No. 5 — February 9, 1996

Feature Article

TEXTBOOK CONTROVERSIES IN JAPAN: HOW DEAD ARE THEY?

Pat Murdo

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Summary

The Japanese government's authorization of specific textbooks to be used in classrooms presents the potential to press a particular political viewpoint. Just such an accusation dogs the history of Japan's education system for the 40 or so years when a militarist agenda held sway in educational affairs. Against that pre-1945 background and less-than-forthright postwar discussions of Japan's past military actions, textbook controversies were almost certain to arise. When they did, they stemmed from two main sources: internal discontent over what is seen as censorship through the government's authorization of textbooks and external anger over historical lessons that ignore, whitewash or minimize Japan's military past.

Gradual changes in Japanese history textbooks suggest that such controversies may be passé as far as history books are concerned. Yet, whenever a Japanese leader seems to take a step forward in apologizing for Japan's aggression in World War II, someone else in the political spotlight makes a comment that belies the apology and brings into question any "advance" in acknowledging such aggression. Nationalistic talk among a new generation of politicians, some of whom studied under both prewar and postwar texts, actually may be nothing more than an old, defensive view of Japan's actions in World War II. But a number of these leaders also are emphasizing strengthened ties with neighboring countries, and, since many of these Asian countries have protested past Japanese textbook versions of World War II, the situation remains ripe for close attention to the emphasis that modern history textbooks will take.

Beyond these international and domestic political influences on textbooks, some other domestic changes are occurring that suggest the tenor of education could become more right-leaning. These include: the weakened position of the Japan Teachers' Union, which traditionally has served as a counterbalance to what has been a very conservative Ministry of Education; the limited official reaction to bullying in schools — increasingly headlined by the media in association with student suicides — and the related concern with limited tolerance toward those who are different in Japan; plus the silent acceptance of a textbook selection process that essentially discourages parental comment. Furthermore, even though the Ministry of Education says it wants to encourage more creative thinking in schools, the importance of the examination system to get into the best schools still dictates against such change. The more that teaching revolves around preparation for black-and-white entrance exam questions, the less likely is the chance that texts or classroom discussion will offer differing opinions and encourage students to think for themselves. From an internal perspective, then, a rigid educational structure leaves little room for dissent — or even perhaps new interpretations of history.

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Textbook Controversies In Context

When textbook controversies flare, math typically is not the subject of concern. Learning simple arithmetic relationships like 2+2=4 has little to do with brainwashing, the highly inflammatory term associated with attempts to change beliefs, be they political, social or religious. However, even scientific disciplines are not immune to concerns about the presentation of theory as fact. The 1925 Scopes trial in Tennessee, which took aim against the teaching of the theory of evolution, underscored the potential of science to be controversial.1 In Japan the subject that has generated the most controversy over elementary and secondary textbooks is history — in particular modern history.

Generally key to the controversies over how history is taught in Japan is the awareness that the central government in the past used education not just to expand the knowledge of children to help them live more productive and better lives but also to shape their political mind-set. Using the education system to inculcate certain values, such as appreciation of the government's dominant political form, is not unusual. But the idea of indoctrination is less palatable. Transgressing the line between conveying society's values and indoctrination is much more easily done when dissenting viewpoints are suppressed. And the use of a nationwide platform, such as a centrally controlled school system, raises the ease with which one philosophy can be spread. In his 1984 book Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative Law, Politics, and Society Leonard Beer, who then was at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, voiced the commonality of these issues and their revolutionary potential:

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[A]dults of every society condition the future of their young and of society by authoritative communication of values and attitudes through the community education system (whether this includes textbooks and audio-visual instruction under a formal system, or the mass media system, or only the songs, dances, oral traditions, and ceremonies of the community); ... the choices of values to be inculcated through textbooks is therefore one of the perennially compelling concerns of a community; ... a set of textbooks read by millions of school children may be much more effectively revolutionary than all the more obvious tools of substantive sociopolitical change in a democracy.2

Since Japan's education system operates under courses of studies adopted by the Ministry of Education and since that ministry authorizes the textbooks that are used in the classroom, the opportunity exists for widespread control over what children learn. The same is not true in all societies. The United States, for example, has a public school system that operates primarily under local control, be that at the state, county or district level. Although prefectural authorities do exercise some control over schools in Japan and, in fact, can choose from among the textbooks authorized by the Ministry of Education, the overall direction comes from the central government. Especially before mass communications and the days of "information overload," a government that exercised such power could limit to a broad degree what its youngest citizens learned. Just such a history in Japan is behind modern fears of repetition.

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Pendulum Swings: Prewar To Postwar

Prewar Persuasion - Along with centralizing the system of education in the late 1800s the government made mandatory in 1880 the teaching of morals (shushin), aimed at developing a "good person" who was an "exemplary subject of the emperor."3 A good person, however, apparently was not one who favored democratic thinking since that same year the government included on a list of writings that could not be used for textbooks those works considered to favor democracy — including discussions by Yukichi Fukuzawa, the first influential Japanese to write on Western values. Saburo Ienaga, whose postwar lawsuits challenged the Ministry of Education's right to authorize textbooks and who has been at the heart of several of Japan's textbook controversies, wrote that the 1880 banning of that material "was the first move toward official intervention in the content of education."4 While recognizing the rapid development of a public education system, Mr. Ienaga wrote, "However, the standardized educational content stamped a uniform outlook on most Japanese minds. The diversity of ignorance was replaced by the conformity of state-approved knowledge."5

Most analysts highlight the nationalist, promilitarist flavor of prewar education as contributing to the military's ability to gain the strong political power that ultimately drove Japan into the Pacific War. Yoko Hirohashi Thakur, a professorial lecturer at Georgetown University who has written on history textbook reforms, noted that these pre-1940 history texts "described the imperial family as descendants of the founding god of Japan and, thus, as sacred and inviolable; they defined Japan as a divine nation; and they stressed that it was the people's supreme duty and honor to serve the emperor with loyalty."6

