As the United States welcomes its first African-American to its highest office, Japan is still dealing with prejudice that some say has kept this country from breaking ancient taboos and installing a minority as its leader.
Nearly a decade ago, seasoned politician Hiromu Nonaka was on the verge of becoming prime minister in a heated battle with the man who now holds the post, Taro Aso.
The issue took an ugly turn when Nonaka’s roots as a “burakumin,” or the descendent of former outcasts, was allegedly raised by Aso, the scion of a wealthy, establishment family.
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Writer
The burakumin are the descendants of people who were considered under Buddhist beliefs to be unclean — butchers, tanners, undertakers — and were separated from the general population.
Though Japan did away with its caste system several years after the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in 1865, discrimination against the burakumin remains strong, affecting employment, marriage and social interaction. Maps detailing the areas where the burakumin were once forced to live together in enclaves are still used to “out” people who don’t want their roots known.