Japanese Textbook Controversies, Nationalism, and Historical Memory: Intra- and Inter-national Conflicts
Yoshiko NOZAKI and Mark Selden
Japan’s neonationalists have launched three major attacks on school textbooks over the past half century.1 Centered on the treatment of colonialism and war, the attacks surfaced in 1955, the late 1970s, and the mid-1990s. The present study examines three moments in light of Japanese domestic as well as regional and global political contexts to gain insight into the persistent contention over colonialism and the Pacific War in historical memory and its refraction in textbook treatments.
If school textbooks are important “weapons of mass instruction” as Charles Ingrao tells us,2 they may speak not only to the youth and citizens of a nation but also, through the mass media and the pronouncements of state leaders, to other nations and people. Indeed, although educational policies are often judged in terms of their pedagogical value for classroom teaching and learning, the symbolic functions and actual effects of textbook policies on domestic and international politics are extremely important.3
Textbook controversies invite us to look beyond the nation to educational processes that might contribute to regional and global dynamics and conceptions that could help overcome some of the problems inherent in national, and often nationalistic, education. In this we seek to raise problems that apply no less to China and Korea, and to the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, than to Japan. We raise these global and comparative issues through an examination of Japan’s textbook controversies, particularly as these apply to historical memories of colonialism and war, that is, issues that directly impinge on China, Korea, Southeast Asia, and the United States, as well as Japan.
Before examining the three epochs, we briefly note distinctive features of the postwar Japanese system of textbook writing, approval, and adoption.4 The state publishes instruction guidelines (shido-yoryo) for grades one through twelve, according to which commercial publishers develop texts. Texts need to be authorized as “school textbooks” (kyokasho) by the state to be used by public and even private schools. Publishers submit draft texts to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbusho; hereafter MOE) for approval, that is, to the textbook screening system that was introduced in 1948.5 Textbook Screening Examiners examine the texts and the Textbook Screening Council makes decisions.6
A screening process often takes several months, because the texts are usually conditionally approved, meaning that the state almost always calls for revisions.7 Over the past half century, the state repeatedly required history textbook authors to make changes on sensitive issues concerning the Asia Pacific War (taking place from 1931 to 1945). Each high school (grades ten through twelve) adopts texts from among the authorized texts. For elementary and junior high schools (grades one through nine), local districts adopt texts. Teachers are required to use the authorized texts for instruction, although they may supplement the text with other books and their own handouts.
In contrast to some countries (e.g. China, Taiwan, and South Korea), Japanese textbooks are not written under direct government supervision or published by the state. Moreover, multiple texts (with variations in terms of content) are available for a given subject in the Japanese system. However, in contrast to the American system, in which larger states, notably Texas and California, vet texts produced by commercial publishers, affecting the content of textbooks available nationwide, the Japanese system has operated through a national government screening system which constricts publisher options, notably in periods of sharp nationalist attack on textbooks. In other words, the American system controls textbook content through state level controls together with adoption processes and market forces; the Japanese system exercises control primarily through state screening.8
Japanese Politics and the First Textbook Attack of 1955
Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers on 15 August 1945. Beginning in September, the US-led occupation authorities (Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, SCAP) set in motion changes that would profoundly transform core elements of Japanese politics, society, and education within the framework of US power. They did so, however, on foundations of significant continuities that included working through the Japanese government (and its bureaucratic systems) rather than exercising direct rule.
In particular, while new educational laws passed the Diet, the administrative structure of the Japanese education system remained essentially intact. The postwar school curriculum was a critical area of democratization reform. Though some reformers called for abolition of state control over school textbooks, the MOE succeeded in retaining direct control over textbook authorization by introducing a textbook screening system.9
The most significant curriculum document, however, was Japan’s new constitution, promulgated in 1946, proclaiming its pacifist principles. The MOE had schools begin to teach about the new constitution almost immediately. However, the new constitution and its peace provision would soon become the most fundamental site of political and ideological battles in postwar Japan. The first textbook attack was, indeed, derived from these battles.
Political Instability and Shifting Battlegrounds: From Constitution to Textbooks
During the occupation period, politics and ideological divisions were in the process of formation, fluid and unstable. Among more than 350 newly formed political parties, the Liberal Party (Jiyuto, LP) triumphed in the first postwar election in 1946, winning 141 seats. However, LP leader Hatoyama Ichiro was purged immediately after the election by SCAP for wartime collaboration. His deputy, Yoshida Shigeru became prime minister.10 In the 1947 elections, the Socialist Party (Shakaito, SP) led in both the upper and lower houses of parliament (though far from winning a majority in either). The SP, with two conservative parties, formed two shortlived coalition governments. Yoshida returned as Prime Minister in 1948, recapturing the levers of state authority, and in 1949 his party LP won 264 seats, the majority of the Lower House.11 Yoshida wielded power for the next six years, playing a key role in crafting both the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the US-Japan Security Pact.
In June 1951, many politicians, including Hatoyama, were depurged and returned to the political arena. The conflict between Hatoyama and Yoshida ruptured the ruling party LP. In the same year, the major opposition party, SP, also split over the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Its right faction supported ratification while the left rejected the treaty that excluded the Soviet Union and China. Each group claimed the name Socialist Party, so they were called the Left SP and the Right SP. In the Lower House election of 1953, the major issue was amending the 1946 Constitution to allow the nation to remilitarize. Hatoyama, forming his own party (so called Hatoyama’s LP), championed the constitutional amendment and remilitarization, Yoshida, while allowing the remilitarization in practice, remained vague on the amendment, and the left and right-wing SPs were against it. Yoshida’s LP still led in the election result, and so he remained in power.