Occupation Dissuasion - Even before World War II had ended, U.S. officials had begun plans for demilitarizing and democratizing Japan; included in these efforts were revisions of Japanese textbooks.7 Ms. Thakur noted that within days of the emperor's declaration of surrender officials in Tokyo began their own censorship of militaristic phrases in textbooks by ordering that students ink them out. After reviewing the texts, however, U.S. officials found that "the majority of the textbooks contained so much propaganda that deletion by the pen-and-ink method was neither practical nor advisable," Ms. Thakur wrote. As a result, at yearend 1945 the occupation authorities suspended both the use of textbooks and courses related to history, geography and morals education pending revisions of the textbooks.8 Among the ultranationalistic themes destined for elimination from the texts were what Ms. Thakur described as: "the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere doctrine or any other doctrine of expansion; Japanese racial and national superiority; unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the Emperor; and the superiority of the sacred and immutable Tenno (emperor) system." The militaristic topics to be deleted from future texts by the occupation authorities included phrases that recognized war "as a heroic and acceptable way of settling disputes" and that termed "dying with unquestioning loyalty toward the [e]mperor as the highest honor" a citizen could achieve.9

Occupation officials told authors chosen by the Ministry of Education to write Japan's first postwar history textbooks in a way that not only would concentrate on facts but would "incorporate cultural, social, and economic history" as well as "foster students' critical thinking."10 The resulting texts did not please everyone but received generally positive responses from the Japanese press and academics. Among those critical of the historical treatment of Japan's relations with China11 was a representative to the Allied Council for Japan from Beijing. He complained that the Kuni no Ayumi (Footsteps of a Nation) text, approved by the occupation authorities, ignored Japan's "Twenty-one Demands" of 1915 in which China was forced to yield rights in Manchuria to Japan.12

Kuni no Ayumi served as a prototype for future history texts, Ms. Thakur noted, especially its format, which featured archaeological, societal and cultural information. Although common wisdom holds that the victors write the history books, occupied Japan did not experience such constraints completely. Strong opposition by the occupation authorities brought an end to historical references to the emperor-as-god mythology, but Japanese authors had more leeway in describing (or not describing) their more recent history. That opportunity precipitated the ensuing textbook controversies.

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A Case Of: "If You Can't Say Anything Nice, Don't Say Anything At All," Or Not?

Failure to describe the horrors of war was one of the complaints levied against the early rounds of textbooks issued after the occupation. Pacifists in particular wanted to ensure that war not only would never again be glorified but that it would become anathema, and they sought to promote textbooks that included more references to the impacts of war. While these antiwar advocates may not have wanted graphic descriptions of bayoneted babies put into elementary school textbooks or to convey the inflammatory imagery of the Western term "Rape of Nanjing," they felt justified in pointing out that descriptions of "looting in Nanjing" and the even more mild "advance through Shanghai to Nanjing" fell far short of accurate portrayals of the Japanese army's aggression in China.

The origins of minimalist descriptions or the absence of some events entirely, such as the "Twenty-one Demands" mentioned above, most likely stemmed from an attempt by Japan's history textbook writers to avoid offending both those who felt Japan's Pacific War was justified and those who felt that militarists had caused the Japanese people death, pain and the humiliation of defeat. These two forces remain influential today, with the latter group vowing "never again" and seeing the need to apologize for the sufferings of Japan's neighbors at the hands of militarists. Minimalist descriptions also gained currency because textbooks had to clear the watchful eyes of the conservative Ministry of Education, which had temporary authority to certify the texts under the occupation but which received full authority under the School Education Law of 1953. During the occupation, moreover, textbook writers also faced constraints on describing such events as America's use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ms. Thakur quotes one Japanese historian as saying, "During the Occupation period, the A-bomb issue was not allowed to appear in textbooks."13 While descriptions of the atomic bombings since about 1960 have been brief, limited primarily to when they happened and how many people died, the short reference is not an apparent sensitivity to U.S. feelings.14

In fact, few of the complaints about Japanese representations of history have come from Americans concerned about how Japanese historians have viewed the war with the United States. At one level, the lack of such textbook material is more to be criticized than what actually is said. Ms. Thakur's analysis of postwar textbooks revealed scant attention to the war in the Pacific; some books referred to Pearl Harbor with just half a sentence and made no mention of Iwo Jima or other major battles in the Pacific.15 Only after 1990 or so has the battle over Okinawa received more attention in textbooks, and that may be in part because Okinawans have grown more vocal about their perception of being treated as second-class citizens by the mainland.16 Historian John Dower, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests that at a deeper level few U.S. complaints arose about Japanese versions of World War II because of America's Cold War effort to enlist Japan's help in containing China and the Soviet Union; that required a sanitizing of Japanese history to lessen any sensitivities to "war guilt" for aggression in Asia. After influencing Japan's "peace constitution," with its Article IX that opposes the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential ... ," Americans reversed course and wanted Japan to rearm. If Japan were to assist in the collective defense of Asia, Mr. Dower said, there had to be an effort "to whitewash the past."17 Although cynics would say the whitewash occurred without Japan's participation in the collective defense, Japan nevertheless did ally with the United States in its Cold War objectives. Even while Washington was relatively silent about the omissions or inadequate descriptions in Japanese history textbooks, Seoul and Beijing — whose countries were victims of Japanese aggression long before Pearl Harbor was attacked — have been vocal in their criticisms about their nations' treatment in Japanese textbooks.

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Forces Toward Expanded Historical References

Both internal and external influences have pushed for more exacting descriptions of Japan's actions in World War II. At times the interplay has succeeded in lowering the barriers to textbook references that the Ministry of Education previously may have considered inappropriate or too critical. For example, pacifists who attacked minimalist terminology as insufficient to describe the horrors of war received support from outraged Asian neighbors; they felt that Japanese schoolchildren were being misled about what their country did during World War II.

