero) craftsmen producing bamboo crafts as commodities. One bureaucrat from Shimane prefecture reported to the Department of Agriculture that bamboo crafts were being produced in individual villages for personal consumption only. Shimane prefecture published Shakaikaizen no Shiori (Guide Book for Social Reconstruction and Reconciliation) in 1918, which explained that many burakumin in the prefecture were farmers, having their own agricultural lands, and landless peasants. Such rural dwellers must, of necessity, work in many occupations, trades, skills, and sidelines. Some farmers possessed a cow, or several head of cattle. Some households had mountain forest lands, and worked part of the year as woodcutters. Some were part-time silkworm breeders. Unsurprisingly, bamboo craft was also a natural rural sideline. In Hikawa County alone, 74 buraku, made up of 346 households, claimed 40 different sidelines, of which bamboo craft was one. The same pattern existed in other counties.

Under the Okayama clan, the kawata were farmers, responsible for paying the clan’s taxes, and had various special duties such as kawatayaku, the arresting of criminals. How to categorize such a class? They were worked so hard, in several different occupations, that it is sometimes hard to pinpoint their main occupation. But there does appear to be no significant bamboo craft produced by the kawata. At that time, in agricultural villages generally, including but not specific to the buraku, bamboo crafts were produced for local and personal consumption.

Around the year 1860, in Katsuyama-cho, Okayama prefecture, residents there developed characteristic bamboo crafts. In 1959, bamboo craft received the title of a Government-Designated Traditional Craft Industry. There were, at least until the 1970s, some burakumin engaged in the craft. Since that time, however, until now, only non-burakumin have maintained the art.

Okiura and the dowa education teachers designated bamboo crafts traditional and popular products for buraku in Mirasaka-cho and Joge-cho; and, by extension. all of Hiroshima prefecture. This designation rested on the story of a boy, Murakichi Ooki, who, at the age of fifteen, sometime around 1830, left his hometown of Joge-cho with the purpose of studying bamboo crafts in Katsuyama-cho. A quaint little story, and also demonstrably fictional, for bamboo crafts did not come to Katsuyama until after 1860. This anachronism destroys the charming legend. There are other problems, too. The author of the Murakichi tale, Akinori Kuroda, wrote of a gigantic bamboo-crafts factory employing 500 workers. No such factory ever existed, according to reports of retired bamboo craftsmen. There was a selling association, the founder of which was a non-burakumin public official.

Considering the bamboo plant’s many uses, it is unsurprising that the general non-burakumin public was, generally, conversant in bamboo crafts. In Yamano-son (recently amalgamated into Fukuyama city), children studied bamboo craft as part of the elementary school curriculum. In Mitsugi-cho, as an off-season sideline, farmers produced bamboo goods to sell to the fishermen in Tome-cho. Even in Joge-cho, a list of names of bamboo craftsmen includes non-burakumin. In Hiro-son, near Kure, there was an association of bamboo craftsmen, the secretary of which was a non-burakumin.

Keigen Ishida is a bamboo craftsman from a buraku, now living in Mirasaka-cho. His studio was founded by this grandfather, and passed down by his father. Neither father nor grandfather was, however, a full-time craftsman. His grandfather was waterman on a riverboat. His father was a rickshaw man. The family possessed agricultural land, which, however, the family sold in order to pay for medical care for the grandfather. What bamboo crafts they made, as often as not, found no buyers. Keigen inherited the atelier, but only after his father’s death.

6.3. Governmental policy and bamboo crafts.

At the start of the 1930s, Hiroshimaken Kyoumei-kai (Association of Sympathy in Hiroshima Prefecture), a local reconciliation organization, recommended many sidelines to buraku. The Kyomei, the Kyomeikai paper, catalogued 69 kinds of sideline occupation discovered in 84 buraku. Bamboo craft was one. This follows from the FCRA’s Restructuring Movement of the Buraku Economy. The Japanese government was pushing these policies through the Industrialization of Agricultural Villages and the Restructuring Movement of Agricultural, Forest, and Fishery Villages Economy. The intention was, one, to develop industries to absorb a redundant rural population. And, two, in the face of a shortage of raw materials, to source steelmaking materials from lumber and bamboo. The latter was part of a larger strategy of restructuring the Japanese economy by emphasizing diligence, saving, and sideline occupations to the citizenry.