The Yoshida administration collapsed in a 1954 corruption scandal, allowing Hatoyama of the Democratic Party (Minshuto, DP; formed in the fall of 1954) to form a temporary government (with the support of the Left and Right SPs).12 In the Lower House election of February 1955 Hatoyama again campaigned on a platform calling for the revision of the 1946 constitution, and especially for revision of its pacifist provision, found in Article 9. National policy on textbooks surfaced for the first time as a campaign issue, with Nakasone Yasuhiro, a young hawk of the DP calling for a system of publishing and adopting textbooks that were tightly supervised by the state.
The electorate was divided. Out of 467 seats, the DP won 185, the LP 112, and the SPs 156 (the left-wing SP winning eighty-nine and the right-wing SP sixty-seven; in October 1955 the two SPs would reunite). With one third of the lower house seats, the SPs had the votes to block constitutional amendments – behind this victory was the unions, including Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU), emerging as a major force in electoral politics. With the revision of Article 9 foreclosed (provisionally), the battle over textbooks and education would take center stage in the upcoming Diet sessions. In other words, textbook struggles would substitute for the battles over the 1946 constitution and its renunciation of war.
The Attack on Textbooks and the 1955 Regime
The first major attack on textbooks took place in June 1955, following testimony before the Diet by Ishii Kazutomo, a former official of the JTU, who alleged that textbook publishers had bribed local school officials in charge of textbook adoption.13 Ishii’s main target, however, was “textbook bias,” particularly in social studies and history textbooks.14 Ishii attacked these texts, which had been approved by the government in the occupation period, for promoting a leftwing, anti-capitalist agenda.
Ishii was soon working secretly with the DP on a series of brochures that criticized textbook descriptions written by authors close to the JTU. The DP brochures made extreme charges. For example, one elementary school social studies textbook was criticized for stating that between the seventh and the ninth century “[i]n order to learn the advanced culture of China, envoys were sent,” on grounds that the line was “extremely biased” and for “praising China and subordinating Japan.”15 Even some high-powered conservative politicians saw such charges as troublesome; however, they remained silent because behind the scenes of the textbook attack was the negotiation to consolidate two conservative parties, DP and LP, to establish a post-occupation political and social order that came to be known as the 1955 regime.
The textbook attack provided ideological “glue” for the DP-LP merger, which eventually took place in November 1955 with formation of the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiyuminshuto, LDP). It was also a symbolic action in the realm of politics, “a way of shaping public consciousness and give meaning and direction to an entire sphere of social relations and . . . institutions.”16 Indeed, the 1955 regime shaped Japanese politics and education to the present. In the one and a half party system (the SP held approximately half the Diet seats of the LDP) that continued for four decades, the LDP, with strong overt and covert US support, dominated the Lower House, while the SP remained the leading opposition party until its steep decline in the 1990s.17
The 1955 attack lent support to MOE attempts to revise history textbooks through the screening processes. Although screening is conducted behind closed doors, some authors have disclosed specific demands for excision or revision made by MOE.
The MOE’s History Textbook Screening in the Late 1950s and 1960s
Although, in the early 1950s, the MOE began to reverse the course of postwar curriculum reform, views on history among its textbook examiners were far from uniform. For example, when Ienaga Saburo submitted his first high school history textbook manuscript in 1952, it was rejected. One examiner, saying that “too much space” was devoted to the Pacific War, suggested that Ienaga drop the entire discussion on the grounds that students had no need to study the war since they had experienced it. However, Ienaga resubmitted the manuscript without revision, a procedure that was then permitted, and this time it was approved.
Following the 1955 textbook attack, the MOE increased the number of screening council members to add conservatives to the board and created full-time textbook examiner positions, filling the social studies positions with nationalists holding the emperor-centered view of history and eager to defend the empire and Japan’s Asia Pacific Wars. MOE also revised the screening process regulations,18 and, in 1958, it issued a ministerial ordinance in which it declared that new Instructional Guidelines would have legal force.
Behind closed doors, MOE examiners openly questioned the premises of “scientific” (kagakuteki) history, historical research based on empirical data and critical scrutiny of mythology, which was the mainstay of postwar history education. During the war, such studies were routinely suppressed when their findings contradicted official narratives written from an emperor-centered perspective. Wartime history education was also almost totally divorced from historical research, and school textbooks served as the most important vehicles for disseminating emperor-centered historical narratives.19 Postwar history textbook authors, having learned negative lessons from the wartime experience, were committed to empirically-based textbooks.
In the mid 1950s, some of the MOE comments on history texts challenged empirical research and called for the cultivation of nationalism. For example:20
[This book] is as a whole too scientific. In particular, its description of history from the Meiji period  to date is extremely lacking in [the spirit] of [Japan’s] autonomy [jishusei], to the extent that [I] sometimes took it to be the textbook of a foreign country, and wondered whether it was a social studies textbook for Japanese junior high school students or for certain [foreign] countries.21
Apparently, “too scientific” was a reference to critical treatments of events in Japan’s modern history, including aggressive wars. The MOE held to the nationalist and ethnocentric perspective that a textbook for Japanese students must steadfastly support the actions of the Japanese state and its leaders, regardless of their consequences. Toward this end, history textbooks were criticized for being empirical, or “too scientific.”
While MOE comments touched on all historical periods, the twentieth century received by far the most intense scrutiny, especially the Asia Pacific War. In attacking “scientific history,” the MOE targeted for revision texts that spelled out the costs of war and empire to Asian and Japanese people. The goal was praise for the goals and accomplishments of the empire.
For example, MOE’s comments in these years included: “Do not write bad things about Japan in [describing] the Pacific War. Even though they are facts, represent them in a romantic [romantikku] manner” —implication here was that the text should be more like a historical novel. “‘The Pacific War’ (Taiheiyo senso) is not a historical term. Call it the ‘Great East Asian War’ (Dai toa senso),” an allusion to the official name of the war used in wartime Japan.
