Japanese Education in the 21st Century
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    Contents of This Chapter
      1. Ethnic Education
  2. 9-2    AINU CHILDREN
    2. 9-2-2    TEACHING AINU ISSUES
      1. Education for Buraku Children Until the 1960s
      2. Affirmative Action For Buraku Children
      3. Buraku Awareness Education
      4. Education for Buraku Children in Marugame
  5. NOTES

Minority children include socially discriminated-against Buraku children, indigenous Ainu children, ethnic minority Korean children, and ethnic or linguistic minority children of newcomers (such as Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children, and refugee children).  These children are more likely to have substandard academic performance, and to endure prejudice and discrimination. 

Thanks to minority and human-rights movements, the Japanese government is now more committed than ever to seeing that minority children receive as good an education as Japanese children do.  The government provides scholarships, affirmative action, and remedial education.  Minority and foreign children also have access to tutoring and to lessons about their cultural history and heritage.  This chapter will describe education for Buraku and Ainu children.  The next chapter will discuss education for Korean, Nikkei, Chinese returnee children, and refugee children.  



Education specialists, anthropologists, and sociologists have discussed the various causes of the limited achievement of minority students. They explain the lower achievement of minority students with theories about stratification, reproduction, “cultural deficit,” and the segmented labor market (Jacob and Jordan 1993; Bourdieu 1986; Ogbu 1993; Rubinson and Browne 1994). 

The stratification, reproduction and conflict theories argue that the class backgrounds of student determine their educational achievement, attainment, and aspiration, and that schools operated by the dominant class merely reproduce social stratification favorable for the dominant class.  The stratification theory uses statistical means to determine which independent variables (such as family backgrounds, IQ, or peer and school characteristics) affect the educational achievement of minority students on a macro-level (Jacob and Jordan 1993).  Lower socioeconomic and educational attainment of the parents of minority students, combined with an inferior school environment can explain the lower educational attainment of minority students. 

Reproduction theory argues that the variables of cultural capital, the habitus of children, such as education, knowledge, and hobbies, affect their performance in school.  Cultural capital is transmitted by parents through early socialization at home, and can be measured by the parents’ education, their investment in children’s education, and the children’s educational environment (Bourdieu 1986).  Thus, minority students’ shortage of cultural capital is seen as one cause of their lower educational achievement. 

The cultural conflict theory argues that the cultural mismatch between middle-class white teachers in the United States and non-white students, for example, causes miscommunication, lowered expectations, and misunderstandings between teachers and minority students (Jacob and Jordan 1993:5-6).  However, critics argue that these theories are too deterministic and underestimate the decision-making process and interaction among students, parents, and teachers (Rubinson and Ralph 1986:279-80). 

The interpretive theory, based on ethnographical evidence, argues that not only does the role of teachers affect the academic performance of children, but that classroom dynamics also play a role, through the interaction between teachers and students, curriculum analysis, teaching methods, as well as teachers’ characters and classroom management (Takeuchi 1995:31-39).

On the other hand, the segment labor market theory argues that the glass ceiling in the labor market discourages minority students from seeking higher education.  This theory also blames the lack of role models (Ogbu 1978, 1993). 

Lower rates of high school and college enrollment are noted for Buraku children, Ainu children, Korean children, Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children, and Vietnamese refugee children.  The poor academic performance of minority children may be caused by: 1) family poverty, 2) the low educational attainment of their parents; 3) parents who do not value education as a vehicle for upward social mobility; 4) the lack of role models at home and in the community; 5) cultural conflicts and low expectations from teachers; 6) employment discrimination; and 7) language difficulties.

The Japanese government helps minority children through affirmative action and outreach programs intended to overcome educational discrepancies.  Since 1969, the government has supported large-scale affirmative action measures to improve the social and economic conditions of Buraku people, and since 1974, the Hokkaido Administration has enacted social welfare measures to do the same for the Ainu.  The government provides scholarships specifically for Buraku and Ainu children.  Giving minority parents some economic relief helps to create better homes for their children.

The government, in cooperation with community-based educational organizations, supports remedial education for all minority children.  The government has hired extra teachers to offer instruction in academic subjects, ethnic studies, and Japanese language, according to the needs of minority children.  Additional teachers for Buraku children, in cooperation with Buraku parents and community leaders, teach supplementary lessons in academic subjects, and give guidance for Buraku children in person on a daily basis.  Additional Japanese language teachers, native-language teachers and counselors are provided for children who need Japanese language education.  These teachers provide “cultural capital” for minority children through encouragement and assistance.  By working closely and intensively with these children, the teachers arrive at a fuller understanding of these children’s homes and cultures. 

The government has introduced anti-discriminatory measures and outreach programs for minority people in the working world.  For example, employers are prohibited from asking about the job applicant’s family registry or their parents’ occupations, which may reveal Buraku identity.  The government also supports vocational training for Buraku children.  As a result of these programs, the educational attainment and achievement of minority children has been approaching the national average.

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The Japanese government promotes extensive human rights education (jinken kyōiku) to teach about minority cultures and history in schools and in the community.  Human rights education in Japan is similar to multicultural education in the United States, which encourages students to learn about minorities from their perspectives, and aims to promote tolerance and acceptance.  The term tabunka kyōiku (“multicultural education”) appeared in Japan in the 1990s when an unprecedented number of foreign children entered Japanese schools.

Minority groups who have suffered inequality and discrimination include the Ainu and the Okinawans as indigenous national minorities, foreign nationals as ethnic minorities, and Buraku people as socially discriminated descendants of former outcastes.  Other disadvantaged minority groups include women, children, the elderly, and the disabled (Hōmushō 1997b).  A national poll of 1993 shows that the general public are most concerned about the human rights of children (82.4%), followed by the disabled (69.2%), foreigners living in Japan (45.4%), the Buraku (36.1%), and the Ainu (18.6%) (Buraku 1997:149).

Human rights education started in 1969 as Dōwa education for the elimination of discrimination against the Buraku.  After the ratification of the U.N. Human Rights Covenants in 1979, and of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981, the government has become more sensitive to the rights of minority people and resident foreigners in Japan.  The government launched a human rights awareness campaign and declared 1995-2004 as the Decade of Human Rights Education.  The government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1995, and enacted the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection in 1996.  Symposia, conferences, and lectures are held across Japan during Human Rights Week December 4-10 in schools and in the communities. 

Human rights education in schools is primarily taught as part of the social science curriculum.  After successful efforts by minority activists, the social science textbooks now describe the histories and cultures of minority peoples in their own words.  Many schools have their own human rights meetings during the Human Rights Week, and study issues pertaining to the rights of minority peoples through films, lectures, performances, and essay writing.

Ethnic Education

The government has shown its support for ethnic education by ratifying the Human Rights Covenants in 1979, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994.  Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates the rights of minority children to learn their culture and language: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.” 

Many children attend ethnic classes in schools and community centers.  Buraku children learn about their history and culture through their local Buraku Children’s Associations.  Japanese schools, which many Korean children attend, may provide extracurricular Korean ethnic classes with Korean teachers for Korean children.  Nikkei children may attend native-language/bilingual classes where a native-speaking teacher educates them about their language and culture in schools or community centers.  Ainu children may attend community-based Ainu language classes.

