When Chie Takaiwa struck up the courage to reveal a family secret to her colleague some years ago, she was met by an unexpected response.

The 37-year-old coffee stall worker's father hails from a riverbank community in Fukuoka Prefecture that is known as a buraku, a term meaning "hamlet" used to describe areas inhabited by descendants of outcasts from the feudal era.

The sensitive nature of the issue requires Takaiwa to be cautious when discussing her background with others and she generally avoids people who have parochial views.