After two years researching the educational experiences of immigrant youth in the Tokyo/Kanto area, I returned to Osaka with a radically different perspective on marginalization and a deeper understanding of how the treatment of Burakumin and the treatment of foreigners are intertwined. While immersed in the Kanto worldview, I remained frustrated by the stonewalling of discussion around not only the existence of and discrimination experienced by Burakumin but any awareness that “multicultural curriculum” or Human Rights Education owed its popularity, if not its small measure of success, to the Buraku liberation movement of the 1960s and the ongoing struggle to rectify prejudicial governmental and social policies. Working with educators in Kanto/Tokyo who lacked this historical perspective created a distorted sense of reality for many, including progressive immigrant youth, to see their precarious situation as unique. Their assumption held that discrimination was a new phenomenon, that the battle lines were drawn: “the Japanese” against immigrants.1 Little did they realize there existed an entire population of Japanese Nationals, the Burakumin, who were continuing to experience different, but equally harmful, levels of exclusion. Most of my research during this two-year span took place in Yokohama and Kawasaki with Newcomers from China, Southeast Asia, and South America, the vast majority of whom perceived that the discrimination they confronted daily was based on their position as a gaijin (foreigner). I realized about halfway through this part of the research project that the conflicts and challenges that foreign youth faced in schools and on the streets could not be understood solely through the eyes of the teachers who worked with them. Increasingly, I became aware of the importance of what I came to call cultural intermediariesindividuals who serve as community liaisons, school translators, social workers, NPO volunteers, and “teachers of special populations.” Not to undermine the authority of over a hundred interviews conducted with regular classroom teachers throughout the country between 1998 and 2003, I had, however, come to realize that many of the questions I asked were not answerable by this population. Most teachers simply did not have access to the communities in which their
students resided, neither had they been raised or trained to work with nonJapanese families It is with these new insights and change in direction that I returned to Osaka in 2003. Through email to Maruyama I explained this new twist in the research and how I thought that using the same criteria for selecting informants in Osaka as I had used in Tokyo might prove useful in enabling me to better understand the Buraku situation. Knowing that this journey would be less anchored in schools than in the stories of the affected communities, he jumped at the opportunity to hit the streets again and meet up with old colleagues using me as an excuse to find answers to questions he also shares. But the Osaka I returned to in 2003 was radically different from what I had left two years before. The termination of Special Measures Legislation in 2002 meant that additional funding and support would no longer be granted to Dowa Schools. Teachers were now officially prohibited from knowing the identity of their students, thereby disabling the process by which some could be singled out for extra assistance. Activist teachers who had spent their lives working for social justice in Dowa Schools were being moved out of schools whose population was predominantly Burakumin. Teachers who had been trained in, and worked under, the directives of the BLL suddenly found themselves without a singular mission. Adding to the chaos, new national educational reforms were being implemented demanding a shorter school week of five days, a more experiential “integrated” curriculum (sogogakushu), and a movement towards pedagogical practices that few teachers understood.2 The complexity of this context offered me the opportunity to see how people who served as cultural intermediaries as well as educators were responding to the changes.