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The Ainu are an indigenous population of 24,000-50,000, living mainly in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island of four main islands.1  They have been almost completely assimilated into Japanese society through intermarriage and a century of government policy.  Many Ainu “pass” as Japanese.  From as early as the fourteenth century, the Ainu have made their lives through hunting, gathering, and fishing in the mountains and rivers in Hokkaido, the Kurile Islands and the southern Sakhalin.  Hokkaido was conquered by the Meiji government in the late nineteenth century. 

Under the 1899 Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Law, the Meiji government forced the Ainu to assimilate, prohibited them from hunting and fishing, and confiscated their lands.  Under state-sponsored assimilationist policies, the Ainu lost their language and their traditional lifestyle.  Discrimination and poverty relegated them to the lowest ranks of Japanese society.  It was not until the 1970s that young Ainu activists launched an ethnic and cultural revival movement, and promoted Ainu ethnic pride and identity.  Kayano Shigeru founded a nursery school in 1982 to teach Ainu language in his hometown, Nibutani (Kayano 1994:160).  Twelve Ainu language schools have opened, and Ainu language courses are offered in some universities (Siddle 1996:186-187).  Ainu language textbooks, magazines, and dictionaries have been also published. 

The Ainu then have become an internationally recognized indigenous population.  In 1997, the government enacted the New Ainu Law to preserve Ainu culture and heritage, and to educate the Japanese people about Ainu culture. 


From 1872, Ainu children in Hokkaido have attended Japanese schools under the assimilation policies of the government.  The enrollment rate of Ainu children in school was much lower than that of Japanese children.  In the 1880s and 1890s, John Batchelor and other foreign ministers built several private schools for Ainu children.  Ainu schools were officially established under the 1899 Hokkaido Former Primitives Protection Law, and the 1901 Regulations for the Education of Former Aboriginal Children.  By 1910, more than 90 percent of Ainu children were attending elementary school (Ogawa 1997:10).  Many of them went to segregated Ainu schools, where they were forced to learn Japanese, so many received mediocre educations.  In 1937, these schools were abolished, and Ainu children were sent to Japanese elementary schools (Otani 1998:125-130).  Japanese-centered education deprived Ainu children of the right to learn their own language, and as a result, the spoken form of the Ainu language has virtually died out.  Many Ainu who live in the urban areas or married into Japanese families are indistinguishable from other Japanese children unless they identify themselves as Ainu.

The academic performance of Ainu children is still far below the national average, though the disparity between Ainu children and Japanese children has been narrowing.  In 1999, 95.2 percent of Ainu middle school graduates continued into high school, compared to 97.0 percent in areas where Ainu people lived in Hokkaido.  Only 16.1 percent of Ainu children went to college, compared to 34.5 percent in areas where Ainu people lived.  Ainu children are now doing much better in school.  In 1979, 69.3 percent of all Ainu children went to high school, compared to 90.6 percent in areas where Ainu people lived, and only 8.8 percent of Ainu children went on to higher education, compared to 31.1 percent in areas where Ainu people lived (Hokkaido 2000).

Substandard academic performance, prejudice, and discrimination have blocked the upward social mobility of Ainu children.  The household income of the Ainu is well below the national average.  Since 1974, the Hokkaido Administration has enforced affirmative action measures, the “Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures” in order to improve the social welfare of the Ainu through public works projects.  Scholarships for high school and higher education of Ainu children have also been made available to raise the educational level of the rising generation.

Ethnic education for Ainu children is guaranteed by the 1994 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1997 Law for the Promotion of the Ainu Culture and for the Dissemination of and Advocacy for the Traditions of the Ainu and the Ainu Culture, also known as the New Ainu Law.2  The government subsidizes the promotion and transmission of Ainu culture and heritage in schools, museums, cultural centers, and in annual festivals.  These programs instill and maintain a sense of Ainu identity and pride among the Ainu.

Despite the New Ainu Law, a century of coexistence, education and intermarriage with the Japanese have ended the traditional Ainu way of life.  According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs, there may be a dozen people who speak Ainu language, and 20 who are qualified to teach it.  All of them are elderly (Nihon Keizai 1997:128).  Only a handful of Ainu children are learning their ancestral language.  Most urban Ainu children “pass” and do not have a chance to learn the Ainu language because their parents no longer speak it.  Without efforts to teach children the Ainu language in formal schools, the Ainu language will die out.  Ainu culture and heritage will survive, but only in schools, museums, and annual festivals.  Without the everyday practice of Ainu language and tradition, some Ainu people may declare an Ainu identity, based on a voluntary allegiance to the collective memory of their heritage.

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The Ainu cultural and ethnic movements since the 1980s have created a public awareness of Ainu heritage, and popularized Ainu culture.  The purpose of teaching Ainu history and culture is to promote understanding of the Ainu and their culture, and to refute the Japanese stereotype of the Ainu as a hairy and uncivilized people.  In some areas of Hokkaido, Ainu children are tormented by Japanese children because of their different physical appearance.  Even teachers make ignorant and hurtful remarks (Myojin 1993:253).

The Hokkaido Board of Education and the Hokkaido University of Education have taken the lead in funding Ainu studies and education.  The Hokkaido Board of Education produced teaching materials for Ainu history and culture in 1984, and in 1992, produced a handbook, “Guidelines for the Teaching of Ainu History and Culture,” for every high school in Hokkaido.  In 1987, the Utari Association requested that the Hokkaido University of Education teach a course in Ainu history and culture, and in 1991 the five campuses of the University offered seventeen courses wholly or partially devoted to Ainu history, culture, and language.  The Ainu themselves, as well as scholars, are actively researching and writing about Ainu history and culture (Myojin 1993:258-260).  The 1997 New Ainu Law provides public funds to museums, performance theaters, research centers, and community cultural centers. 

Japanese students learn about Ainu history and culture as part of the social science curriculum in elementary, middle, and high schools.  Ainu issues first appeared in the social studies textbooks in 1961 (Takegahara 1993:289).  In addition to textbook-centered instruction, elementary school students and preschoolers become familiarized with Ainu culture by making handcrafts, reading folktales, and performing music and dance.  Watching a documentary of the lifestyle of the Ainu can also give students a sense of Ainu culture. 

Since 1978, middle school textbooks have included chapters on Ainu history and cultures (Morishige 1996:104).  A popular history textbook portrays the Ainu as the victims of Japanese exploitation and prejudice.  It refers to Ainu revolts as justifiable resistance against exploitation by Japanese settlers and merchants prior to the 1868 Meiji Restoration.  Shakushain, one of the leaders of the resistance, is portrayed as a hero:

“This war is the battle between all the Ainu and the Matsumae clan.  We will rid shamo (Wajin/Japanese people) from Ainu moshiri (homeland).”  Shakushain raised a stick high before the Ainu soldiers, who gathered with bows and swords.  It was spring in 1669.  The Ainu attacked the trading ships [of Wajin] that were making undue profits.  But the Matsumae clan, having an army with guns, gradually attacked the Ainu, and Shakushain, who agreed to peace negotiations, was killed by treachery.  Afterwards, many Ainu were deprived of fishing ports and the Wajin merchants started opening these fishing ports to operate herring boats” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002b:89).

