Untouchability in Japan

Graefe Ursula.Graefe at T-ONLINE.DE
Fri Jan 14 20:43:50 UTC 2000

Dear list,
in feudal Japan society was divided into four classes. The fourth consisted
of the so-called "eta" (which is written with 2 charakters meaning "much dirt").
Etymologically it is supposed to be related to the word "etori" which in the
early middle ages was applied to people, who killed cattle and horses to feed
hunting falcons and dogs, or who dealt with meat or hides of cattle and horses.
In Shintoismus, the native Japanese religion, as well as in Buddhism people
engaged in this kind of work were considered impure. They were also called
"hinin" - "non-persons". During the 17th and 18th centuries they were
increasingly stigmatised and forced to live in ghettos and closed communities.
Still in 1859 a Japanese court declared that an eta was worth only "one seventh"
 of a "real" Japanese. In 1871 though the eta were finally declared as equal and
 were to be called "new citizens". Nowadays they are euphemistically called
"burakumin" ("villagers") and still are subject to discrimination. In Japan
reputedly exist "black lists" of people of burakumin descent, so they tend to
marry among each other and still seem to suffer from a lot of social
Regards Ursula Graefe

P.S. By the way, beef is only eaten by humans in Japan since the late 19th
century. (Or so it is claimed.)

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