Here's a story I missed while dedicating an entire month to bicycling:
The Japanese government and some equal rights groups are upset with Google for placing links to these gorgeous 18th and 19th Century woodblock maps of Tokyo (Edo) in Google Earth.*
Why? Because they show the locations of Buraku villages. The Burakumin are a minority group who were “outcasts” under old Japanese caste system, dating from the early feudal shogun era. This system identified the Burakumin as “untouchable” due to their employment in death related or "impure" professions such as gravediggers, undertakers, executioners and leather workers. They lived in secluded hamlets or ghettos.
These prejudices survive and some fear that this information will promote discrimination in previously forgotten Buraku areas. Google has responded by having references to Buraku villages removed, however they may be reinstated as "historical documents."
For an excellent summary see this entry from the Geographicus Antique Map Blog.
*Google Earth has a feature where you can link to maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection. The Japanese maps are from a collaboration between Rumsey and the East Asian Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
3 years ago