The Meiji government deprived the Ainu of their lands, fishing ports, way of life, and language through the exploitation and the assimilation policies, leaving the Ainu destitute.  The textbook mentions:

“The [Meiji] government changed the name of Ezochi to Hokkaido, placed the colonization commission, and started the development of enterprise with the western technology.  But in the process, the Ainu were deprived of their lands and fishing ports, and their lives were oppressed.  The development commissioners (tondenhei) were a main force for developing resources.  The Ainu were also mobilized.  Many were engaged in hard labor such as in the construction of streets, and became victims of hard labor” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002b:126).

The section on the rights of minorities in Japan in a civics textbook for middle school students mentions how the Ainu were exploited by the Japanese:

“For the elimination of discrimination against the Ainu:

The Ainu have lived in Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands since ancient times, and have built their own history, language and culture.  When the Meiji government enforced its law in Hokkaido, it incorporated the land of the Ainu, basically confiscating their land, forcing assimilation policies, and denying the Ainu people their traditional culture.  In this process, discrimination and prejudice toward the Ainu were strengthened.  Currently the Ainu make efforts to transmit their own culture and ethnic education, and [to gain] economic independence.  The Diet passed the New Ainu Law in May 1997 in order to make a society where the ethnic pride of the Ainu is respected” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002c:39).

The description of social science textbooks emphasizes the sufferings of the past, but omits the Ainu of the present.  The overemphasis on wrongs that the Japanese people inflicted upon the Ainu may make Japanese students uncomfortable.  A more balanced description of the Ainu, such as their participation in the international indigenous people’s movement is necessary in order for Japanese students to develop the necessary sensitivity to the Ainu and their culture. 

Furthermore, teaching about the personal lives of the Ainu will give students a greater familiarity with the Ainu.  Meetings with Ainu people, presentations, and fieldtrips to Ainu museums are good alternatives to the traditional curriculum, and give students a chance to interact with living Ainu people.  However, this may be difficult for schools that are not near the Ainu community in Hokkaido.

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Buraku people,3 a population of one to three million, have been stigmatized as the descendants of former outcastes. According to the official definition, the Buraku are the descendants of people who had been forced to live in specific Buraku (“hamlet”) districts, and were freed by the 1871 Emancipation Edict.  Because of this stigma, Buraku people are still a socially discriminated-against minority group in Japan.

In 1993, 892,800 Buraku people in 4,442 government-designated Buraku districts amounted to 41 percent of the whole population in the Buraku districts, most of which are in the western and southern parts of Japan.  The number of Buraku children in the Buraku districts amounted to 71,900 elementary school children, 1.1 percent of all elementary school students, and 38,800 middle school children, 1.1 percent of all middle school students (Sōmuchō 1995:71, 79).4  However, the Buraku Liberation League (BLL), Japan’s largest Buraku organization, claims that there are 6,000 Buraku districts and that more than three million Buraku people live in Japan (Buraku Liberation News 1997, No. 99).  The BLL uses the estimate made by the Suiheisha “The Levelers Association” in its inauguration declaration of 1922.  The Suiheisha was the first nationwide association of Buraku people, and the predecessor of the BLL.  The BLL counts many small and unrecognized Buraku districts and “passing” Buraku people living outside of the designated district in their calculation.

Education for Buraku Children Until the 1960s

According to the political implementation theory, the authority placed the already discriminated-against “degraded people,” such as eta (“filth”) or hinin (“non-human beings”) below the four-layer caste system (Samurai-Farmers-Craftsmen-Merchants) by the end of the sixteenth century.  These outcastes included butchers, tanners, and gravediggers, those who dealt with the dead animals and people, considered  “taboo” in Buddhism and Shintoism.  They were forced to live in segregated Buraku (“hamlets”), mainly in the western part of Japan.  During the Edo period (1603-1867), the eta/hinin suffered social ostracism as “contaminated” people.  They practiced endogamy and worked as leather workers, prison guards, and farmers within Buraku districts until the Emancipation Edict of 1871.

The Buraku were registered as “new commoners” in the official family registry after the 1871 Emancipation Edict.  Widespread peasants’ riots against the Edict indicate the depth of popular hatred of the Buraku.  After the establishment of the compulsory elementary school system in 1872, many Buraku children were forced to enter segregated Buraku schools or to stay in segregated Buraku classrooms.  Buraku teachers usually taught Buraku children.  The segregation was supported by the local administrators and teachers as well as by the public. 

Buraku elementary school-age children were far less likely than other children in their age to attend school.  In 1897, only 16.9 percent of Buraku children in Tottori Prefecture were enrolled in elementary schools, in comparison to 61.9 percent in Tottori Prefecture and 66.7 percent nationwide.  In 1905, 65.4 percent of Buraku children attended elementary schools in Mie Prefecture, far less than the prefectural average of 94.8 percent and 95.6 percent across Japan.  In Mie Prefecture in 1912, 37 percent of Buraku boys and 15.4 percent of Buraku girls practically went to elementary school.  For non-Buraku children the comparable figures were 88.8 percent and 66 percent respectively (Yasukawa 1998:572-573).

In the 1910s, civic leaders and advocates for the Buraku started the Yūwa (“Assimilation”) movement, calling in the name of the Emperor for welfare for Buraku people.  The Suiheisha (“The Levelers’ Association”) called for the unification of all three million Buraku people to fight against injustice.  The government took over the Yūwa movement in 1927, making generous provisions for the improvement of Buraku communities in order to undermine the Suiheisha movement.  The Suiheisha dissolved itself in 1942 for the war efforts controlled by the government.

The MOE ordered the abolition of school segregation in 1932 after the Suiheisha and Yūwa activists protested educational segregation and discrimination.  In the desegregated schools, however, Buraku children were seated in the most uncomfortable areas of the classroom such as on the lower floor at the corner, along the windows under the hot sun during the summer and along the corridors on the northern side during winter.  In some areas where the Buraku liberation movement was not active such as Shiga prefecture, discriminatory seating patterns were kept until 1935.  Teachers as well as other students tormented Buraku children.  For example, teachers punished troublemakers by making them sit next to Buraku students, and called Buraku students eta, a derogatory term used against the Buraku.  In 1936, far fewer Buraku students (24.6%) than the national average (69.4%) pursued education beyond compulsory elementary schools, including two-year higher elementary schools and youth schools (Yasukawa 1998:565-573).  As a result, as of 1993, the rate of Buraku people without any schooling is ten to fifteen times higher than that of non-Buraku people.  Therefore, the rate of illiteracy is extremely high among older Buraku people: one in two in their 80s, one in four in their 70s, and one in ten in their 50s (Buraku 1997:96-98, 100-101).