The MOE often suggested that textbooks avoid singling out Japanese war crimes and atrocities by looking at Japanese conduct in “world history” perspective. Such comments included:22
It is not good only to see Japan’s past war(s) as imperialist war(s). It is inadequate to say that Japan ruled China and made it miserable.
[The textbook] says, “Our country inflicted immeasurable suffering and damage on various Asian nations, especially during the Pacific War.” . . . Eliminate this description, since a view even exists that [Japan] provided various Asian nations the chance for independence [from their Western colonizers] through the Pacific War.
[The textbook], in its treatment of the war, describes it as if Japan were unilaterally bad; it is not grounded in understanding of world history such as the international situation of the time.
In articulating this principle, the MOE censors scored important points. Japan was, of course, hardly alone in committing war crimes and atrocities associated with colonialism and invasion. Nor were these limited to the Axis powers. War crimes and atrocities had been and were committed historically by, for example, the United States in colonizing of the Philippines from 1898 to 1903 and after, and by various allied powers such as the British in seeking to maintain their colonial stake in Asia. In this respect, the United States and Britain as well as Japan need to be examined critically. Likewise, the US firebombing of sixty-four Japanese cities and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be examined in light of the guarantees of civilian immunity stipulated in international law. The point of such comparison is not, however, as the MOE attempted, to excuse Japan’s war crimes and atrocities. Rather, it is to historically explain, or understand, the roots of war atrocities and colonial violence in order to seek ways to overcome such acts. The MOE comments were in essence arguments to show that colonialism and war were inevitable and to excuse Japanese behavior on the grounds that it merely followed the examples of other colonial powers.
Since the MOE could not require total abandonment of “history as science,” there was – theoretically, at least – room for publishers and author(s) to fight back. Indeed, textbook writers and publishers frequently rebutted the most extreme criticisms and at times won minor, tactical victories.23 However, in the late 1950s and 1960s, their ability to overcome MOE revisionism, backed by conservative forces encouraged and sustained by the 1955 regime, was at best limited. Some critics call these years “the winter for textbooks,” which continued until 1970, when historian Ienaga Saburo won a ground-breaking victory in Tokyo District Court in his second lawsuit against the MOE’s censorship on his history textbook.24
The Second Attack on Textbooks and the Internationalization of the History Controversy
LDP Political Strife and the Second Attack on Textbooks
Japan felt the effects of the so-called Nixon China shock in the years between 1970 and 1972, followed almost immediately by the worldwide oil shock of 1973. In geopolitical terms, with relative peace in the region in the wake of the US-China opening and US defeat in the Vietnam War, Japan and its Asian neighbors entered a new era. Although Japan’s economic growth slowed from the ten percent level of the 1960s to an average of 3.6 percent during the period from 1974 to 1979 and 4.4 percent in the 1980s,25 calculated in US dollars, it continued to grow until the early 1990s, thus making Japan an economic superpower.26 This involved rapid internationalization of Japanese businesses and industries and trade frictions with other countries, notably the United States.
Following the Sato Eisaku administration (from 1964 to 1972), Tanaka Kakuei became Prime Minister, but, in 1974 he was forced to resign for raising enormous political funds through paper real estate companies, and, in 1976, he was arrested for accepting a bribe from Lockheed Aircraft. Throughout the 1970s, while the ruling LDP remained in disarray, its major opponent, SP, was unable to unseat it, in part because its left and right fractions continued to battle one another.
At the end of 1970s, in part because of Prime Minister Ohira Masayoshi’s death, which was seen as a casualty of the factional strife, LDP leaders became somewhat weary of the strife, and, in this context, the textbook issue came to the fore in politics when LDP young hawks vociferously criticized the social studies and Japanese language textbooks published in the 1970s as biased and/or communist-inspired. Like Nakasone built his leadership reputation through his hardline stance on school textbooks in the late 1950s and 1960s, the young hawks of 1970s choose to do the same. The LDP weekly newspaper attacked the texts, charging that many authors supported the JTU, the Communist Party, or various non-governmental democratic education movements.
This time, even language textbooks faced attack. One LDP critic targeted a Russian folktale, Okina Kabu, The Enormous Turnip, a popular content in the textbooks. Originally transcribed by folklorist Aleksandr N. Afanase’v (1826-1871), the story tells of a grandfather, grandmother, granddaughter, a dog, a cat, and a rat joining forces to pull a giant turnip out of the ground. One LDP internal document read the story as preaching that “if all [workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals] unite, [they] can topple the capitalists.”27 Other popular textbook stories targeted included: Kasako Jizo (by Iwasaku Kyoko), Okori Jizo (by Yamaguchi Yuko), and the enormously popular Yuzuru, Twilight Crane (by Kinoshita Junji).28
The second wave attack on textbooks was propelled by a wider range of proponents, including nationalist intellectuals, business interests, and politicians associated with the ruling LDP and Minshato (an opposition party formed by SP’s moderate/center-right politicians in 1960). A group of intellectuals, centered on Tsukuba University, along with business organizations, such as Keidanren (the Federation of Economic Organizations), joined the attack, lobbying for textbook revision. The Science and Technology Agency under the Prime Minister’s Office called on the new junior high school civic textbooks to remove critical references to atomic power plants. Although the texts had already been approved, the MOE successfully pressured the publishers to revise.
MOE Textbook Screening and National and International Censure in 1982
While keeping a certain distance from the highly charged political attacks, the MOE steadily tightened control over school curriculum and textbooks. In the 1980-1981 screening, it famously ordered historian Ienaga Saburo to change various passages.29 The MOE examiner commented of Ienaga’s description of the Nanjing Massacre: “[I] cannot believe that [the Japanese Force] systematically carried out the massacre as a military force. . . . [Some] phrases such as ’in the chaos during the Japanese Force’s occupation of Nanjing, numerous Chinese soldiers and civilians became victims’ can be stated.”30 While not denying that atrocities had been committed, the examiner insisted that the author highlight extenuating circumstances and eliminate reference to the responsibility of the chain of command for the massacre.
