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Settlement Development through linking people

A case of Kitagata project in Japan

10 / 1995

Buraku means a small settlement in Japanese, but it also refers to an area where socially discriminated people (Burakumin)live. According to an estimate, there are some 6,000 Buraku settlements all over the country housing more than 3 million Burakumins. They were unduly claimed to be "filthy" and have been segregated for hundreds years in terms of occupation, marriage and living environment. Since the 1920s, however, a strong national-level movement has been organized by Burakumin for their own human rights protection and liberation. In 1969, a special law was enacted to facilitate the improvement of designated Buraku areas, followed by a series of follow-up legislation

While the discrimination still persists, many of Buraku settlements have been physically improved. Indeed, Buraku upgrading represents the most comprehensive, participatory and innovative urban improvement cases in Japan. These are characterized by a strong, federated Burakumin’s organization (Buraku Liberation League: BLL)as a representative group acting at the various levels of government, its framework integrating the settlement development within socio-economic well-being and human rights issues, legislative and other responses from the national government with preferential subsidies for specific Buraku projects, systematized institutional set-up at the municipal government level

Kitagata Project is a recent successful case of Buraku settlement improvement. Kitagata, a large Burakumin community of 41,000 people, is located in Kitakyushu City in southern Japan. It was densely inhabited, with very narrow road and public space. The local community repeatedly requested for improvement. But it was not until 1982 when the City’s Advisory Board stressed a need for a comprehensive programme for the area that the local community and the government reached a consensus to initiate large-scale improvements

The City Government engaged a planning consultant called Wakatake Institute to work with people and formulate a redevelopment plan. A field local office was set up in the midst of Kitagata area. Yokoh Hatakenaka, one of the writers of this study, and his colleagues from Wakatake stayed in the settlement and lived there for 6 years during the planning and implementation period. Hatakenaka, together with his family, was well-integrated in the community and worked as an intermediary between people and government

It was found that, while small lanes and crowded housing were causing problems of fire, ventilation and sunlight, the community was well-maintained to clean the lanes with plawnts and flowers as well as benches along the lanes where people occasionally sat and talked together in the evenings. People and planners were determined to keep such an interactive space. An Association of community leaders, the administration and planners was established; holding monthly meetings and issuing regular newsletters. Women and children were organized to discuss the community development

People participated in designing of new housing, resulting in a unique concept of having common corridors on the southern side of flats to ensure community interaction. Views of individual families were reflected in their unit design and external spaces. This participatory design process was walled Moyal which implies linking people

In 1993 the implementation of the Project was completed. The Association is now concerned with the maintenance of the area and discusses a management system through partnership between the community and the administration. Residents in new buildings have organized meetings to study methods and systems of community maintenance

In dealing with the particular case of Kitagata, the study highlights the role of planners, which was vital. Hatakenaka and his colleagues, together with several university researchers, were fully involved and they not only provided thechnical advice, but also worked as catalysts in the community and as advocates in discussing with the governement. It is interesting that and independent consultant engaged by the local government was able to perform such functions.


participação comunitária

, Japão, Kitakyushu, Kitagata


The present study provides a background of Buraku issues in Japan and the national Buraku settlement improvement programme. Urged by strenuous struggle by BLL, the role of the central government was to work out a framework for Buraku improvement projects with specified national subsidy elements. The municipal government is responsible for taking an initiative in the application of an improvement scheme. The most important is a string organization at the community level to promote people and negotiate with the local authorities. Normally a BLL community branch performs an essential role.


Data card carried out for the governmentT/NGO cooperation project in the field of human settlement.


Documento interno


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