Continuous poverty and discrimination caused the extremely high rates of absenteeism, school dropouts, and delinquency among Buraku children even after World War II.  The long-term absenteeism of Buraku children in middle schools was 20 to 30 percent in the 1950s in Nara Prefecture, though it dropped to 6 percent in the 1960s.  In contrast, long-term absenteeism had been only 2 to 3 percent nationwide in that same period.  In Nara Prefecture in 1953, the reasons given for long-term absenteeism of middle school students were poverty, laziness, working for their families and a lack of parental understanding.  In the 1950s, Buraku elementary and middle school children scored very low on IQ tests and Standard Achievement Tests, and low grades in their classes.  The high school enrollment rate of Buraku children (30%) was less than half of the national average (70%) in the mid-1960s (Buraku 1997:98-99, 104-105; DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:260-264). 

Buraku children developed pessimistic and negative attitudes toward education after they had seen the extent of unemployment and underemployment among adults in their Buraku communities, and heard about employment discrimination experienced by their families and neighbors in their job search.  Social ostracism kept Buraku people in the lowest strata of society.  Many of the Buraku were day laborers, small shopkeepers, or unemployed.  Prejudice in job recruitment, and the underemployment of Buraku youths were facts of life.  Very few Buraku people obtained professional and managerial jobs or full-time employment in large companies (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:124-5).  Buraku children were discouraged from pursuing further education because of Buraku origin, and they saw few role models in the Buraku community.  Their distrust in the school system and society generated “oppositional identities” (Ogbu 1991:16) among many Buraku children against mainstream society even in the 1960s.  Poverty, loss of interest in school, and unemployment brought many Buraku youths into conflicts with the law.  For example, the delinquency rate of Buraku youths (15.10/10,000) was three times higher than the national average (4.49/10,000) in Kōbe (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:266).

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Affirmative Action For Buraku Children

The National Committee for Buraku Liberation (NCBL) was founded in 1946 to succeed the Suiheisha with support from the Communist and Socialist parties.  The NCBL regarded discrimination against the Buraku as a remnant of the feudal system and was actively engaged in political battles against the government, which had neglected the impoverished living conditions of Buraku people.  The NCBL changed its name to the Buraku Liberation League (BLL) in 1955, and thereafter, the BLL has been the leading and most influential advocate of Buraku people.

Affirmative action measures for Buraku people took effect under the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969 as a result of pressure from the BLL.  Preferential treatment for Buraku people was justified as a temporary remedial measure until their education level, occupational status, and household income reach the national average, and prejudice and discrimination against them come to an end.

The living conditions and standards of Buraku districts have improved dramatically.  The discrepancies between Buraku people and non-Buraku people in education, occupation, and household income have narrowed, although these levels remain below the national average for the Buraku.  On the other hand, discrimination against Buraku people persists, especially in marriage, employment, and social relationships.  Many Japanese still have the misguided belief that Buraku people have “contaminated” bloodlines of Buraku people and are a violent underclass.  However, in recent years, Dōwa education,5 designed to eliminate discrimination against Buraku people and human rights education have helped to reduce such attitudes.  The enforcement of the SML and its revisions ended at the end of March 2002, and special treatment measures for Buraku people were integrated into general measures that aid all victims of discrimination.

Dōwa projects and Dōwa education have succeeded in noticeably improving the educational performance of Buraku children.  Their high school enrollment rate has increased from half of the national average in the 1960s to 90 percent in 1975 (Buraku 1997:104-105).  Affirmative action measures have improved the quality of education among Buraku children.  Their educational performance was hindered by 1) the low socioeconomic status of Buraku parents; 2) low educational aspiration, expectations and lack of role models; 3) cultural conflicts and low expectations from teachers; and 4) employment discrimination.

The government has spent most of the SML budget on improving Buraku districts, and raising the socioeconomic status of Buraku people.  Buraku children are more likely than non-Buraku children to suffer because their families are living in poverty.  Many Buraku parents did not have enough money to cover educational costs.  Financial difficulties frequently made Buraku children turn to long-term absenteeism or give up further schooling in order to assist financially their parents.

The Dōwa project, using most of its budget for the massive construction of infrastructure in Buraku districts, has transformed shabby and dirty Buraku districts into clean ones with new housing, wide streets, and good sanitation (Sōmuchō 1995:6).  Buraku people are eligible to rent or own newly built inexpensive public houses or renovated houses.  The improvement in living standards has enabled Buraku parents to provide a stable home environment, and make a greater emotional investment in their children’s education.  Since 1966, scholarships and loans for high school and college have been granted to Buraku children (Buraku 1988:231).  Nevertheless, their household incomes are still lower than the national average.  For example, in Shiga prefecture in 1996, Buraku children were five to ten times more likely than their classmates to come from families on welfare (Buraku 1997:106-107).

The government has established Dōwa teachers who are assigned to Buraku children, in order to help them academically and to encourage their personal growth.  Since 1969, the government has assigned additional teachers who are responsible for Dōwa education for Buraku children, when the number of Buraku children reaches a certain proportion of the student body.  Dōwa teachers prepare programs and workshops, guide troubled Buraku students, tutor academic subjects, teach Buraku-identity courses, help students with post-graduation career guidance, and collect, make, or organize teaching materials and resources.  Dōwa teachers also serve as liaisons between mainstream teachers and Buraku parents. 

In cooperation with Buraku parents and community leaders, Dōwa teachers have helped Buraku children improve their school performance and behavior.  Dōwa teachers encourage Buraku children to take their education seriously through after-school lessons and the Buraku Children’s Association.  Dōwa teachers have played a significant role in coordinating between the school and the Buraku community by spending considerable time with Buraku leaders and parents as mediators between the school and the Buraku community.  Few Buraku parents had positive experiences in school, or were encouraged to regard education as something that could benefit.  There are few Buraku role models.  Dōwa teachers help Buraku parents to get involved in their children’s education, and have become role models for Buraku children.

Dōwa teachers also help other teachers understand Buraku children and Buraku cultures.  This minimized the possibility of cultural misunderstanding.  Teachers need to initiate contact with Buraku parents through home visits, and with Buraku leaders, and to understand Buraku issues and learn about the kind of discrimination that the Buraku face on a daily basis.  Learning about the culture of minority students through home visits and interviews with parents helps transform teachers’ perspectives and reduce cultural conflicts and misunderstanding.

Dōwa teachers participate in municipal, prefectural and national workshops, conferences, and voluntary study groups in order to understand Buraku culture, and to develop better pedagogy for Dōwa education.  The Zendōkyō (National Dōwa Educators Association) has been the most influential association of teachers and community leaders since 1953.  The Zendōkyō cooperates with the government and the BLL to offer Buraku children a better education.  The 1999 annual convention of the Zendōkyō, supported by the government, the BLL and Japan Teachers’ Union, attracted 22,300 teachers, activists, government officials and parents to discuss Dōwa education in preschool, primary, and secondary schools, as well as in the community.  They presented papers on their work with Dōwa children, and discussed Dōwa education within the framework of human rights education, including the education of disabled children (Zenkoku 1999).  The purpose of Zendōkyō is to “learn from the reality of discrimination and design pedagogy to promote a better lifestyle and future [for Buraku children]” (Buraku 1988:174).  The Zendōkyō encourages teachers to learn about the reality of Buraku children through visits with Buraku parents and conversations with members of the Buraku community (Zenkoku 1999). 

