Taketoshi Nakayama recalls the taunts and insults directed his way during his childhood, and can’t forget the times when neighbors heckled his mother while she worked.

Discrimination followed him around even when he was a lawyer fighting for human rights and promoting peace.

Now 75, Nakayama, who was born and raised in a “buraku” community, has published his autobiography called “Ningen ni Hikari Are (Shine on human).”

The book title comes from the Suiheisha Declaration, the starting point of the buraku liberation movement.

Discrimination against buraku people started in the feudal era mainly over their “impure” occupations, such as tanners and undertakers, or where they lived.

Their descendants today still experience widespread discrimination.

Nakayama was born in a coal-mining town in Fukuoka Prefecture. His father, Shigeo, repaired shoes, and his mother, Koito, collected waste materials for a living.

At school, Nakayama was told that his home was a “horrifying place” where fireballs would appear, an image used in Japanese ghost stories.

He also heard his neighbors yelling harsh words at his mother while she was pulling a two-wheeled cart containing waste materials.

Shigeo joined the buraku liberation movement and put up a piece of paper on a wall. Written on the paper was Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.

After Nakayama saw the paper, he decided to become a lawyer.

He attended an evening high school and later took night classes at college. After graduating from the college, he passed the bar exam.

He said his two most important lessons were: “You must not escape from difficulties” and “Personal warmth is the most important.”

He became a chief lawyer in the 1963 “Sayama incident.” In this case, Kazuo Ishikawa, a buraku descendent, was convicted of murdering a teenage girl and other charges and sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, he appealed for a retrial, saying he was forced to confess to the crimes and insisted he was innocent.

A widespread campaign was organized to save him, and in 1994, he was paroled. But he has not been granted a retrial.

Nakayama also represented victims of the Great Tokyo Air Raid in their lawsuit demanding compensation from the government, but he lost the case in 2013.

He was also the lead lawyer for Takashi Uemura, a former reporter of The Asahi Shimbun, who filed a libel lawsuit in 2015 against a university professor and a publishing company over magazine articles that said Uemura fabricated part of his news reports on “comfort women.”

Setsu Kobayashi, 70, a professor emeritus of Keio University and a constitutional scholar, suggested to Nakayama that he publish a book about his life.

Kobayashi met Nakayama in December 2014, and they soon became friends. Kobayashi, who has disabilities in his hand, also experienced bullying and felt that he and Nakayama shared similar memories, even at their first meeting.

In January 2015, Nakayama suffered from a cerebral infarction and collapsed. Kobayashi urged Nakayama to write a book to encourage him in his rehabilitation.

At first, Kobayashi thought about taking dictation, but after he read the writings that Nakayama had saved, he thought there was already enough material for the book.

It was Kobayashi who pitched the idea to a publisher.

After Nakayama’s autobiography was published, he received more than 100 letters, with many saying things like, “It gave me courage.”

“Humans can change if they know the pain, suffering and sadness of discriminated people,” Nakayama said. “I want to move forward step by step, aiming to eradicate discrimination.”