— Pen and Ink —
This series is about the lives, labor history, and controversy surrounding Buraku (Roji = tenement street)* people in urban regions of Japan. My intention for this series is not about making a political statement, but rather a visual memorial of the human stories. Stories about social injustice, a vernacular culture in Japan since the Tokugawa Shogun era in 1600s. Stories about Roji (tenement) people who built their livelihood in slaughterhouse, meat processing factory, leather making, funeral house, straw rope sandal making, and farming.
Each piece in this series focus on a story: story of immigrants in Japan and the hardships endured by Roji people who were deemed invisible to society while Japan enjoyed their post-WWII industrial era. The monochrome Illustration is rendered in hybrid style of graphic novel and traditional drawing with ink and pen on museum grade archival paper. 45”w x 42”h.
*note about Roji: In some ways, Buraku classification is similar to Caste system. During my research, I came acorss an article that mentioned a term Roji was preferred to Buraku by native people. They considered Buraku a racist term.
Before the Japanese government initiated a nationwide reform to aid Roji people and their living condition in 1800s, the only way Roji people escaped society's prejudice was to move to foreign countries. Nowadays, visitors expecting to see Roji may be disappointed to find a clean street and modern buildings replacing the old tenements and muddy roads.