The improvement of occupational status with anti-discrimination legislation will provide Buraku children with more positive experiences in job hunting and recruitment.  Many Buraku youths were dissuaded from pursuing higher education because they had grown up seeing and hearing about employment discrimination against members of their community.  The incident of the “Buraku Lists” in 1975 revealed that investigative agencies compiled a list of Buraku districts and sold the list to many companies.  Many of these companies tried to discover Buraku origins of applicants and deny the employment based on their heritage.  The investigators were also able to find an applicant’s Buraku origin from old family registries in city halls.  The BLL successfully lobbied for the abolition of the discriminatory family registry, and the restriction of access to family registries.  In 1985, Osaka Prefecture enacted a regulation that prohibits the investigation of Buraku origins. 

The BLL also succeeded in establishing uniform application forms, which do not require the listing of the occupation of the parents because a parent’s occupation in industries considered traditionally Buraku ones, such as shoe making, could imply Buraku origin.  Since 1997, high school graduates have also had to use a uniform application form, which requires disclosure neither of permanent legal domicile nor of family information.  Even though employment discrimination persists, Buraku youths now confront much less discrimination than in the past. 

The majority of Buraku children start to work after high school.  In 1994, about 90 percent of Buraku children graduated from high school, but only 24 percent of Buraku children continued to college, in comparison to the national average of 36 percent (Buraku 1997:104-109).  Many Buraku children attend non-elite academic high schools or vocational high schools where most students seek employment following graduation.  In addition, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare provides vocational training and guidance to middle school and high school graduates of Buraku origin (Sōmuchō 1995:114). 

Despite the remarkable success of affirmative action measures, the BLL points out that discrepancies in educational attainment and achievement between Buraku children and the national average still remain.  The BLL argues that in 1993, the rate of high school dropouts among Buraku students (3.6%) was twice the national average (1.9%).  Furthermore, Buraku children rarely entered elite academic high schools.  In 1994, 24.3 percent of Buraku students enrolled in college, compared to the national average of 36 percent.  Only 19.5 percent of Buraku people ages 25 to 29 in 1993 had a degree from college or specialized training college, 61 percent only had a high school degree, and 17.5 percent only had a middle school degree (Buraku 1997:102-109).  Therefore, in order to bring Buraku children into line with the national average, the BLL continues lobbying for affirmative action programs, scholarships and the deployment of Dōwa teachers for Buraku children.

Buraku children still struggle with academic achievement, despite remedial education and Dōwa teachers.  Disparities in academic performance between Buraku and non-Buraku children widen with age.  According to a 1995 survey of students from the first grade to the ninth grade in a city, Buraku children began to fall behind their classmates starting in the third grade.  Additionally, by the time that Buraku children began to study English in the seventh grade, they were already behind in their classes.  The disparity widened as they proceeded into higher grades.  Variables such as the socioeconomic conditions of parents, home study habits, parental involvement in education, and educational aspiration affect the school performance of Buraku children (Buraku 1997:112-115).  That indicates that Buraku children still have less favorable educational environments at home.

Another Buraku organization is the Zenkairen (National Buraku Liberation Alliance), which developed into Chiikijinkenren (National Confederation of Human-Rights Movements in the Community) in April 2004, by declaring that the Buraku problem had been solved.  The supporters of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) in the BLL opposed the exclusive policy of the BLL and called for the cooperation of Buraku people with other working class and disadvantaged people.  They split from the BLL in 1970 and formed the Zenkairen in 1976.  The Zenkairen has promoted solidarity of Buraku people with other oppressed peoples, the independence of Buraku people, and the cooperation of Buraku people with the neighboring communities.  Conflicts between the BLL and the JCP-backed Zenkairen ended in violent fights over the denunciation tactics used by the BLL as the solution to discrimination, and the Zenkairen legally challenged the denunciation in the 1970s.

With 80,000 members, the Zenkairen has promoted neutrality in education, and opposed special treatment for Buraku children.  The Zenkairen believe that Dōwa education has already accomplished its mission (Zenkoku1998:417-418).  The government has supported assimilation to help Buraku children catch up with mainstream children, and promoted the neutrality of education as the Zenkairen has.  Nevertheless, the government cooperates with the BLL and the Zendōkyō in endorsing affirmative action measures for Buraku children.

Buraku children receive regular supplementary classes without fees from public teachers, including Dōwa teachers.  These lessons are designed as an outreach program to improve the school performance of Buraku children.  The teachers of these supplementary lessons interact with Buraku children and community leaders.  However, sometimes these lessons have triggered “jealousy” among non-Buraku people.  The Zenkairen has claimed that public teachers tutor only Buraku children after school to the exclusion of other children who need help.  The Buraku Children’s Association under the Zenkairen invites non-Buraku children to participate in community activities alongside Buraku children, and arranges for tutors from the community.  Considering the underachievement of Buraku children due to generations of poverty and discrimination, Buraku children have the right to receive remedial education until equal opportunity in academic achievement is reached.  Following the Zenkairen recommendation, one solution would be to have private tutors replace public teachers so as not to arouse feelings of resentment.

Lower educational attainment and achievement are prevalent not only among Buraku children but also among Korean children, foreign children, children from low-income and dysfunctional families.  It is important to note that the 5 percent discrepancy in high school enrollment rates has not changed since 1975 to the present, despite the affirmative measures.  The high school enrollment rate of Buraku children from a single parent households (79.3%) or a family on welfare (68.3%) lagged further behind the average rate of Buraku children in Shiga (89.5%), and that of all children in Shiga (96.4%) in 1996 (Buraku 1997:107).  That indicates that the sources of the disparity derive from poverty and home environment, not from Buraku origin.  After-school lessons for Buraku children should be open to all children who need help.  If schools invite tutors from the community, schools can provide supplementary lessons for low-achievers after school inexpensively because there is a large pool of homemakers and retirees who would be willing to volunteer their time.

Buraku children need to have Dōwa teachers as long as they encounter prejudice and discrimination because of their origin.  There is no doubt that Dōwa teachers have a prominent role in the lives of Buraku children, by helping them to understand their heritage and to fight against prejudice and discrimination, in cooperation with Buraku parents and community leaders.  Schools and the Buraku community decide to what extent Dōwa teachers need to be involved in the Buraku community.  Dōwa teachers can also teach regular classes and have other responsibilities in addition to teaching Buraku children.

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Buraku Awareness Education

It is important to teach Buraku children their history so that they will learn to have self-esteem and pride in their identity.  The 200,000-member BLL, in cooperation with Dōwa teachers and municipal administrators, takes charge of the activities of the Buraku Children’s Association in order to build high self-esteem and solidarity for collective action.  The BLL promotes “education for liberation,” which encourages Buraku children to proclaim their Buraku identity and to fight against discrimination.  “Liberation education” teaches the history of the Buraku and the problems that Buraku people have faced.  The BLL expects children to develop solidarity, and to enter the Buraku liberation movement, instead of assimilating (Buraku 1988:284).

