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eta(η) The seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, used in stellar nomenclature usually to designate the seventh-brightest star in a constellation or sometimes to indicate a star's position in a group.
an outcast class in feudal Japan. The term “eta” is also applied to a member of the class.
The eta caste arose between the fourth and seventh centuries, when Buddhism was spreading throughout the country and the feudal system was taking root. The eta engaged in occupations considered unclean in Buddhism, such as the slaughtering and skinning of animals and the tanning of hides. They had no rights whatsoever, and all spheres of their life were strictly regulated. They could live only in specified areas or hamlets (buraku) and were forbidden to marry members of other classes.
In 1871 the caste was formally abolished, and the eta were incorporated into the third caste as shinheimin (new commoners). Discrimination against them continued, however. In 1922 the Suiheisha (Society for the Equalization of Rights) was founded to fight inequality in various spheres of life, such as the choice of an occupation. The society established contact with other democratic organizations. The Buraku Kaihoodoomei (League for the Liberation of the Buraku), which was founded in 1946, fights discrimination and works for improvement in the living standards of the descendants of the eta.