The censorship of history texts attracted little attention at this time from the Japanese media, in part due to preoccupation with textbooks for a new high school subject “Contemporary Society” (Gendai Shakai). The MOE rigorously censored their descriptions of the 1946 Constitution, the Self-Defense Forces (Jieitai, SDF), the Northern Territories conflict with the USSR, and discussions of human rights and industrial pollution. For example, textbook examiners commented: “Give an objective description without bias. Do not lean toward the theory of unconstitutionality [of maintaining SDF]. Provide balance by including the government’s view and other views” (on Article 9 and renunciation of war); “Pay attention to the size [of pictures] and better keep too tragic pictures small” (referring to pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).31
Okinawan sculptor Kinjo Minoru’s relief depicting the Battle of Okinawa, during which many Okinawans were killed or forced to commit suicide after seeking refuge in the island's caves.
In the 1981-82 screening, the MOE ordered Eguchi Keiichi and co-authors to eliminate descriptions of Okinawan citizens’ compulsory mass suicides (shudan jiketsu) in the Battle of Okinawa.32 The MOE particularly objected to reference to the role of the Japanese military in forcing citizens to commit suicide. One description that drew examiner ire was this: “In the battle [of Okinawa] . . . approximately 100,000 combatants and 200,000 civilians were killed . . . Also, approximately 800 Okinawan residents were murdered at the hand of Japanese forces for reasons such as hindering combat.” Eguchi revised the description several times; however, insisting that Eguchi’s sources be “scholarly research texts,” the examiner rejected every revision. The Okinawa Prefectural History, compiled by the Okinawa Prefecture government, which Eguchi drew on, was dismissed as “a collection of personal accounts,” hence not reliable. In other words, the MOE used the “objectivist/empiricist” argument to uphold nationalist perspectives. Eventually Eguchi had no choice but drop the entire discussion.33
The MOE announced the results of its 1981-1982 textbook screening in June of 1982.34 When major Japanese newspapers reported that descriptions of Japanese wartime atrocities in Asian countries and Okinawa had been watered down, the story was quickly picked up elsewhere.35 Widespread international censure of Japanese revisionism centered on nations that had borne the brunt of Japanese colonialism and invasion. In July 1982 both the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the People’s Republic of China lodged official protests with the Japanese government, and labor unions and social action groups in Hong Kong sent a letter of complaint to the Japanese Consulate. The official party newspaper of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) criticized the Japanese government and the Vietnamese government asked the Japanese ambassador for corrections concerning that country.36
In July, the two major Okinawan newspapers ran series criticizing MOE censorship of accounts of the Battle of Okinawa, particularly of Japanese forces killing of Okinawan civilians. Okinawan citizen movements demanded restoration of the original passages.37 In September, an extraordinary session of the Okinawan Assembly unanimously adopted “A Letter of Opinion Concerning Textbook Screening,” which it sent to the MOE. Stating that the murder of Okinawans by Japanese military forces was “an undeniable fact as clear as day,” the letter demanded “restoration of the description in short order.”38 The MOE, along with rightwing nationalists, had underestimated the changing political climate in the Asia Pacific at the very time when the Japanese economy was becoming more deeply intertwined with Chinese, South Korean, and other Asian economies.
The Japanese government sought to limit the diplomatic damage. In August 1982, Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi stated that Japan would consider fully the criticisms of its Asian neighbors in order to promote friendship and referred to “making a correction on government responsibility.”39 The Miyazawa statement did not specify what measures the government would take, but the South Korean government nevertheless accepted it. The Chinese government initially insisted that it was insufficient guarantee against future revisionism in textbook screening, but eventually it too accepted Japanese pledges to make appropriate corrections.
In October, the MOE added a clause (the so-called Kinrin shokoku joko, Neighboring Countries Clause) to the screening criteria, requiring that textbooks give “necessary consideration, in the interest of international friendship and cooperation,” to the modern and contemporary history of relations between Japan and its Asian neighbors. The MOE also noted that it would no longer require authors to replace the term “aggression” with “advance” in referring to Japan’s China war, or to add phrasing suggesting that the Nanjing Massacre occurred as a result of momentary chaos – issues that had aroused particular outrage in China. With respect to references to the number of victims of the Nanjing Massacre, the MOE announced it would only ask authors to provide citations indicating the source of estimates. At this juncture, the Education Minister held a press conference to “[officially] close the textbook controversy.”40 The settlement left the administrative structure of the MOE and its nationalist orientation untouched.
The Nakasone Reforms and the First Postwar Nationalist Textbook
In November 1982, Nakasone Yasuhiro rose to become Prime Minster as a vigorous anti-communist politician and proponent of nationalist reform of education and the “reconstruction of Japanese identity.” Projecting himself as the Japanese counterpart of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, he promoted a neoconservative agenda.
Nakasone’s approach to educational reform was radical. For example, he created the Rinji kyoiku shingikai (Special Education Council) and hand picked its members. The council was tasked with recommending policies, shaping public opinion, and transforming the schools in line with Nakasone’s nationalist ideas. The response was a storm of progressive opposition, indeed, even some officials in the MOE bridled at this top-down approach to reforms.
