This photo of the Kumamoto family, (grandmother, mother and daughter) from Women of Japan and their words seemed very appropriate for today. They are hisabetsu Buraku and so have faced a long history of caste/social class discrimination in Japan.
Their words speak both to their experience as women and as hisabetsu Buraku.
Granddaughter: KUMAMOTO Risa
Inside of me there is always an “I” burdened with many wounds? For that “I,” to “talk” about myself began with recalling the experiences, facts, and emotions of my life which I had put a lid on and carefully sifting through them. When I felt the energy of people who live in “reality,” when I shared in people’s suffering, when I felt joy with them, when I came in touch with a wonderful meeting and connection as a human being—not in the “story” that I created—the acts of “listening,” “talking,” and “being listened to” strengthened me. I felt the trauma writhing within me, which I had purposely tried to ignore or had been forced to ignore, awaken from its long, long sleep with a huge yawn. Engaging with others was part of the process of my attempt to create myself by discovering myself and becoming enriched while in the midst of suffering, faltering, and wavering. It was a soothing action to tightly embrace the “I” within me in an effort to heal the emotional wounds through my own power and through support from others. And I will continue to speak out so that I will not merely keep this within my personal framework of comforting myself for the discrimination I have experienced, but, rather, so that I can go beyond this and take aim at the irrationality of discrimination, to seek honor as a human being who works to change society and do away with discrimination. I do this not only to liberate myself from oppression, but also to liberate myself from being the oppressor. Knowing the pain of discrimination and knowing the warmth of people, I feel proud to pursue my stance of anti-discrimination by treating my discriminatory feelings as having the same quality and being of the same dimension.
What I want most to speak of now is my close yet far and far yet close family. Not as one who persists in acting the “good child” as “daughter,” or “grandchild,” or “big sister,” but in order for me to have a process of thinking about my life on my own and in order to obtain the words to define myself on my own. In order to liberate myself from having discriminated against my grandfather, grandmother, mother, and younger brother who lead their lives bearing various thoughts and experiences and who have substituted the individual problem of those being discriminated against for the social problem of discrimination; and to relate to them anew “as human beings.”
Mother: KUMAMOTO Reiko
Now that I am over 50, I have a strong wish to live my life into the future without causing problems for my two children. It has been 25 years that I have lived without a husband, and for my children without a father. When the children were young, all I did was work, but I feel that it was not I who raised my children, rather it was my children who raised me. That doesn’t mean that my children haven’t been able to become independent or that I haven’t been able to let go of them. Being not too close and not too far may be the right distance from each other. When my children were small, I felt that they were such darlings that I listened first and foremost to their wishes.
A mother (a Japanese woman) must have infinite patience and can only silently watch what her children do and say. There is no need to nag them. It should be enough to scold them only at crucial times. These days I think that if I am to wish for my children’s future happiness, as their mother I must learn how to live a healthy life on my own!!
No matter how old they become, one’s children are always one’s children. When I face painful and trying times, it is my children who come first to mind. I wonder if they are well.
To me, my children are my educators. As one who was born and who grew up in discriminatory surroundings, I feel fortunate that I do not resent the discrimination or the fact of having been born and raised under discrimination. The side who is discriminated against and the side who discriminates—I am able to think I was fortunate to have known both viewpoints.
I love my mother very deeply. At 83 she is obstinate and has become strong-willed, but I still love her. Will my children love me so profoundly no matter how old I become? Just as I will always love my daughter deeply . . . .
Grandmother: TERAOKA Mika
I am 83 years old. My era was one of dominance of men over women, so my days were those of constant perseverance and restraining my own desires.
I served my husband’s parents single-mindedly, and I couldn’t defy my husband in any way. . . .
I spent so long persevering that the only peace of mind I could attain was through religion, and I am still a fervent believer of Buddhism. But I do not know how to write and, at this age, having endured so patiently, I have become strong and obstinate. My aging body has become creaky in places, but I’m still going strong.
translation by Beth Cary