Google Maps Incite Racial Unrest in Tokyo

The folks at Google Maps decided it’d be fun if they added a historical map of Tokyo onto the site’s existing map and satellite layers. They were wrong.

The centuries-old woodblock maps, which are already available online, show which districts of Tokyo once belonged to the city’s lowest caste, the burakumin. That class of people–so-called death workers who slaughtered animals and dug graves–was so reviled in ancient Japan that the people living on top of present-day buraku villages, long since vanished, are ashamed and outraged.



Even though burakumin ancestors make up about 2% of the nation’s 127 million people, they still face prejudice in social settings and hiring scenarios. “Dirty” neighborhoods once associated with the caste fetch lower property values and subject residents to harassment, although most of their whereabouts had been forgotten–until Google made them readily available online.

Japan’s justice ministry is gathering information on the issue, and it is unclear whether Google will remove the maps, according to the AP.

[Via AP; map via Japan Probe]

Related: Where is Swine Flu? [Google Map Mashup]CD