Interestingly, although Nakasone and many MOE officials were committed to history textbook revisionism, Nakasone as a seasoned politician understood the importance of building harmonious relations with Japan’s Asian neighbors in order to assure economic growth. His choice was Japan’s economic growth over its nationalist identity. Thus, while the MOE continued censoring history textbooks during the 1980s, bound by the Miyazawa statement and MOE’s own regulation changes that followed the 1982 furor, it did so with a lighter hand. This resulted in an increasing number of history textbooks allocating more space for critical views on the war and colonialism.41
This angered nationalist forces on the right, who insisted that each nation is entitled to decide the content of its history education without regard to the sentiments of its neighbors or others. In the fall of 1982, one of the major nationalist organizations, the National Conference to Defend Japan (Nihon o mamoru kokumin kaigi, established in 1981), announced that it would develop its own Japanese history textbook. Its chair Kase Toshikazu was a former ambassador to the United Nations and a member of Nakasone’s informal “brain trust.” (The group’s membership to date has included religious organizations, business leaders such as the former CEOs of Sony and the conservative daily newspaper company Sankei Shinbunsha, and several prominent scholars.) The nationalist text, for high school students Shinpen Nihonshi (New Edition Japanese History), was approved by the MOE and published in 1987, despite serious scholarly and political criticisms from inside and outside Japan. Although the Nakasone administration publicly kept its neutral position, it was known that Nakasone privately backed MOE’s approving the text.42
The Third Attack and the Textbook Controversies From the Mid-1990s to Present
The “Comfort Women” Issue and the End of LDP Single-Party Rule
While Japanese authors had written about the “comfort women” for decades, the issue attained political salience for the first time in the 1990s.43 When the comfort women controversy surfaced in the Japanese Diet in 1990, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki rejected calls for an investigation, maintaining that the wartime state and its military had played no role in the matter. However, in 1991 the first former Korean comfort woman came out in public, telling of her experience at the hands of the military. Women in Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries followed. The combination of the end of the Cold War and democratization in South Korea and Taiwan opened new space for airing long-suppressed issues in those countries and throughout Asia and beyond. Pioneering research by Japanese historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki unearthed the first official documents proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Japanese military had been intimately involved in organizing the comfort women system. Subsequent studies showed the Japanese imperial state and military’s involvement in running the comfort stations, procuring young women, and shipping them to bases throughout Asia and the Pacific.44 Equally important, the international feminist movement, with South Korean and Japanese activists playing leading roles, rallied to the cause of the comfort women. The Japanese government could not continue to stonewall on the issue.
In 1993, the Japanese government under Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi heard testimony from fifteen former comfort women in Seoul, and on 4 August, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei acknowledged that the Japanese forces were directly and indirectly involved in the establishment and administration of comfort facilities. Although the Kono statement remained ambiguous on several key points such as legal responsibility and compensation, it expressed “firm determination” to remember the facts “through historical research and education.”45 Kono’s statement legitimated inclusion of the topic in textbooks, and within a few years most history textbooks (and many in related areas) included a brief reference to the issue. This provoked rightwing nationalists (hereafter, neonationalists) to launch the third attack on textbooks in 1995.
1993 also marked the end of LDP single-party rule. In July, the LDP lost its majority in lower house elections as some influential politicians and their factions broke away to establish new parties. The same election, however, marked the demise of the SP whose seats fell from 137 to seventy in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. After nearly four decades of unbroken LDP rule, Japanese politics entered an uncertain, tumultuous period just as the world entered the post-Cold War era.46
Coalition Government and the Diet Resolution to Apologize for Wartime Aggression
On 6 August 1993, a few days after Kono’s statement, a seven-party coalition government formed under an anti-LDP banner. Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro of Nihonshinto (Japan New Party) commented of the Asia-Pacific War: “I personally recognize it as a shinryaku senso (war of aggression), an ayamatta senso (wrong or mistaken war).”47 Hosokawa subsequently spoke of “colonial rule” (shokuminchi shihai) in Korea instead of using the conventional euphemism “annexation” (heigo).48 These were the first such clear-cut admissions by a postwar Japanese prime minister.
Hosokawa’s statements prompted a powerful reaction from the right. In the autumn, a group of LDP politicians established the Committee for the Examination of History. Approximately one hundred LDP Diet members joined, including future prime ministers Hashimoto Ryutaro and Mori Yoshiro. They agreed that they would launch new textbook attacks and provide scholars with funds in order to disseminate the view of history that affirms the “Great East Asian War.”49
Hosokawa resigned in April 1994, succeeded by Hata Tsutomu of the Shinseito, a new party comprised of politicians having parted from the LDP. In the climate of political uncertainty, neonationalist politicians became more vocal. For example, in May, Justice Minister Nagano Shigeto denied the Nanjing Massacre and rejected charges that Japan had committed aggression. Nagano was sacked for his remarks, but the Hata administration collapsed soon afterwards when the SP left the coalition.—
In June, the LDP returned to power in a three-party coalition government with the SP and the Sakigake (another small new party). The coalition was a compromise for both the SP and the LDP, with both moving toward the center. Murayama Tomiichi of the SP became Prime Minister. Murayama announced the SP’s abandonment of many long-held oppositional positions on postwar political issues, including opposition to the US-Japan Security Treaty, to the Self Defense Force, and to the Hinomaru flag and the Kimigayo anthem,50 both of the latter associated with war and the emperor. For its part, the LDP agreed to co-sponsor a Diet resolution apologizing to Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression to be issued on the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s surrender.51
The LDP’s right factions sharply criticized this Diet resolution and several cabinet members and influential politicians publicly denied wartime aggression. Neonationalist politicians, either belonging to LDP or opposition parties, worked to block the resolution of apology, objecting to inclusion of such key terms as “Japan’s war of aggression” and “Japan’s colonial rule of Korea.” The terms were eventually included in indirect ways. The Lower House passed the resolution in June 1995, to the anger of the LDP right. The LDP leadership decided not to submit it to the Upper House—so now both the left and the right were left unhappy.52 On 15 August 1995, Prime Minister Murayama issued a statement —with Cabinet backing—which is widely regarded as the fullest Japanese apology for crimes of colonialism and war.53
In the midst of these struggles, however, the SP lost a significant number of seats in the Upper House election in July. In January 1996, Murayama resigned, succeeded by Hashimoto Ryutaro of the LDP (a weakened SP remained in the coalition).54 Neonationalist politicians and organizations began the offensive on history textbooks which continues today. In particular, in 1996, LDP hawks attacked textbook references to comfort women as one-sided and historically inaccurate, and demanded reform of the textbook screening system. Hawks in Shinshinto, another new party formed in 1994, joined the attack.