The Censorship Debate - One of the major internal forces for change in Japanese textbook approaches was Mr. Ienaga, who had been chosen to write one of the history texts issued during the occupation. After the occupation Mr. Ienaga worked, as did other independent textbook authors, to win MOE approval for new releases or different versions of his original text. Just 10 years after his senior high school text Shin Nihonshi (A New History of Japan) first was published Mr. Ienaga ran into trouble with the Education Ministry's textbook authorization council on a 1963 release. Although granted conditional approval for his text the following year, Mr. Ienaga responded to what he felt was inappropriate censoring of textbooks and filed suit against the Education Ministry in 1965. He charged that the textbook certification process was illegal and a violation of four constitutional rights: the freedoms of thought (Article 19) and expression (Article 21), plus academic freedom and the freedom of children to an education (Articles 23 and 26, respectively). While action on this suit was pending, Mr. Ienaga went to court again in 1967 to reinstate in a new release those sections that he had removed from the 1963 textbook in order to comply with MOE's recommendations to win certification. Mr. Beer writes in Freedom of Expression in Japan that most of Japan's prestigious academics supported Mr. Ienaga's contentions at least generally.18

Despite an initial lower court decision that supported Mr. Ienaga's claims against the certification process, the Tokyo high court ruled on appeal by the Education Ministry that no constitutional violations occurred; the court did find some errors in the certification process but said these had no substantial effect on the book not winning final authorization. In responding to Mr. Ienaga's further appeal the Supreme Court essentially ignored constitutional questions and ruled on a question of standing; to almost everyone's dissatisfaction the court remanded the case to the Tokyo high court. Mr. Ienaga did not pursue further a decision in that court favoring the Education Ministry. However, he did file another lawsuit in 1984, again protesting MOE's recommendation that portions of his text be rewritten. Once again the ministry sought use of the word "advance" rather than "invasion" to describe the Japanese military's actions in China. (For examples of word changes sought at various times, see Table 1.) In commenting on the lawsuits that he lost on appeals that lasted until 1993, Mr. Ienaga said, "I lost the battle but it generated tremendous publicity about the MOE's policies and actions, and many people joined the fight against censorship of textbooks."19 Mr. Beer also points out that out-of-court negotiations between Mr. Ienaga and the Education Ministry helped to win at least two word changes, including the use of the word "invasion" instead of "advance" and the more pointed accusation that the "the Nanjing Massacre (1937) of 'many Chinese civilians and soldiers' was attributed to 'the Imperial Japanese Army,' not 'chaos.'"20 Pressure from foreign governments also had helped to keep the term "invasion" intact.

External Watchfulness - Not only the Japanese public but foreign officials paid attention to Mr. Ienaga's complaints that the Ministry of Education was downplaying descriptions of Japanese military behavior during World War II. Moreover, the textbook controversies were not limited to Mr. Ienaga's lawsuits. The Liberal Democratic Party generated a heated discussion with international repercussions when it called in the summer of 1982 for the revision of textbooks put out by five different publishers. The LDP, which by that time had been in solid control of the Japanese government for about 26 years, wanted what Mr. Beer described as "greater respect ... for State Shinto, big business, duties instead of rights, and the military instead of pacifism."21 These considerations were not so very different from what the Ministry of Education had recommended the year before for textbooks that were to be revised for the 1983-86 cycle. The July 1981 recommendations from MOE included a request for the writers and the publishers of high school textbooks to:

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... soften their approach to Japan's excesses during World War II, the horrors of the atom bombs, the serious damage to health and environment caused by factory pollution, political corruption, rights as distinct from duties, and the pacifist requirements of the Constitution (Article 9). More stress was suggested on patriotism, the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces, balanced treatment of capitalism and Marxist socialism, and the safety of nuclear power development.22

Joining Japanese writers and others involved in the textbook controversies, governments in China, North and South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere protested in the summer of 1982 what Mr. Beer termed "offensive changes" in the early 1980s' history books. China targeted its remarks at Japan's "glossed-over treatments of the Manchurian Incident (September 18, 1931) and the Nanking Massacre of some 190,000 Chinese (1937)," according to Mr. Beer. The objections by North and South Korea, he said, involved "insulting depictions of their historic March First Independence Movement (1919) as mere 'riots' and wartime mobilization of Koreans under Japanese rule, as if they were ordinary subjects of the emperor." In addition to questioning the terminology used in the textbooks, foreign critics also accused Japan of "outright dishonesty in the textbook presentation of historical fact" and suggested "an apparent resurgence, at least in the vocal rightist factions of the LDP, of an ugly ultranationalism and contempt for other Asians reminiscent of the militarist period."23 Although Mr. Beer noted that some media descriptions of the early 1980s' history books inflamed the discussion through exaggeration, he added, "[C]riticisms from abroad were generally on the mark and simply dramatized what some domestic critics had complained of for years. ... Perhaps if the mass media and intellectuals are to be criticized, it should be more for their insular failure to emphasize in the past how insensitive and insulting to other Asians have been the watered-down textbook versions of Japan's war-time behavior."

One result of the 1982 brouhaha, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to broker with the Ministry of Education on behalf of better relations with Japan's neighbors, was MOE's agreement to call for new books in just two years instead of the usual three. Education officials also urged the certification council to recommend that future textbooks include "consideration" for Japan's neighbors.