However, the Zenkairen criticizes “liberation education,” which segregates Buraku from non-Buraku children.  The Zenkairen calls for neutrality of education and promotes the assimilation of Buraku children into the mainstream through Dōwa education.  The Dōwa Education Promotion Association, an affiliate of the All Japan Dōwa Association, in cooperation with the governing Liberal Democratic Party promotes the separation of school education from the liberation movement and emphasizes moral education. 

In recent years, the solidarity among Buraku people has weakened, and the Buraku identity has become ambiguous, especially among young people as more Buraku people assimilate into the mainstream society by leaving Buraku districts and through intermarriage.  Due to the exodus of Buraku youths through marriage and employment, and the influx of low and middle class non-Buraku people into the Buraku districts, the percentage of Buraku people in the Buraku districts decreased from 71.9 percent in 1971 to 41.4 percent in 1993 (Sōmuchō 1995:71).  Buraku people outside of the Buraku districts tend to assimilate quickly into the mainstream culture.  They can “pass” unless someone deliberately delves into their origin.  Moreover, the rate of endogamy among Buraku people in the Buraku district has decreased dramatically from 70 to 90 percent among people aged 60 and over to only 25 percent in those in their 20s (Sōmuchō 1995:81).

The outflow of Buraku youths has caused a shortage of young leaders in the Buraku liberation movement.  The younger generation tends to be indifferent to the problems of Buraku people and to the Buraku liberation movements.  Also, they are not as conscious of their Buraku identity as their parents are.

When Buraku people become socioeconomically equal to the rest of the people in Japan, and prejudice and discrimination against Buraku people ends, the identity of Buraku people as oppressed people will lose its rationale.  “Buraku heritage” remains as collective memories of past suffering and as struggles against discrimination.  It will become a historical identity with a heritage of persecution.  It takes time to eliminate prejudice, but the Buraku problem will, and should be solved, and discrimination against them will end.  Their label as the descendants of former outcastes will be nothing but a vestige of the past.

Education for Buraku Children in Marugame

Marugame City, with a population of 80,000 on Shikoku Island has three Buraku districts with approximately 350 Buraku people.6  The city enacted “The Principle of Dōwa Education” in 1978 and launched full-scale Dōwa education at schools and in the community. The Marugame Board of Education supervises Dōwa education in all elementary and middle schools.  At each school, one of the teachers takes charge of coordinating Dōwa and human rights education and prepares school events about human rights.  In addition, one Dōwa teacher is assigned to each elementary and middle school located in an area with a Buraku district.  Dōwa teachers are responsible for the education of Buraku children in cooperation with their parents and Buraku leaders.7

N. Buraku district is located along the river and includes new residential areas.  In 1997, the N. Buraku community had 41 Buraku households and 106 Buraku people.  Before the government designated it as a Buraku district in 1971, impoverished houses were scattered on the low and damp land, surrounded by the riverbank and saltpans.  From 1971 to 1986, 28 houses were renovated, 16 old houses were razed, 19 public houses were built, and new mortgage loans were offered to five households under the Dōwa project.  Non-Buraku people moved into new condos near the Buraku community center because the rent was lower in the Buraku district than in the surrounding communities.  The physical environment of the Buraku community has been improved remarkably, and the Buraku district appears to be no different from its neighbors.  However, the average household income in the Buraku community is still lower than the national average, and many Buraku people hold only temporary jobs.  According to community leaders, some Buraku people still suffer marriage and employment discrimination.  The BLL oversees Buraku community activities, and the majority of households belong to the BLL.     

One administrator from the Section of Dōwa Projects in the municipal administration of Marugame directs community activities with two leaders of the BLL, two Dōwa teachers, and the staff of the Buraku community center.  Both teachers, one from elementary school and the other from middle school, spend much of their time in the center, and take responsibility for the education and counseling of Buraku children with Buraku leaders and parents.  Dōwa teachers know Buraku community leaders and their parents very well through their cooperative community work, and are able to develop trusting relationships with Buraku children and their parents through “liberation education” and other community activities.  Dōwa teachers also teach supplementary lessons with other teachers twice a week in the center. 

The community center, built in 1982 is a two-story building.  The first floor is the Rinpokan (community center), which includes an office, an assembly room for adult classes, a large kitchen for cooking classes, a health care room, and a conference room.  The second floor is the Jidōkan (children’s center), which consists of a study room, library, and a playroom.  The community center provides “liberation education” for Buraku children, counseling and social welfare for Buraku people, cultural activities and recreation for all community residents, and lectures on the Buraku for neighboring communities.

At the beginning of every school year in April, all new and transferred teachers at H Elementary School (16 Buraku students among 509 students in 1997-98) visit the Buraku community center for a study meeting.  Face-to-face communication with parents and leaders help teachers understand the cultural background of the children, and reduce teachers’ prejudices.  Most teachers have never spoken to Buraku people before this meeting.  Middle-class teachers learn to resolve conflicts with disadvantaged Buraku children.  Teachers are expected to help Buraku parents become more involved in the education of their children, and to encourage Buraku children to see the value of a good education.

The school principal regularly participates in Buraku parents’ meetings.  At school, a Dōwa teacher discusses pedagogy with a teacher responsible for Dōwa and human rights education and with the sixth-grade teachers once a month.  The Dōwa teacher also coordinates meetings between teachers and community leaders.  Many teachers at schools whose district do not include any Buraku communities are not very enthusiastic about Dōwa education.  Even at schools with Buraku children, not all teachers agree with Dōwa education.  One Dōwa teacher emphasizes that teachers need to have training sessions in order to understand the Buraku.

Teachers, including Dōwa teachers from the two schools of Buraku children, lead a supplementary lesson to review schoolwork for Buraku children in the community center twice a week from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Additionally, they have morning classes for seven days during summer vacation.  I observed supplementary classes in the center for one day.  Six teachers, including one Dōwa teacher, tutored 12 Buraku students, and those lessons were very casual.  The students reviewed their homework and schoolwork with the teachers.  Two sixth-graders rehearsed the graduation ceremony with a teacher while another teacher gave a ninth-grade student last minute preparation for the upcoming high school entrance examination.  Those teachers receive allowances for tutoring as a part of their salaries.  Tutoring helps teachers to know Buraku children better, but it may trigger charges of “reverse discrimination” from non-Buraku parents.

Buraku children build strong group solidarity through the Buraku Children’s Association, supplementary lessons, and “liberation education” in the Buraku community center.  All 16 children in the elementary and middle schools belong to the Kaihō Kodomokai (Children’s Association for Liberation) and all of their parents belong to the Parents’ Association and the BLL.  The Children’s Association sponsors camping trips, hikes, the summer festival, and a Christmas party.  The Cultural Festival in the Buraku community center is held in December and is open to the public. 

Since 1992, Buraku children have participated in “liberation education” to learn about Buraku history once a month.  One of the fathers initiated “liberation education.”  He believed that being well informed was the best way to understand the issues and overcome discrimination.  Buraku parents established the Parents’ Association in 1991.  For half a year, parents talked about their experiences of discrimination in their childhood, in marriage, and at work, and discussed ways of teaching their children to deal with prejudice.  Eventually they decided to let their children have “liberation education” once a month, and parents themselves decided to have a joint lesson in “liberation education” with their children at the yearly Parents’ and Children’s meeting.  In this instance, it was the parents who designed “liberation education” in order to prevent their children from suffering the same discrimination that they had experienced.

