Ishikawa Satsuki: The Whistleblower Whose Village Shunned Her

Ishikawa Satsuki: The Whistleblower Whose Village Shunned Her

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Black and white image of Ishikawa Satsuki superimposed on image of voters with Japanese text saying "murahachibu" and English text saying "she reported electoral fraud. She was ostracised."
In 1952, a Japanese high schooler bravely revealed the political corruption underway in her home village. Her entire family was Ostracized.

Ishikawa Satsuki was only 15 years old when she first caught wind of the corruption ongoing in her little village at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The year was 1950, Satsuki was attending Ueno Middle School, and Japan was nearing the end of its years under US military occupation. “Democracy” was the watchword of the day, as Japan slowly emerged from the devastation of war and the traumas of its formerly militarized society; yet, in her own village, Satsuki was witnessing that very democracy being made a mockery.

She decided to speak out. In 1952, when, as a high schooler, she saw that the corruption was as alive as ever, she spoke out again.

The village, needless to say, did not take Satsuki’s activism with good cheer. Instead, she was subjected to intense pressure to recant her testimony. Worse, Satsuki was not the only one made to suffer for her speaking out. Her entire family was subject to an age-old rural tradition of censure: murahachibu, social ostracism.

What became known as the Ueno Village Shizuoka Prefecture Murahachibu Incident roiled the country’s newspapers and social halls. The presence of deep political corruption and feudal-era style strongmen in Japan’s rural spaces nearly a decade past World War II startled many; but worse, a young girl was being punished for standing up for the values the country now claimed to espouse.

Satsuki, however, refused to back down. In the face of intense pressure – the like of which is still a surprisingly common feature in Japan – she pushed back. In an interview, a simple quote seemed to interrogate the harmful social structures baring down on her family:


“Do you believe that what I did was wrong?”


Murahachibu – the Gentle Tradition of Communal Ostracism

In 1952, Satsuki’s entire family faced an age-old means of communal punishment: ostracism.

Regarding the concept, Bunshun Online journalist Koike Atarashi wrote:

“The term “murahachibu,” meaning to be ostracised within a certain region, is surely a dead word. Or, at least many people would think this is the case. But the truth is quite different.” [1]

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[1] 小池 新. (2021/06/20). 選挙不正を起こした“日本一の非文化村”の「村八分事件」. 文春オンライン.

[2] 1952年(昭和27年) 上野村・村八分事件. Ueno Guide.

[3] (Aug. 25, 1952). JAPAN: A Rural Tragedy. Time.

[4] Ukai, Nobushige. (1953). Japanese Election Results Reconsidered. Pacific Affairs, 26(2), 139–146.

[5] Suzuki R, Iizuka Y, Lefor AK. (2021). COVID-19 related discrimination in Japan: A preliminary analysis utilizing text-mining. Medicine (Baltimore).

Dower, John. (1999). Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II. Penguin Books.

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Noah Oskow

Serving as current UJ Editor-in-Chief, Noah Oskow is a professional Japanese translator and interpreter who holds a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has lived, studied, and worked in Japan for nearly seven years, including two years studying at Sophia University in Tokyo and four years teaching English on the JET Program in rural Fukushima Prefecture. His experiences with language learning and historical and cultural studies as well as his extensive experience in world travel have led to appearances at speaking events, popular podcasts, and in the mass media. Noah most recently completed his Master's Degree in Global Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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