Religious origin of the Japanese caste system
By Thomas Paine, Robert G. Ingersoll, Sam Ayache
The caste system may have developed as early as the eighth century AD. The Japanese population was divided into two groups according to Shinto concepts of purity. Shinto concepts equated goodness and godliness with purity and cleanliness. Shinto held that impurities could cling to people, making them evil or sinful.
Komin (“acceptable citizens”) or ryomin (“good citizens”) were engaged in agriculture. They belonged to the state and had a duty to pay tax in labour and in kind. The other group was called shiyumin (privately owned people) or senmin (“despised citizens”) because of their non-agricultural and unproductive occupations. Continue reading
Burakumin in ( Japanese: “hamlet people”) also called eta (“an abundance of defilement”), or “untouchable,” is an outcaste Japanese minority group at the bottom of the traditional Japanese social system. The Japanese term eta is highly pejorative, but prejudice has tended even to tarnish the otherwise neutral term burakumin itself.
No physical characteristics distinguish burakumin, unlike other main minority groups, from the majority population. They were originally members of outcast communities in the Shinto and Buddhist era, composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas of kegare (“defilement”) attached to them. Other outcast groups from whom buraku may have been descended included the hinin (“non-human”). The definition of hinin, as well as their social status and typical occupations varied over time, but typically included ex-convicts and vagrants who worked as town guards, street cleaners or entertainers. Continue reading