Once again, the onslaught on textbooks provided young LDP hawks visibility. In 1997, one hundred and seven Diet members born in the postwar period formed the Group of Young Diet Members Concerned with Japan’s Future and History Education (Nihon no Zento to Rekishi Kyoiku o Kangaeru Wakategiin no Kai), with Nakagawa Shoichi as Representative and Abe Shinzo as Secretary General, to study the issue of comfort women and history education.55 Pressures mounted to remove textbook references to comfort women.56
The Attack on Comfort Women in Textbooks, Self-Censorship of Publishers, and Tsukurukai’s New History Textbook
In the mid-1990s, the neonationalist crusade attracted public and media interest. Fujioka Nobukatsu, professor of education at the University of Tokyo, in 1995 inaugurated the “Liberal-View-of-History Study Group” (Jiyushugi shikan kenkyukai). In journals for teachers as well as in the conservative media, notably Sankei Shinbun, Fujioka and his colleagues excoriated postwar history education and history textbooks as “masochistic” (jigyakuteki) and lacking “pride in the history of our nation.”
In late 1996, Fujioka and others established Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho o Tsukurukai (The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, hereafter Tsukurukai), announcing plans to publish “a new history textbook” for junior high schools in 2002. Indeed, they entitled the text Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho (New History Textbook).57 At the same time, Tsukurukai attacked the existing junior high-school history textbooks, with the fiercest criticisms directed toward references to the Nanjing Massacre and comfort women.58
Tsukurukai’s New History Textbook
The 2000-2001 textbook screening (and subsequent adoption) processes involved the most openly contentious textbook struggles in recent times—and perhaps in the entire postwar period. Neonationalists, while divided over a range of social, political, and educational issues, joined in support of two closely related goals: attacking existing texts to force revisions, and developing a nationalist history textbook for junior high schools that would be authorized by the state and adopted by local school districts.
The first goal was achieved quickly. In the spring of 2000, when publishers submitted final drafts of the 2002 textbooks for approval to the MOE, many descriptions concerning Japanese wartime atrocities had been cut back or removed altogether. Given the climate of neonationalist fervor, and having been attacked publicly by politicians and civic groups such as Tsukurukai and informally pressured by the administration, publishers exercised “self-censorship.”59
The most striking change was the near total erasure from textbooks of the comfort women issue that had been introduced in the early 1990s. In the previous 1997 editions, all seven junior high history textbooks on the market mentioned the issue; in the 2002 editions, three of these texts dropped all references and three others made very brief reference without using the controversial term “comfort women.” Just one text retained the language and expanded discussion from the previous edition. While the treatment of the comfort women issue best illustrates the shift, the 2002 editions also altered or eliminated descriptions of other Japanese wartime atrocities.60 These changes remain more or less intact in the 2006 editions.
The second goal of securing production and adoption of the New History Textbook gave rise to national and international controversy. First, the text was not only chauvinistic but contained basic inaccuracies, to the chagrin of historians, educators, and the public. South Korea, China, and other Asian nations vociferously protested. Even a member of the Textbook Screening Council raised serious questions. However, the MOE approved the text on condition that the authors make more than one hundred and thirty corrections. While declaring its neutrality, the MOE stated that it would be the responsibility of local school boards to decide which textbook to adopt. For the first time in postwar Japanese textbook controversies, the adoption process (i.e. textbook market) became the site of fierce struggle.
In the end, the market share of the text was 0.039 percent (a total of 543 copies used in schools as textbooks) in the spring of 2002. As Tsukurukai’s goal was 10 percent of market share, this was regarded as a failure. The group revised the text and resubmitted it to the 2004-2005 textbook screening, and the MOE approved it; still, its market share remained small, 0.39 percent (4,912 copies adopted in the spring of 2006).
In recent years, with its membership in decline in the early 2000s, Tsukurukai strengthened its ties with rightwing political and religious organizations and with LDP hawks. Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro promoted the young nationalist Abe Shinzo to positions with increasing responsibility. In September 2006, when Koizumi retired from office following a huge electoral victory for the LDP, Abe succeeded him and was able to pass a number of laws that had been the agenda of the right for years, including the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education.61
The comfort women controversy continued to flare both domestically and internationally. In the spring of 2007 Abe was at the center of an international controversy following statements negating the 1993 Kono statement on the comfort women, and specifically denying direct use of force by Japanese military in procuring women. The international furor forced Abe to retreat, but not before his remarks spurred passage of the resolution submitted by US Congressman Michael Honda calling on the Japanese government to genuinely apologize to the comfort women.62 Indeed, the issue of comfort women was at the center of the Abe-Bush dialogue during his April 2007 visit to Washington. Abe apologized to the US president—but not to the comfort women themselves—for the wartime system. The comfort women issue thus had the effect not only of poisoning Japan’s relations with China, South Korea and other Asian nations, but extended to the US-Japan relationship. In the summer of 2007, MOE censorship of the Japanese military’s compulsion of Okinawan suicides in the Battle of Okinawa in history textbooks provoked fierce protests from Okinawans across the political spectrum leading to the largest demonstration in Okinawa since the 1972 reversion.63
In these months, Abe’s popularity rapidly declined, primarily over missing pension funds in the state social security system and corruption scandals in his cabinet. In August, the LDP lost control of the Upper House to the Minshuto (Democratic Party) and in September Abe resigned and was succeeded by Fukuda Yasuo. Fukuda's tenure again proved to be short. He was succeeded by Aso Taro in September 2008, and the LDP now faces a general (Lower House) election by autumn 2009. The changes in LDP Prime Ministers resulted in no shift in official position on textbook issues.64 It remains to be seen whether Minshuto will succeed in ousting the LDP from power and bringing a new attitude toward intra- and inter-national politics on issues of war memories.