The 1982 incident and its aftermath did not dissipate the drive among certain elements in Japan to downplay that country's actions in World War II. Another flare-up came in 1986 when a private group, the National Congress to Protect Japan, sought certification for its history textbook — a work that expressed admiration for prewar Japanese militarism and challenged the right of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (which conducted the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and was equivalent to the Nuremberg court in Germany) to declare Japan's guilt in World War II. The National Congress to Protect Japan, which wanted to revise Japan's constitution and delete Article IX, wrote in its textbook draft:

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This court [the IMFTE] in the name of 'civilization' ruled that waging a war of aggression was a 'crime against peace.' But no law stipulated that warfare was a crime; the IMFTE's jurisdiction was dubious. The court rejected Justice [Radhabinod] Pal's opinion that Japan was innocent, and branded Japanese as outlaws who had launched a war of aggression. War occurs among nations because of mutual misunderstanding; after the conflict both sides must reflect on their conduct and attain mutual understanding. For this reason, many people are calling for a reexamination of the IMFTE's unilateral condemnation of Japan as the guilty party.24

When the draft was leaked through the press China and South Korea protested parts of the text, and the Education Ministry succeeded in obtaining changes before approving a final version that apparently satisfied at least those two nations. The episode had not quite ended, though; shortly afterward the education minister at the time, Masayuki Fujio, was reported as saying: "Japan alone has the right to determine the content and context of its own history. Japan doesn't tell other countries how to chronicle their past; therefore, we should not be influenced by others regarding how we write ours."25 As a result of these comments and more foreign protests, then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone dismissed Mr. Fujio after he refused to step down. But Mr. Fujio's opinions were not so different from those of many right-wing members of the Liberal Democratic Party, according to analysts at the time. Moreover, the original draft of the textbook put out by the National Congress to Protect Japan has elements within it similar to wording placed in a 1995 Diet-passed war resolution that suggested Japan was acting no differently than other imperialists did at the time of World War II (see JEI Report No. 22B, June 16, 1995).

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The Old Debate And The New Parameters

The two-steps forward, one-step backward dance of Japanese politicians long has raised questions abroad as to whether thinking there has changed much from the prewar days when racial superiority and ultranationalism were taught in schools. The dance is a familiar one. One Japanese politician advances a suggestion of remorse for Japanese actions in World War II — as have Prime Ministers Toshiki Kaifu, Morihiro Hosokawa and Tomiichi Murayama — but shortly afterward another politician takes a reverse position, indicating that Japan either exhibited no aggression or did nothing that was not being done by other powerful countries at the time. In a masterful but almost meaningless "I'm sorry but Johnny did it, too" compromise on a "war resolution," politicians passed through the Diet in mid-1995 a statement that reflected "deep remorse" for Japan's pre-1945 actions that caused "unbearable suffering ... particularly in Asia" but also noted that these actions were not so different from "the many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world." (For a review of the war resolution debate, see JEI Report No. 25A, July 7, 1995.)

This interplay reflects the same pervasive pacifist-conservative split over how to view the country's actions in World War II that has been a key part of the textbook controversies. Now, however, because of the efforts of pacifists, foreign officials and critics concerned about what they have seen as inaccurate or incomplete information in Japanese textbooks, students are receiving a broader description of Japan's World War II actions than has been available in the past 45 years or so (see Appendix). As mentioned earlier, Mr. Ienaga's efforts and foreign protests helped to clear the way for use of the word "invasion" rather than "advance" to describe the Japanese army's battles in China. The Ministry of Education through its course of studies, or Gakushu shido yoryo, also has expanded the international aspect of the broad goals it wants authors to promote in their textbooks. A more internationally aware 1989 version of the course of study for junior high schools, the latest revision, states as the general curriculum aims for history:

  • To interpret Japanese history against the background of world history, and through this to make students reflect on the culture and traditions of Japan from a broad viewpoint, at the same time fostering an awareness of themselves as Japanese citizens.
  • To give students an understanding of the characteristics and changes involved in each period of history, while also arousing their interest in the history and geographical features of their own region, and at the same time getting them to think about the influence of each period on social life today.
  • To create an understanding of and foster an attitude of respect for historical personages who contributed to the development of the nation, society, and culture or to the improvement of human life, and for cultural assets surviving to the present day, with reference to their period and region.
  • To give them a general outline of international relations and cultural exchanges as seen in history, making them think about how the histories and cultures of Japan and other nations are deeply interrelated, at the same time fostering an interest in the culture, ways of life, etc. of other peoples and encouraging a spirit of international cooperation.
  • To encourage an interest in and concern for history via the study of specific matters, fostering the ability and readiness to put all kinds of materials to use in considering historical phenomena from many different angles and making fair judgments.26

More specific directives that refer to Japan and the two world wars state: "Give an outline account of the international situation from the World War I to World War II. .... In doing so, explain the close ties or antagonisms between the nations of the world and the sufferings inflicted on the whole of mankind by the two great wars."27 The course of study also recommends how content should be addressed, stating, for example, that discussions of the industrial revolution should focus on England and that world changes that included efforts to open Japan to world commerce during the Tokugawa era should explain not only the background that resulted in European and American ventures into Asia but the internal developments that included the collapse of the shogunate. The material that refers to the world wars, the course of studies says, also should draw student attention "to the importance of efforts toward the realization of international cooperation and international peace."

From the Education Ministry's perspective, curriculum parameters are indeed broader than they were for the 1889 Imperial Rescript on Education, in which the goal of history courses was "to teach the essential of the kokutai (national entity) and what it means to be a Japanese.28 Now, while teaching patriotism remains a goal, so does the teaching of a sense of Japan's place in the international world.

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As Histories Grow More Descriptive, Nationalism Gains A Higher Profile

The 1995 debate over war guilt indicated that the differences of opinion regarding Japan's wartime behavior run as deep as ever, but now at least some textbooks are becoming more descriptive about Japan's actions before and during World War II and decreasing the conspiracy of silence or minimalism that helped to prevent young citizens from learning from events of the past. Acknowledging the good and the bad in a nation's history so that the next generation is not destined to repeat mistakes out of ignorance is one of the goals of studying history. Given the ultranationalism in prewar textbooks and the minimal (and sometimes inaccurate) World War II descriptions of the earliest postwar history books, some educators and historians now are questioning the extent of those influences. Certainly the promilitarist texts before the war did not make everyone in Japan prowar. Former Prime Minister Murayama, a pacifist, grew up studying under ultranationalist textbooks, as did, of course, such World War II veterans as Shigeto Nagano. (Mr. Nagano was forced to resign as justice minister in 1994 when he termed as fabrications the description of Japanese soldiers raping and killing civilians in Nanjing in 1937.) Assessing the extent to which textbooks influence nationalistic or pacifistic trends is obviously a risky business. But the concern about influence is as much a question today for the lack of detail that many postwar texts provided as was the indoctrination favoring military solutions before the war.

