The burakumin, which is literally defined as 'hamlet people', or buraku are another exception to the homogeneity of the Japanese people. From the 14th century until the middle of the 17th century the Japanese rulers had been creating a division of people according to occupation. The buraku are most likely descended from people who were defeated in earlier feudal wars or from people who ignored traditional Buddhist tenets and so became defined as outcasts (or impure), particularly during the early years of the Edo period (1603-1868) or feudal Middle Ages in Japan. Those considered to be lesser artisans and cleaners among others, were categorised as burakumin. They were treated as eta - extreme filth, and hinin - nonhuman. They lived in settlements known as hisabetsu buraku or 'discriminated hamlets'.
However, the buraku look like other Japanese people, but remain an underprivileged minority, due to caste-like discrimination. Today, there are up to 6,000 burakumin districts and between 1.2 to 2 million buraku in Japan (about 2% of the population). The social practices of exclusion have resisted change. Discrimination continues today, particularly in employment and marriage as well as in communicating with public officials. Activists groups have sought change and protests have occurred, especially where it is felt that the police target the burakumin population and districts (which some describe as ghettos) on the basis that law enforcement offices consider them to be inclined to criminal behaviour. Such profiling is an awful bias which is being fought against.
Japanís elaborate system of 'family registers' which is a record of each personís ancestry also makes it almost impossible for a buraku to conceal his or her origins. Making it difficult to work for a major company or marry outside the so-called caste. Parents routinely investigate the background of their childrenís prospective marriage partners and a pending marriage may be broken up by strong objections from a family member, if the partner is considered to be from the burakumin. While discrimination is illegal, such attitudes and practices still persist.
Check out this link for the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute Incorporated (BLHRRI) website. And click here to read the interview Discrimination From Both Sides of The Skin with Buraku Abolitionist Nadmoto Masahisa.