Textbook Controversies in Comparative Perspective: Concluding Thoughts
In a 1997 statement, a leader of the LDP young hawks aptly noted, “school textbooks affect Japan’s identity.”65 Citizens of a modern nation, including students, construct identities in part by reading school textbooks—though surely in more complex and convoluted ways than the young LDP leader seems to assume. Rightwing nationalist attacks on history textbooks in postwar Japan have repeatedly attempted to strengthen the social, political, and moral superiority of those holding nationalist beliefs and to shape, or limit, the perspectives available in the texts and in society. Struggles fought over textbooks, and more generally education, have been central to the political conflicts of the postwar era.
At each moment of the three epochs examined here, the nation faced political struggles for power and shifting international geopolitics, which were reflective of sea changes in the world order: the early Cold War (the first attack), regional detente and peace in Asia (the second wave), and the post-Cold War and the beginning of a new world order (the last and continuing controversy). Japan was in the early stage of rapid economic growth in 1955, at the point of achieving economic maturity and external expansion in the late 1970s and 1980s, and facing recession and slow recovery in the 1990s to the present.
In each epoch, nationalists launched attacks on textbooks, following political setbacks of the dominant power bloc or the ruling party. In 1955, when conservatives failed to gain enough Diet seats to amend the 1946 Constitution, the battleground shifted to school textbooks. Beginning in 1979 and continuing in the early 1980s, the LDP, experiencing disarray and factional strife, launched the second round of textbook attacks. In the mid-1990s, after neonationalists failed to stop the Diet resolution of apology and the fullest apology for the Asia Pacific War by a Prime Minister, they shifted the target to school textbooks by ferociously attacking references to comfort women.
Because the issues of war memories speak directly to Japanese nationalism and to Japan’s international relations, the consequences of textbook controversies reach beyond local schools and Japanese national politics to regional and global politics.66 While there are recent signs of the global impact of some of these controversies, as indicated by the passage of the US House resolution on the comfort women in 2007,67 the most explosive consequences of the controversies discussed here are regional: at a time when Japan with both China and South Korea has embarked on dynamic economic relationships, and when talk of ASEAN +3 is in the air, textbook nationalism and the controversies it sparks directly threaten the possibilities for regional harmony, and add fuel to other conflicts such as the territorial disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands and Dokdo/Takeshima.
Map showing contested areas including Senkakus and Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks)
The comfort women is merely the most politically explosive of the textbook controversies that have long articulated with, and inflamed, historical memory issues in ways that exacerbate contemporary international conflicts involving Japan, Korea, China, and the United States. Although it may well be the case that the forces most effectively countering Japan’s nationalist historical revisionism have been the nationalisms of other nations,68 we would like to stress that Japanese textbook authors and civic groups working from peace and justice perspectives have constantly fought against the nationalist tide for over more than half a century. There is a need, and a possibility, for people in Japan and other nations to transcend nation-state boundaries and chauvinistic perspectives to humanely address the issues of historical memory and education.69
This article is slightly revised from the authors' “Historical Memory, International Conflict, and Japanese Textbook Controversies in Three Epochs, Contexts: The Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, 1, no. 1 (2009): 117-144. We thank Hanna Schissler, Michael Geyer, Prasenjit Duara, David Williams, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on earlier versions.
Yoshiko Nozaki is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy, the University at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo) and an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate. She is the author of War Memory, Nationalism, and Education in Postwar Japan, 1945-2007: The Japanese history textbook controversy and Ienaga Saburo’s court challenges and numerous works on education and historical memory. She is co-author with Hiromitsu Inokuchi of What U.S. Middle School Students Bring to Global Education: Discourses on Japan, Formation of American Identities, and the Sociology of Knowledge and Curriculum.
Mark Selden is a Senior Research Associate at Cornell University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. He is the coeditor, with Laura Hein, of Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany and the United States.
Recommended citation: Yoshiko Nozaki and Mark Selden, "Japanese Textbook Controversies, Nationalism, and Historical Memory: Intra- and Inter-national Conflicts," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 24-5-09, June 15, 2009.
1 In this study, we examine Japanese rightwing nationalism and nationalists with particular reference to historical memory and textbook controversies. We also use the term “neonationalism” to refer to nationalism of the political right from the mid-1990s to the present-day. The positions taken by political parties, groups, and figures in that power bloc vary from moderate conservatism to something akin to fascism. We note that nationalism of the left has also existed; however, it is beyond the scope of the present study. On Japanese leftwing nationalism see, for example, Oguma Eiji, “Minshu” to “aikoku”: Sengo nihon no nashonarizumu to kokyosei [“Democracy” and “patriotism”: Nationalism and the sense of public in postwar Japan] (Tokyo: Shinyosha, 2002).
2 Charles Ingrao, “Weapons of Mass Instruction: How Schoolbooks and Democratization Destroyed Multiethnic Central Europe,” (Paper presented at the Department of History Symposium at the University of Chicago “History Textbooks and the Profession: Comparing National Controversies in a Globalizing Age,” 2007).
3 An educational/curriculum policy has at least two important facets: instrumental rationality and value (e.g. its impact upon the way schools operate, including teaching and learning) and symbolic function in the realm of politics (e.g. its political effects). Although these two facets interact in actual events, we should not conflate them. In other words, regardless of the impact of curriculum policy on raising students’ level of knowledge, its political function should be examined. See Herbert Kliebard, “Vocational Education as Symbolic Action: Connecting Schooling with the Workplace,” in Forging the American Curriculum: Essays in Curriculum History and Theory, (New York: Routledge, 1992).