Telling Buraku children about their identity as Buraku people is a sensitive matter.  Dōwa teachers, Buraku leaders and parents decide when and how to tell children about their origin.  They expect fifth-grade students to be able to understand what it means to be Buraku.8  The majority of children do not know the meaning of the term and might wonder why their teachers come to their community to tutor them.  The parents who have discussed the Buraku problem with Dōwa teachers and Buraku leaders at the monthly parents’ meeting are ready to handle their children’s reaction.  One Buraku leader believes that proper understanding of his or her identity will help a child to understand his or her origins, and that a child who discovers his or her Buraku origin without proper understanding might be confused.

“Liberation education” is taught on the third Friday of every month.  Non-Buraku children are invited to participate.  The following points are emphasized: 1) Discrimination and prejudice against the Buraku are wrong; 2) Many of the Buraku are fighting to end discrimination; and 3) More non-Buraku people than ever know about the Buraku.

Little children listen to stories read from picture books.  Students in the fifth-grade through middle school attend lectures given by Buraku leaders and Dōwa teachers.  These lectures cover history and the human-rights struggles of other minority groups in Japan.  They are also given research topics about the Buraku and are required to present their work in class.  The “liberation education” encourages the self-esteem of Buraku children and helps them think about their Buraku heritage positively.

The fifth-graders learn about their Buraku origin during the “liberation education” at the annual Parents and Children’s Meeting.  The meeting is a good opportunity for parents to share their life stories.  Parents cooperate with each other to support all Buraku children.  Once, one sixth-grade girl and one fifth-grade boy could not face the fact that they were of Buraku origin.  However, the children gradually began to accept “liberation education” positively.  One boy in middle school said, “I am glad that I was born of Buraku people.  If I was not a Buraku person, I would probably have grown up without knowing about the discrimination against Buraku people and I might have discriminated against Buraku people.”  It is important and necessary for Buraku children to know their origins and to know about the conditions under which the Buraku live and the challenges that they will face in a society that still harbors prejudice against them.

Despite “liberation education,” the Buraku group solidarity has been weakened among young people.  Buraku leaders hope that children develop group solidarity through “liberation education” and the Children’s Association for Liberation, and will inherit the leadership of the liberation movements in their communities.  However, it is getting more difficult for the BLL to keep young leaders within the Buraku district because more and more young Buraku people have left the Buraku district to take jobs and to marry.

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Since the 1969 SML, the government has supported Dōwa education.  Starting in the 1980s, the government and the BLL began to regard the Buraku as a human-rights problem and to promote human rights education in an effort to eliminate discrimination.  The core of human rights education has been Dōwa education.  In 1995, the Ministry of Justice spent 425 million yen promoting human rights.  The Prime Minister’s Office sponsored lectures, workshops, movies, as well as television and radio programs for civil servants at national, prefectural, and municipal levels with a 1.1 billion yen budget (Sōmuchō 1995:110-112).  The human-rights awareness budget for 2000 was about 3.5 billion yen, three times as much as was in 1999 (Tagami 2000:44-45).  

However, regional disparities in the implementation and awareness of Dōwa education still exist.  Dōwa education is more widespread in the western part of Japan.  Thus, the majority of people in the western part of Japan where many Buraku districts are concentrated know about Dōwa education, but less than half of the population in areas such as the Tōhoku in the northern part of Japan, where very few Buraku people live, have heard of Buraku issues (Sōmuchō 1995:72).

Thanks to the BLL, Buraku issues have been included in the school curricula in social studies, moral education, special activities, the long homeroom hour, and additional classes (yutori) since the mid-1970s.  The MOE issued “the guideline for Dōwa education at school” in 1994.  It requires all schools to have classes for Dōwa education.  Principals and teachers decide the exact content of their schools’ Dōwa education.  Principals and teachers tend to be less enthusiastic about Dōwa education if their schools do not have Buraku students or do not have the government designation as Dōwa-education promotion schools.

Human rights education teaches all students to be friendly, to help and cooperate, to be sensitive, and to confront discrimination.  There are no lessons addressing the Buraku problem until the sixth-grade.  The students learn to appreciate “life” (inochi) by cultivating plants and flowers and by taking care of animals at school.  The fifth graders learn about the elderly and the disabled when they visit and communicate with them through school-organized volunteer work.  All students have to complete projects on human rights.

Sixth-graders learn about Buraku people from their social studies classes.  The social studies textbook focuses on the positive aspects of Buraku people, in addition to describing Buraku people and their history.  The textbook, however, does not use the word “Buraku,” referring to the people as  “people who were severely discriminated against [in the caste system of the Edo period], different from farmers and merchants.”  They “were restricted in their living places and clothes, and suffered discrimination such as prohibitions from participating in the events and festivals of the villages and towns” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:57).  The textbook states that political authorities imposed Buraku status on people who were chosen to be scapegoats, and presents Buraku people as victims of a caste system.  The positive image of Buraku people has been emphasized by portraying them as hard workers who invented useful tools and contributed to society in the Edo period (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:57).  The Shibuzome uprising of 1856 is presented as a justified rebellion of Buraku people against authorities who forced them to wear special clothes (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:70).  After the Meiji Restoration, “those people who had suffered discrimination for a long time were legally emancipated as commoners in 1871.”  However, the government did nothing to improve their status and they continued to suffer discrimination in employment, marriage, and housing (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:75). 

The fundamental ideals of the Suiheisha, the first nation-wide organization of Buraku people are highlighted as the most important landmark for the Buraku liberation movement.  The impressive speech of sixteen-year-old Little Yamada at the inauguration of Suiheiha in 1922 is quoted: “Let’s get up and eliminate discrimination!  And let’s make a new wonderful world [without discrimination]!” (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:91).  The picture of Little Yamada addressing the audience in the textbook appeals to the hearts of students.  The textbook comments that current human-rights problems include discrimination against Buraku people, the Ainu, Korean residents in Japan, and foreign newcomers, women, children, the disabled, and the elderly (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:112).

Dōwa education and human rights education continue to be taught at middle school.  The students review the history of the Buraku and the current cases of discrimination against Buraku people.  The students also study the caste system in India, racial and ethnic problems in the United States and Brazil, discrimination against the disabled, the Okinawans, the Ainu, and Korean residents in Japan, and bullying.  The high school Dōwa education curriculum includes Buraku history and contemporary issues.  In the long homeroom hour/special activities period, students debate the problems of the Buraku in Japan.

After two decades of Dōwa education at school and in the community, the majority of non-Buraku people know that Buraku people have been victims of unwarranted prejudice and discrimination.  In addition to understanding the Buraku, it is important to learn about the personal lives of Buraku people in order to emphasize with their problems.

Dōwa teachers in Marugame develop supplementary teaching materials and arrange special events with Buraku community leaders.  The students became acquainted with local Buraku people, and develop positive attitudes toward them.  The students also discuss local instances of discrimination against Buraku people, and how the Buraku handle them.  The pedagogy is similar to the social action approach to multicultural curriculum reform.  It helps students to think about local Buraku problems in a familiar way and join the fight against discrimination.

