“Peter McGill mentions those Japanese outcasts, the burakumin (LRB, 31 March). One of the ‘unclean’ occupations they were assigned was undertaking, a point delicately made in the Oscar-winning Japanese movie Departures. A newly married young man finds himself unemployed and applies for a job without knowing it involves ritually preparing the dead for burial. Although he soon overcomes over his disgust at coming into such close contact with corpses, it takes his young wife considerably longer. To avoid offending its Japanese audience no mention is made of burakumin, and so subtle was the film’s handling of the theme, it eluded most Western viewers. I no longer raise the subject with Japanese friends as I have found that, when I do, they pretend not to hear me.”
"[...]Ms. Tanaka encountered discrimination only when she began going to high school in another ward. One time, while she was visiting a friend’s house, the grandparents invited her to stay over for lunch.
"'The atmosphere was pleasant in the beginning, but then they asked me where I lived,' she said. 'When I told them, the grandfather put down his chopsticks right away and went upstairs.'
"A generation ago, most buraku married other buraku. But by the 1990s, when Ms. Tanaka met her future husband, who is not a buraku, marriages to outsiders were becoming more common."