Some analysts question whether the bland textbooks of the postwar period might have prepared the soil for what they see as a resurgence of nationalism in Japan. The truer state of affairs probably is that enough time has passed, along with enough criticism of misrepresentations about Japanese actions during the war, that the debate between pacifists and conservatives is becoming more open. Moreover, with the 1989 death of the Showa emperor, the posthumous name of Emperor Hirohito, more analysts have begun to review Japan's history with less concern about offending an emperor in whose name Japanese soldiers died in World War II but who could not be blamed publicly after the war. These arguments are taking place among people who studied solely under the pre-1946 texts and some of their younger compatriots whose lessons came from both prewar and postwar texts. Direct attempts to link textbooks' influence to political leanings some 40 or more years later can only mislead, however, if they highlight any particular person's educational experience without taking into account a full range of influences. For example, new Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, age 58, would have had his earliest lessons from ultranationalistic wartime texts and then would have studied under the more bland occupation versions. Yet, before becoming prime minister, Mr. Hashimoto also served as president of the Association of Bereaved Families, an organization that has protested acknowledgement by official Japan of any "war guilt." These outside influences reasonably could be assumed to have shaped his impressions about the war more than any textbook.

Mr. Hashimoto also provides a case in point about how the pragmatism of politics — or just the multifaceted nature of Japan's debate over the war — complicates any assessment of past influences. Since becoming prime minister as the head of a three-party coalition that includes his own LDP, Mr. Murayama's Social Democratic Party of Japan and the New Sakigake Party, Mr. Hashimoto has stated that he basically supported a speech made by his predecessor in August last year; at that time Mr. Murayama not only apologized for Japan's World War II actions but termed its policy of aggression "mistaken" (see JEI Report No. 32B, August 25, 1995). The only difference that Mr. Hashimoto said he had wanted in Mr. Murayama's speech was to change the words "end of the war" to when "Japan was defeated." Other than that change of words, he told a press conference after being selected as prime minister in January, his opinion was the same as Mr. Murayama's. If their thinking actually is similar, which some longtime Japan watchers question, the debate about how some of the younger generation of leaders in Japan are reviving "nationalism" may revolve around such nuances as "end of the war" versus the more forthright "Japan's defeat." Yet, the word "defeat" also allows for images of victims. Simply referring to the end of the war suggests the end of pain, misery and fighting, while defeat implies Japan had been doing its utmost until its surrender.

Although Japan watchers contend that Mr. Hashimoto is not an extreme rightist, as are some members of the Liberal Democratic Party that he leads, they surmise that the prime minister and others in the elite political conservative corps feel that Japan carried out the Pacific War to liberate Asia and not simply as a way of expanding its own territory, the view typically held in the West. The degree to which that attitude was influenced by prewar and occupation texts is likely to be far less important today than whether these politicians take an active interest in promoting textbook changes, similar to the word switches that Mr. Hashimoto requested in Mr. Murayama's speech.

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Textbook Opportunities As Japan Balances On The International High Wire

A difficulty facing Japanese politicians who feel that the Pacific War was one of liberation and who want to expand Japan's influence among its Asian neighbors is that these same neighbors do not agree that Japan was liberating them 50 and more years ago. Were Japan to take an approach to its history books similar to the one that Germany and Poland used after Germany's defeat in 1945, then perhaps Japanese politicians would spend less time doing the two-step over what the history books should or should not say. Gerhard Lehmbruch of Germany's University of Konstanz has noted that the semiofficial Schulbuch-Institut at Braunschweig worked with German historians and "experts from neighboring countries that suffered in the war to try to find some common ground in the presentation and evaluation of the past in primary and secondary school textbooks."29 Since the writers of Japanese textbooks work independently, no obvious constraint stands in the way of organizing similar cooperative approaches, unless there is a perception among Japanese writers that the textbook certification process is a barrier to attempts to include foreign views of Japanese actions. Apparently at least one cooperative effort is underway between a group of Japanese and Korean historians.30

In direct contrast to the attitude that led to former Education Minister Fujio's ouster, noted above, history books written in cooperation with an author from any of Japan's neighboring countries could offer Japanese students greater perspective. The problem that authorship representing more than one country would not resolve, however, is that of the squeaky-wheel syndrome, in which countries that have protested Japanese versions of pre-1945 relations, such as Korea and China, have succeeded in sensitizing authors to their views while less attention may be paid to the Pacific War elsewhere — such as in the Philippines and Singapore. As a result, students could graduate with the impression that Japan had little involvement in those areas during the war, according to Ms. Thakur.31

If textbooks were not the primary means of conveying to students what the schools want them to learn, the textbook controversies in Japan might not be quite so critical. But many analysts have stressed that textbooks are close to the sole means used to address the nationally mandated curriculum. Some teachers who disagree with the thrust of particular textbooks have been known to bring supplementary materials into class to give students a variety of views about the subject in question. This may happen more at the elementary level, however, than in junior high or high schools where teachers are busy trying to teach all the facts needed to help students pass the entrance examinations that determine whether a student gets into the next level at a school of his or her choice. Under a system that still draws the elite from the best universities, moreover, those students likely to be most intent on passing entrance exams to prestigious schools are most likely to become future corporate and government leaders. Yet, these may be the very students whose education is rigidly structured to mirror what is likely to be on the entrance examinations. Exam attention to detail leaves little time for seeking out diversified information or sources of information, although entrance examinations do go beyond fill-in-the-blank questions about names and places to require occasional responses as to the importance of events. (See Table 2 for a sample from an examination preparation book.)