It is also necessary to emphasize the progress made by Buraku people.  The overemphasis on victim history may backfire against Dōwa education.  According to questionnaires filled out by college students in 1992, who received formal Dōwa education in primary and secondary schools, 44.5 percent of them positively evaluated Dōwa education, 31.7 percent of them said it had no effect, and 14.3 percent of them criticized it.  These respondents had an image of Buraku people as discriminated, depressed, inaccessible, dirty, and poor.  Tamiya suggests that Dōwa education’s emphasis on the hardships of Buraku life may make students feel very uncomfortable and cause an “allergy” to Dōwa education (Tamiya 1995:180-191).

It is harder to change the prejudices of adults because they do not have access to Dōwa education unless they make efforts to read the community papers or to attend lectures about the Buraku problem.  School authorities provide information to parents, and encourage students to discuss the Buraku.  Nevertheless, most residents hold onto the old stereotypical image of Buraku people and are indifferent to resolving the Buraku problem.  Many community leaders and teachers do not pay much attention to the problem.  It is important to provide community leaders and teachers with leadership workshops and have them discuss the Buraku problem with Buraku people.  The pedagogy developed by Dōwa teachers can be used for adult education in municipal halls, community centers, and cultural centers.  Social-education specialists and Dōwa teachers, together with the Buraku community leaders can take the initiative in transforming the pedagogy of Dōwa education for adults.

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Because of a century-long vicious cycle of poverty and discrimination, Ainu children in Hokkaido have been under-represented in high school and college.  Since 1974, affirmative action programs such as the Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures have improved the socioeconomic status of Ainu families, and have provided scholarships for Ainu children.  The Ainu cultural revival of the 1970s and the New Ainu Law of 1997 have both promoted ethnic education.  Twelve Ainu language schools have opened and some universities offer Ainu language courses.  However, very few, if any, speak the Ainu language on a daily basis, or follow the traditional way of life.  Ainu children are indistinguishable from Japanese children, especially in the urban areas, because of assimilation and intermarriage.  Today’s Ainu children learn about their culture and heritage through school education, museums, and annual festivals.  

All Japanese children learn about the Ainu as part of their social science education.  They do so in order to understand Ainu history and culture from the perspective of Ainu people, and to learn tolerance and acceptance.  Textbook descriptions about the Ainu emphasize their sufferings and persecution.  Watching documentaries, making handcrafts, reading their folklore stories, and performing their music and dance helps students become more familiar with Ainu culture. 

Until the 1960s, Buraku people faced poverty and social ostracism, and lived in segregated districts.  That caused lower educational attainment and employment discrimination for the Buraku, which eventually led to lower occupational status, and lower household income, and trapped the Buraku in the lowest strata of society.

Massive affirmative action measures, such as the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969, have helped to close the gap between Buraku children and the national average.  The government has subsidized programs to raise the socioeconomic status of Buraku parents, provided scholarships and loans for Buraku children, created Dōwa teachers for Buraku children, and enforced anti-discriminatory measures for the employment of Buraku people.  As a result, their high school enrollment rates had risen from the half of the national average in the 1960s to 90 percent in 1975, in comparison to the national average of 95 percent.  However, the 5 percent disparity has persisted since 1975, despite these affirmative measures.  The rate of enrollment of Buraku children from single parent households or families on welfare still lags far behind the average rate of Buraku children.  That indicates that disparities may be caused by other factors such as poverty and home environments rather than Buraku origin.  I propose that after-school supplementary lessons for Buraku children be expanded to all underachieving and disadvantaged children.  School can provide the supplementary lessons in the inexpensive way, if school invites voluntary tutors from a large pool of homemakers and retirees in the community.

Dōwa education and human rights education are designed to end prejudice and discrimination.  Three decades of Dōwa education have helped students and younger adults become more sensitive to discrimination against Buraku people.  Social science textbooks describe what the Buraku have endured in their own words.  However, the textbook-centered instruction does not seem to be adequate in making students feel positive about Buraku people and to fight against discrimination.  It is important to teach about the Buraku on a more personal level by having the students visit Buraku communities or meet Buraku people.


1.    The history and culture of the Ainu are summarized in English (Siddle 1996; Loos and Osanai 1993; Kayano 1994; Fitzhugh and Dubreuil 1999; Honda 2000).  The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture has information about the Ainu in English on the Internet.  Education for Ainu children is discussed from the perspective of minority rights in Japanese (Ogawa 1993, 1997; Myojin 1993; Otani 1998).

2.    The New Ainu Law only guarantees the cultural rights of the Ainu and does not grant compensation for lands and resources, or minority representative rights in national and local legislatures, which the Utari Association of the Ainu originally proposed in 1984 (Yamakawa 1995:244-250).  The Utari Association continues to manage the Utari Social Welfare Project with the Hokkaido Administration for the improvement of living standards and education of the Ainu. 

3.    I use the term “Buraku people,” although the term “Burakumin” is widely used in the English-language literature.  I follow the new 1997 platform of the BLL where the term “Burakumin” is replaced by “Buraku people” or “people from a Buraku district” because a term “min” has an ethnic connotation even though Buraku people are not considered an ethnic group (AS May 20, 1997). 

4.    Many scholars and teachers in Japan have published on the theory and practice of Dōwa education (e.g., Buraku 2001; Buraku 1998).  In English, the education of Buraku children in the 1950s and 1960s is well documented in Japan’s Invisible Race (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967).  The policy and pedagogy of Dōwa education are studied through ethnographic research (Hirasawa 1989; Clear 1991) and reviews (Hawkins 1989; Shimahara 1984; Shimahara and Konno 1991).  The Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute provides information about Buraku activities in English on the Internet.

5.    Dōwa education provides non-Buraku people with the proper knowledge and understanding of Buraku issues in order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination toward Buraku people, and sponsors affirmative action programs aimed to improve the educational performance of Buraku children.

6.    I conducted research on the practice of Dōwa education for Buraku children at school and in the Buraku community in Marugame City from February to March 1998.  Marugame City is a typical middle-size town in the western part of Japan, with a small number of Buraku people.  Dōwa education has been implemented much more rigorously in the western region than in the eastern region because of the higher concentration of Buraku people.  My research is based on interviews with Dōwa teachers, municipal administrators and Buraku community leaders, the observation of supplementary classes and community activities in the Buraku community center, and the analysis of textbooks, supplementary teaching materials, Dōwa teachers’ journals, students’ compositions, and secondary literature.

7.    One Dōwa teacher told me that after going to school in the morning, he goes to the Buraku community center and spends most of his day there.  Some Dōwa teachers also teach social studies or other regular classes in school.

8.    According to a survey of a Buraku community in 1990, the majority of young adults (15 to 30 years old) had been informed of their Buraku origin by the Children’s Association for Liberation and from their school before entering middle school, while almost half of those in their 50s learned it by themselves or from neighbors, relatives, and parents after they became adults (Yagi 1994:86-97).

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