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Japanese minority group that suffers discrimination based on its historical outcaste status. In the late 16th century, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi divided the populace into four social classes, one group remained outside and beneath the system: those whose occupation involved the taking of life (such as butchers or executioners) or handling flesh or dead bodies (such as leatherworkers or gravediggers). Buddhist and Shinto beliefs in the polluting nature of these occupations have long stigmatized those who held them. Though their outcaste status was removed by law in 1871, prejudice remains, and burakumin heritage often stands in the way of marriages and employment opportunities. Burakumin are estimated to number 1–3 million.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on burakumin, visit Britannica.com.
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