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Influences Of Teachers, Bullies And Parents

A world where teachers, classmates and parents provide alternative perspectives — whether through ethnicity, varied work or travel experiences or other influences — can help give students an outlook beyond what textbooks alone provide. While Japan's education establishment for many years consisted of varied political philosophies, as represented by the conservative Education Ministry on one side and the socialist — some even say communist-oriented — Japan Teachers' Union on the other, this opportunity for difference has diminished in recent years as JTU membership has waned. Moreover, a country that sees itself as homogeneous — and takes pride in that — does not always acknowledge its diverse elements. For example, Koreans, Japan's largest ethnic minority, appear to have had far less influence in changing the way history books discussed Japan's occupation of Korea than did protests from Seoul. That result stems in part from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointing to the maintenance of good foreign relations with neighboring countries as a reason for the Ministry of Education to reconsider how history is presented in Japan. Another example of the problems faced by those who are different in Japan is the current concern over bullying in the schools, because bullies and other people who think the same way can make life miserable for students perceived as "different." And, while parents' role in the education of their children often has won admiration in other countries, their participation is virtually nil in the choice of textbooks or similar administrative components of education.

Japan Teachers' Union - Long considered a counterbalance to the conservative Ministry of Education, the teachers' union today in Japan is far weaker than it was in the past. In addition to its falling membership the group last year split over a decision to end its specific opposition to the use of kimigayo and hinomaru as Japan's national anthem and flag, respectively. Used as de facto symbols of state, kimigayo and hinomaru symbolized to the union an abhorent prewar militarism. Although union leaders said members still opposed "forced use" of the flag and the anthem in schools, the formal omission of the opposition from the union's 1995 platform marked a path-breaking move toward reconciliation with the Ministry of Education. Indicative of the fresh approach being promoted by the union, its early February 1996 national meeting opened with a message from the prime minister and the first message from an education minister since the union was founded in 1951. With greater cooperation between the ministry and teachers, the influence on curriculum could turn to either the conservative or the liberal side, but the chances for more effective implementation of change have increased.

Bullying - One of the areas in which education officials say that they would like to see change is the problem of bullying, which became the focus of increased national attention after a junior high student committed suicide in late 1994 and left a note blaming fellow students for bullying him and extorting money from him. More suicides followed with similar notes left blaming ijime, or bullying. A study committee formed by the Education Ministry in late 1994 urged parents and teachers to cooperate to bring an end to violence in the schools. Over the past year, however, school administrators have been criticized after some student suicides for not taking reports of bullying seriously; in other cases teachers have been accused of leading the way in singling students out as being different. The idea apparently is that a student who is taunted will try harder to keep up with his or her classmates and not lag behind. In a Kyodo News Service survey taken before the Japan Teachers' Union conference in February just 11 percent of the 65 responding teachers said that they believed that the bullies should be suspended from school; in contrast, all but one of the respondents agreed with the statement "it can't be helped that in severe cases of bullying the bullied student skips school for a while."32 One of the members of the MOE group that studied bullying in 1994 was quoted as saying then, "As long as people think that bullying is also to be blamed on the victim, bullying will not come to light."33

In its FY 1996 budget proposal the Education Ministry requested ¥1.4 billion ($14.4 million at ¥100=$1.00) to combat bullying and truancy, primarily by hiring school counselors. Yet, the small number of additional counselors sought is unlikely to have much effect on a problem linked so closely to the deep-seated distaste in Japan for being different — as evidenced by the familiar Japanese saying, "The nail that sticks up is hammered down." For students with ethnic or other characteristics that make them different, or for students singled out for whatever reason, the problem of bullying translates to one that on a broad scale leads to little understanding about differing viewpoints. And that, of course, is at the heart of efforts to expand textbook contents so that controversies are aired by students with differing opinions and not by countries claiming that Japanese students are learning that only one viewpoint exists.

Parents' Role in Textbook Selection - In contrast to America where school districts typically choose texts after parents or their representatives on school boards or other committees have had the opportunity to study the books and voice their comments, Japanese schools have no such public selection process. Nor in Japan is there the equivalent of home-schooling, a U.S. alternative for parents who object to the available choices of textbooks and school curriculum. Although in Japan parents can seek to be a representative on the selection committee for their local school board that helps to choose books from among the texts authorized by the Ministry of Education, the authorization process itself allows for no direct public involvement. However, since 1991 draft and sample textbooks submitted to the Textbook Authorization Council have been put on display publicly for about two months.34

Another distinction between the American and the Japanese selection process is that local control over choices of textbooks is more restricted in Japan than in the United States. While Japanese school boards can choose books from among those authorized by the Ministry of Education, school boards across the United States can pick any textbook or other material that fits with the curriculum established by the school district. In practice the states with the largest numbers of students and the most refined curriculum outlines attract publishers that then try to fulfill these states' requirements. Typically Texas and California standards have been those that publishers follow. The process of adhering to curriculum standards is simpler for publishers in Japan, but the results also are more uniform across the country. As the current U.S. debate over national standards indicates, a uniform requirement can be good in that it promotes a certain level of education across all states, but such a requirement also can be harmful if it ignores local standards or provides an opportunity for nationwide indoctrination.

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Outlook

Not only foreign analysts but Japanese politicians and others have voiced concern that, without some attention to the values of creative thinking and diversity, the rigidity in Japan's school system will continue to produce graduates who are unable to give Japan the analytical, creative drive that the country needs to become more internationally involved and more productive as a first-class power. Although both Mr. Hashimoto and Ichiro Ozawa, head of the opposition Shinshinto, have written books about their visions of Japan's future, only Mr. Ozawa devoted a chapter to the importance of education. "To see true liberty in Japanese society," Mr. Ozawa wrote, "we must embark upon bold education reforms." Revisions to the entrance examination system, he suggests, would follow as a result of shifting from a uniform national curriculum to one in which the central government sets standards for basic academic skills and committees appointed by local governments oversee regulation of applied studies.35

Although Mr. Ozawa stressed in his book that Japan's education system does much right and has earned praise from throughout the world, he noted that foreign analysts have claimed that Japanese students do not learn "that there is more than one way to interpret a single issue." That complaint infuses the textbook controversies. For, while textbooks often are considered a source of facts, as children progress in school they learn that facts do not come isolated from content. And content — even when new facts and new analyses spur attempts at revisionist history — is not isolated within one society or one country.