These days, except for Ishida, and a few producers of special articles, there are no bamboo craftsmen in Hiroshima prefecture. Certainly, there are none producing bamboo crafts as ordinary commodities. The central and local governments have collaborated to diffuse the production of bamboo crafts, even perhaps against buraku interests. The reconciliation movement, too, played a part in these crafts’ diffusion.

7. Conclusion

The alleged buraku industries, such as slaughtering, leather and shoe production, and bamboo craft production, have never been industries peculiar to buraku. Certainly, in some limited buraku, some number of burakumin has been engaged in such industries. It is equally true, however, that numbers of non-burakumin have also been engaged in such industries. In recent years, in addition, large numbers of foreign workers have entered some of these industries; the slaughtering industry, in particular.

Within the field of this paper in Hiroshima prefecture no buraku have yet been discovered in which even a bare majority of burakumin were ever employed in the so-called “buraku industries.” Quite to the contrary, this paper has found cities and towns having “buraku industries” with no burakumin involvement whatsoever. Or even no buraku in the vicinity. Burakumin, studied empirically, prove to have been a very diverse group. Burakumin typically worked hard in many various occupations, but with such decidedly little concentration in the “buraku industries,” that these specific industries usually fall under the umbrella category of random tasks.

This paper, therefore, has criticized the established state of buraku studies, and the established narrative of “buraku industries.” The concept of buraku industry is a recent creation. It appears after WWII. It was born of the BLL, as a simple political term. Buraku scholars took it up, and attempted to give it a scientific meaning and sense before widely spreading it. That slaughtering, leather and shoe production, and bamboo craft production are buraku industries, therefore, is a constructed discourse, both misled and misleading. The scholars have never examined the overwhelmingly large proportion of small-scale buraku. Their master narrative is a stereotype and a prejudice, sustained only by selective viewing of only the most cherry-picked examples.

As a result, the “buraku industry” narrative extends generally over the public, and encourages needless stigmatization of innocent burakumin and workers.

Keyword:Buraku discrimination / Buraku industries / Discriminated identity / Hisabetu-Buraku / job discrimination / leather industry / life stories / meat industry

Table 1(unit: homes in 1922)
Agriculture Industrials Trade Fishery Physical job Bureaucrat Random tasks Total
27 30 187 0 264 0 435 943
2.86% 3.18% 19.83% 0% 28.00% 0% 46.13% 100%

Table 02
The Constitution of the Occupation of the Buraku in Kure City by “The History of the Great Kure City in 1920”
Occupations Households Number Rate
Fish retailer113.63%
Day worker3611.88%
Butcher meat retailer92.97%
Geta cobbler82.64%
Sales staff82.64%
Farmer 41.32%
Coal man20.66%
Stem of tobacco pipe Repairman20.66%
Fruit and vegetable shop10.33%
Ricksha man10.33%
Land broker10.33%
Linen liner production 10.33%

1 Takahisa Oki wrote that there is not sufficient evidence to be able to explain relations between the concept of filth and Buddhism. Additionally, he documented that with the governmental involvement, Shintoism formed the concept of filth in the modern period.

2 The Edo government did not prohibit overseas trades. Some data show excess imports. Japan in Edo period was a world eminent silver-producing country, however, by the gold and silver-based settlement, holding silver bottomed out. What the government prohibited was only Christianity. Incidentally, that policy was “Sakoku” in Japanese, and actually, Japanese did not have such word. It was invented during modernization.

3 The Meiji government, at the beginning of Meiji, prohibited kabuki performance. The reasons were related to sexual problem, and poor hygiene problem. At that time, because kabuki theaters did not have floors, audiences were in dusty circumstances. They enjoyed kabuki and meals in such conditions.

4 One koku of rice was the consumption of one adult for one year.

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