Google Stumbles, Japan All Fired Up

Photo by OiMax

Photo by OiMax

In its quest for world domination the best search engine ever created, Google has once again pulled an embarrassing ‘Oops’, this time in Japan. TheStar Online has the story [article]:

When Google Earth added historical maps of Japan to its online collection last year, the search giant didn’t expect a backlash.

The company is now facing inquiries from the Justice Ministry and angry accusations of prejudice because its maps detailed the locations of former low-caste communities.

The maps date back to the country’s feudal era, when shoguns ruled and a strict caste system was in place.

At the bottom of the hierarchy were a class called the “burakumin,” ethnically identical to other Japanese but forced to live in isolation because they did jobs associated with death, such as working with leather, butchering animals and digging graves.

Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan’s sprawling metropolises.

Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country’s 127 million people. But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived.

[continue reading..]

I think it’s shameful that the practice of caste discrimination is still alive and kicking in one of the most developed countries in Asia.

Of course, one could argue that Google has no excuse for overlooking such cultural sensitivities in Japan. It’s been operating globally for some years now; this “slip-up”, if you will, seems like sheer insensitivity on their part.

But by rapping Google on the head for its mistake, aren’t we indirectly condoning the practice of discrimination? Feel free to share your ideas below! I’d love to know what you think.


About Jared

I am all the awesomesauce you could ever want in a handsome, neat package, and you know it.
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4 Responses to Google Stumbles, Japan All Fired Up

  1. Shaz says:

    Hey Jared! We talked b4 rite..??
    Anyways – I don’t quite understand what the thing bout Google n Japan! Read the whole thing but still..

  2. Jared says:

    Hey Shaz! Yes, we’ve talked before. 🙂

    Well, apparently, some Japanese are mad cos Google Maps clearly states where the burakumin caste villages used to be in the past.

    The burakumin were considered as untouchables in old Japan cos they did all the dirty work, like dealing with grave digging, cleaning drains, etc.

    Although the caste system has been abolished, many burakumin are still discriminated by some elements of Japanese society, e.g. some burakumin can’t find work with certain companies simply because of their heritage.

    Hence, Google is seen by the burakumin to be supporting this type of discrimination by releasing historical maps that show where burakumin communities used to live – and in some cases, still do.

    Hope that clears up your confusion. 😀

  3. Joanna says:

    Hm, don’t get me wrong, I’m against any form of discrimination but as much as Google has erred in this matter, I don’t really see how it can be considered condoning discrimination.

    Discrimination after all is part of perspective. It’s how people choose to look at things. Highlighting locations and such will not encourage the practice of discrimination if people do not choose to conform to ill paralleled standards.

    Google maps may have been slightly insensitive about the whole matter but history is history. Trying to cover up does not erase the fact that the area used to be a source of discrimination. I might be wrong but I think people deserve to know and in turn should be more proud of their heritage as it only proves that they have been able to stand up for their rights and have escaped the bonds that held them back previously. As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is always a way. In this case, had Google not unearthed these locations, I’m sure companies set on prejudice would still have their own means for uncovering these data.

  4. Jared says:

    I think you make a valid point when you said that Google’s actions in Japan “will not encourage the practice of discrimination if people do not choose to conform to ill paralleled standards.”

    It’s hard to change hundreds of years of ingrained culture, and it may take time before there’s a more widespread acceptance of the burakumin.

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