Ai Ando provided research assistance.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent those of the Japan Economic Institute

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Appendix
aaa

The following selections are excerpts from Japanese and American textbooks currently in use. The Japanese sections are from junior high and high school textbooks, while the American ones are taken from texts used in Trumbull, Connecticut high schools.

Nanjing Massacre

As told by the Tokyo Shoseki text for junior high school:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

The opposing Japanese and Chinese armies in northern China clashed outside Beijing in July 1937. The Japanese army immediately extended its front throughout northern China and began fighting even in Shanghai. Thus, the Japan-China War started without a proclamation of war. The Japanese army invaded northern China and occupied the capital, Nanjing.

At this time, the Japanese army massacred a large number of Chinese, including women and children. Japan came under attack from foreign countries for the Nanjing Massacre, but the general populace in Japan knew nothing about it.

Source:Tadashi Kawata, Masahide Bito and Hiroshi Tanabe et al., Atarashii Shakai: Rekishi (New Social Studies: History) (Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, February 1993), as translated in International Society for Educational Information, Japan in Modern History, Junior High School (Tokyo: 1994), pp. 129 and 131.

As told by the Osaka Shoseki text for junior high school:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

…In July 1937 the Japanese army clashed with the Chinese army on the outskirts of Beijing and the fighting extended across North China to Shanghai. Thus the Japan-China War of 1937-45 started without a formal declaration of war. ... In Nanjing the army massacred large numbers of Chinese people, including not only prisoners of war, but women and children. (In a footnote the text adds, "It has been said that 200,000 people were slaughtered by the Japanese army in this incident, which was condemned internationally as the "Nanjing Massacre.")

Source:Isao Atsuta et al., Chugaku Shakai: Rekishiteki Bunya (Social Studies for Junior High School: History) (Osaka: Osaka Shoseki, February 1993), as translated in International Society for Educational Information, Japan in Modern History, Junior High School (Tokyo: 1994), p. 321.

As told by the Sanseido text for high school:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

In December 1937, when occupying the KMT [Kuomintang] capital of Nanjing, the Japanese army caused a great slaughter against the Chinese military and civilians. Criticism arose internationally of this massacre, and resistance by the Chinese became stronger. (In a footnote the text says: "The large-scale plundering, arson and massacre by the Japanese army that occupied Nanjing is called the 'Great Nanjing Massacre' or the 'Nanjing Incident.' The victims, including that of the battle, are more than 200,000, according to Tomio Hora, and 300,000, according to China."

Source:Nihonshi (History of Japan) (Tokyo: Sanseido K.K., March 1994). Translation provided by Ai Ando for JEI.


None of the American textbooks reviewed mentioned the Nanjing Massacre.

 

The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the War's End

As described by the Tokyo Shoseki text for junior high school:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

... In the names of the United States, Britain, and China, the Potsdam Declaration announced to Japan the conditions for its surrender. When the Japanese government turned a deaf ear, the United States, wanting to gain the upper hand in the conflict with the USSR anticipated after the war and for other reasons, dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6. On August 8, the Soviet Union, in compliance with the discussions at the Yalta Conference and ignoring the Russo-Japanese nonaggression pact, declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. On August 9, the United States dropped another atom bomb on Nagasaki.

Because the casualties from the atom bomb were so numerous, the exact number of people who died is not known, but it is estimated that within a few years of the dropping of the bomb, more than 200,000 people had died in Hiroshima and over 140,000 in Nagasaki. ... The damage from these bombs shows people today the terror of nuclear weapons.

Japan finally accepted the Potsdam Declaration and decided to surrender. ...

Source:Kawata, et al., op. cit., pp. 151 and 153.

As described by the Sanseido text for high school:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

The government [of Japan] planned to continue fighting even if it was isolated, but the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, and another on Nagasaki on August 9. Lives lost in Hiroshima were 140,000 and in Nagasaki 90,000, and some still suffer from radiation now. It is also said that the reason why the United States used the atomic bombs was to predominate over the Soviet Union. On August 8 the Soviet Union joined the war in line with decisions made at the secretive Yalta Conference, and invaded Manchuria, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.

Then the government decided to surrender and told the Allied Forces that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration. On August 15 the emperor told the Japanese people of the surrender. This was a liberation day for people in countries like China that were occupied by Japan.

Source:Nihonshi, op.cit.

As described in American high school texts:

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

Within Japan, a new government was looking for a way out. In July it requested Soviet mediation to bring the war to an end, though it added, 'So long as the enemy demands unconditional surrender we will fight as one man.' ... At the same time, the American government, following the Japanese peace explorations through decoded cable intercepts, came to the conclusion that the best way to hasten the end of the war would be to issue a solemn plea to the Japanese to surrender before it was too late. This warning was embodied somewhat cryptically in a declaration issued at Potsdam by [President] Truman and Clement Atlee. ... The Japanese government was inclined to accept this ultimatum, but the military leaders angrily disagreed. On July 28 the Japanese prime minister, in a statement designed for domestic consumption, pronounced the Potsdam Declaration unworthy of public notice.

... Primarily Truman was moved by his interpretation of Japanese political and military conditions. On his orders, on August 6, ... the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, killing nearly 100,000 people through blast or radiation. ...

Even after this appalling blow the Japanese military vetoed the civilian desire to accept the Potsdam Declaration. Two days after Hiroshima, the Red Army invaded Manchuria and, on the third day, with no word from Tokyo, the American air command ... dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. In Tokyo the military still objected to unconditional surrender. It required the personal intervention of the emperor to overcome their opposition. With Japanese acceptance of Potsdam conditioned on the preservation of the imperial prerogatives, the act of surrender took place on September 2, 1945.

