People Discriminated Against in the Medieval Japan (中世日本の被差別民)

In this section, people who were discriminated against in the medieval Japan are described. Research about the state of discriminated people who existed during medieval Japan (in the era from the latter half of the Heian period to the Muromachi period and the Sengoku Period - period of warring states in Japan) has rapidly progressed since the 1980s through efforts by Yoshihiko AMINO and others, but an evaluation has not been established yet.

Types of discriminated people

Generally called hinin (literally, not human beings), people discriminated against in the medieval can be classified into kawaramono (literally, people living in river side areas), shuku no mono (literally, people at shuku (inn-clustered towns along a big road)), sanjomin (literally, people at various places), or Shomonji (itinerant performers whose work encompassed both Noh performance and religious rituals) (Shomonji (lower-ranked diviners)). In this era, eta (literally, quite dirty) was another name for kawaramono.


They were engaged in entertainment business in addition to making leather, slaughtering livestock, cleaning and gardening.


After the concept of kegare (being dirty) was brought to Japan in the medieval period, these people became treated with contempt. However, as Zenami served the shogun at that time, they were not segregated from people with other social statuses to the extent during the early-modern times. Furthermore, during the medieval period, social status was highly mobile, and these people were not confined within fixed hereditary classes, such as the five lowly castes of the ritsuryo system and buraku (communities of discriminated people) in the early-modern times.

Historical continuity

Connections between these people and the five lowly castes of the ritsuryo system were mostly denied, but connections of these people with buraku in early-modern times during the Edo period has become a major theme of historical research.