Bringing Class and Indigeneity In, but Leaving Japaneseness Out

Robert Moorehead, Ritsumeikan University

Jeffrey Paul Bayliss. On the Margins of Empire: Buraku and Korean Identity in Prewar and Wartime Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 454 pp. $45 (cloth).

Mark K. Watson. Japan's Ainu Minority in Tokyo: Diasporic Indigeneity and Urban Politics. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014. 190 pp. $145 (cloth).

Download Review Essay (212.36 KB)
Article Preview

Buoyed by waves of labor migration into Japan from Asia and Latin America, the field of Japan studies has seen a renewed interest in Japan’s minority groups. Much of the new scholarship has focused on debunking notions of Japanese uniqueness found in political discourse about the nation, known as Nihonjinron. In particular, this work has focused on Japan’s supposed ethnic, racial, and class homogeneity, examining the experiences of newcomers, oldcomers, and native others in Japan. From this academic work, two key analytical foci—social class and indigeneity—have tended to be missing. On the Margins of Empire: Buraku and Korean Identity in Prewar and Wartime Japan, by Jeffrey Paul Bayliss, and Japan’s Ainu Minority in Tokyo: Diasporic Indigeneity and Urban Politics, by Mark K. Watson, address this shortcoming in their respective analyses of Burakumin and Koreans from the Meiji Restoration to the end of World War II, and of present-day Ainu residing in Tokyo...