Source:John M. Blum, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., William S. McFeely, Kenneth M. Stampp, Edmund S. Morgan and C. Vann Woodward, The National Experience: A History of the United States, Sixth Edition (San Diego, California: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1985), pp. 754-755.

e--aaaaa- --aaaaa-

…Allied leaders assembled at Potsdam sent an ultimatum to the enemy: 'The alternative to surrender is prompt and utter destruction.' No surrender came, because Japanese military leaders overruled the government. On August 6 the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare was dropped on Hiroshima, killing instantly nearly 75,000 persons and injuring 100,000 more in a city of 344,000; many more would die from the effects of radiation. Still no word from the government. Two days later, as it had promised in Yalta, the Soviet Union entered the war and overran Japanese forces in Manchuria.

On August 9, a second bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. At last, on August 10, Tokyo sued for peace, but made a condition: that Emperor Hirohito be permitted to retain his throne. This condition was accepted by the Allies. On September 2, 1945, formal surrender ceremonies were conducted in Tokyo Bay on the battleship Missouri, with General MacArthur accepting for the victors.

Source:Winthrop Jordan, Leon F. Litwack, Richard Hofstadter, William Miller and Daniel Aaron, The United States, Sixth Edition, Combined Edition (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1987), p. 692.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent those of the Japan Economic Institute

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Notes
aaa

1aa Teacher John Scopes, who was accused in 1925 of violating a Tennessee law that prohibited the teaching of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, lost the trial, but the state supreme court later overturned his conviction even while it upheld the law. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar law in 1968. Return to Text

2aa Lawrence W. Beer, Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative Law, Politics, and Society (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 1984), p. 255. Return to Text

3aa Ibid., p. 256, and the references cited therein. Return to Text

4aa Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931-1945. A Critical Perspective on Japan's Role in World War II (New York, New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), p. 19. Return to Text

5aa Ibid., p. 20. Return to Text

6aa Yoko Hirohashi Thakur, "History Textbook Reform in Allied Occupied Japan, 1945-52," History of Education Quarterly, XXXV, No. 3, Fall 1995, pp. 262-263. Return to Text

7aa Ibid., pp. 263-264, and the references cited therein. Return to Text

8aa Ibid., p. 266. Return to Text

9aa Ibid., p. 266. Return to Text

10aa Ibid., p. 269. Return to Text

11aa China will be used in this report from the first reference, since it did not become the People's Republic of China until October 1949. Return to Text

12aa Translation provided in Thakur, op. cit., p. 270. Return to Text

13aa Yoko Hirohashi Thakur, "Japanese Textbooks and World War II in East Asia and the Pacific," Prepared remarks for presentation at an international conference on Violent Endings, New Beginnings ... Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Ending of World War II in the Pacific and East Asia, the National Archives, College Park, Maryland, October 13-14, 1995. The quote is from Sadao Asada. Return to Text

14aa If sensitivity to U.S. feelings in the postoccupation period had been the case, one high school text authorized immediately after the occupation probably would not have been allowed to devote 20 pages to the atomic bombs and related issues. See Ibid. and the references cited therein. Return to Text

15aa Thakur ("Japanese Textbooks …"), op. cit. Return to Text

16aa The attitudes of Okinawans toward the central government is part of the current debate over reducing U.S. military installations on the island. See JEI Report No. 36B, September 29, 1995. Return to Text

17aa Telephone interview with John W. Dower, professor of international cooperation and global stability, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 29, 1996. Return to Text

18aa Beer, op. cit., p. 266. Return to Text

19aa Saburo Ienaga, "Glorification of War in Japanese Education," International Security, XVIII, No. 3 (Winter 1993/94), p. 128. Return to Text

20aa Lawrence W. Beer, "Freedom of Expression: The Continuing Revolution," Law and Contemporary Problems. The Constitution of Japan — The Fifth Decade, LIII, No. 2, Winter & Spring 1990, p. 64. Return to Text

21aa Beer (1984), op. cit., p. 271. Return to Text

22aa Beer (1984), op. cit., p. 271. Return to Text

23aa Beer (1984), op. cit., p. 271. Return to Text

24aa Cited in Ienaga, (1993/94), op. cit., p. 130. Return to Text

25aa John Cogan and Walter Enloe, "The Japanese History Textbook Controversy Revisited," Social Education, October 1987, p. 450. Return to Text

26aa International Society for Educational Information, Inc., Japan in Modern History, Junior High School (Tokyo: 1994), pp. 575-576. Return to Text

27aa Ibid., p. 580. Return to Text

28aa Beer (1984), op. cit., p. 256. Return to Text

29aa On-line communication to the SSJ Forum@iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp from Gerhard Lehmbruch, professor of political science, University of Konstanz. Used with permission from Dr. Lehmbruch via January 23, 1996 facsimile message. Return to Text

30aa Thakur ("Japanese Textbooks ..."), op. cit., and the references cited therein. Return to Text

31aa Interview with Yoko Hirohashi Thakur, professorial lecturer, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., January 25, 1996. Return to Text

32aa Kyodo News Service, "Teachers believe bullied students should take leave," January 28, 1996. Return to Text

33aa Kyodo News Service, "Committee appeals to schools, parents to halt bullying," December 9, 1994. Return to Text

34aa Masaru Tani, Masami Hasuko, Donald Lankiewicz, Stan Christodlous and Salvatore J. Natoli, "Textbook Development and Selection in Japan and the United States, Social Education, LVII, No. 2, February 1993, p. 73. Return to Text

35aa Ichiro Ozawa, Blueprint for a New Japan: The Rethinking of a Nation (Tokyo: Kodansha International, Inc., 1994), pp. 203-207. Return to Text

The views expressed in this report are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent those of the Japan Economic Institute

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