4 Note that, although its main structure has remained more or less intact, details and procedures of the postwar textbook system have constantly evolved through ministerial announcements and regulations.
5 In 2000, the MOE became the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. We use the abbreviation MOE throughout this article.
6 Who actually makes decisions is not entirely clear. In the past, more often than not, the Council acted as a rubber-stamp. MOE technically has the final say, though such cases have rarely been reported.
7 The examiners are ministerial employees, and the members of the council are appointees.
8 For further discussion of the textbook screening system, see Yoshiko Nozaki and Hiromitsu Inokuchi, “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga Saburo’s Textbook Lawsuits,” in Laura Hein and Mark Selden, eds, Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States (Armonk: M. E. Sharp, 2000), 96-126; and Yoshiko Nozaki, War Memory, Nationalism, and Education in Postwar Japan, 1945-2007: The Japanese History Textbook Controversy and Ienaga Saburo’s Court Challenges (London: Routledge, 2008).
9 See also Yoshiko Nozaki, "The Defeat, Educational Reforms, and History Textbooks in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952," in Mark E. Caprio and Yoneyuki Sugita, eds, Democracy in Occupied Japan: The U.S. Occupation and Japanese Politics and Society (New York: Routledge, 2007), 120-146.
10 Hatoyama was a former parliamentarian and Education Minister in the years 1931-34. Yoshida was Ambassador to Rome and London in the 1930s, and, with Hatoyama, a member of a group that pressed for an end to the war in early 1945.
11 Under the 1946 constitution, the power of the lower house surpasses that of the upper house in several important ways.
12 Hara Yoshihisa, Sengoshi no nakano shakaito [The Japan socialist party in postwar history] (Tokyo: Chuokoron shinsha, 2000), 106-107.
13 Ishii, a former music teacher and JTU official, was dismissed by the JTU in 1954 when he publicly charged JTU leaders with corruption. The JTU counterattacked that he was paid by the MOE and LP. See Mainichi Shinbunsha Kyoiku Shuzaihan, Kyokasho senso: Seiji to bijinesu no hazama [Textbook war: Between politics and business] (Tokyo: Sanichi Shobo, 1981), 21-25.
14 “Social Studies” was a new subject created during the occupation by integrating three subject matters of history, geography, and civics. See Nozaki, War Memory.
15 Tokutake Toshio, Kyokasho no sengoshi [History of postwar textbooks] (Tokyo: Shinihon shuppansha.Tokutake, 1995), 90.
16 Kliebard, “Vocational Education,” 184.
17 The 1955 regime provided societal stability (and people’s consciousness) for Japan’s economic growth in 1960. It is, however, beyond the scope of this article to examine the Japanese textbook struggles in relation to its economy. For Japan’s postwar economic history, see Hashimoto Juro, Sengo no nihon keizai [Japan’s postwar economy] (Tokyo: Iwanamishoten, 1995).
18 For example, Koyama Iwao became a member of the Textbook Screening Council in 1955 and Murao Jiro became a textbook examiner in 1956. Koyama, a philosopher of the Kyoto school, played a key part in rejecting many history textbooks in the late 1950s. He held the position until 1967. He continued to serve on the MOE’s Course of Study Committee. Murao was a graduate from the University of Tokyo and a student of Hiraizumi Kiyoshi (the most well known historian of emperor-centered view of history). Murao became the main figure rejecting Ienaga Saburo’s history textbook. After his retirement in 1975, he served as general editor for a high school history textbook, which, in 1987, became the first postwar rightwing text approved by the MOE.
19 Only at a limited number of institutions, such as Tokyo Imperial University (the predecessor of the University of Tokyo), were researchers able to continue to conduct empirical research, and they had to be extremely cautious about publishing their findings. See, for example, Ienaga Saburo, Ichi rekishigakusha no ayumi [The way of one historian] (Tokyo: Sanshodo, 1977), 94-121. Available in Richard H. Minear’s translation as Japan’s Past, Japan’s Future: One Historian’s Odyssey (Lanham MD: Rowman Littlefield, 2001).
20 Their comments on history textbooks were compiled and recorded by the publishing industry workers association, which later became a union Japan Federation of Publishing Workers’ Union (Nihon shuppan rodokumiai rengokai). The union publishes an annual report Kyoksho Repoto featuring textbook screening results and the names of MOE’s Textbook Screening Council members and the textbook examiners.
21 This and subsequent quotes are from Tawara Yoshifumi, "Nankin daigyakusatsu jiken to rekishikyokasho mondai" [The Nanjing massacre and history textbook issues], in Akira Fujiwara (Ed.), Nankin jiken o do miruka (Tokyo: Aoki shoten, 1998), 116-131.
22 Tawara, “Nankin daigyakusatsu,” 120.
23 Nozaki, War Memory.
24 For further discussion on Ienaga’s court challenges, see Nozaki, War Memory.
25 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Japan Fact Sheet, Economy: Japan’s Economy in An Era of Globalization,” Web Japan, (accessed 5 February 2008), 2.
26 When measured in US dollars, the Japanese economy was less than one seventh the size of the US economy in 1965, approximately one fifth in 1970, two fifths in 1980, more than half in 1990, and approximately two thirds in 1993. Hashimoto, Sengo no nihonkeizai, 36 & 213.
27 Tokutake, Kyokasho no sengoshi, 195.
28 On the Yuzuru controversy see Takashima Nobuyushi, “Literature, Ideology and Japan’s Revised Education Law: Kinoshita Junji’s Yuzuru,” Japan Focus.
29 Eventually Ienaga brought the case to court in 1984, in his third textbook lawsuit.
30 Ienaga Saburo, “Misshitsu” kentei no kiroku [The record of textbook screening behind “closed doors”] (Tokyo: Kyokasho Kentei Sosho o Shiensuru Zenkokurenrakukai, 1983), 61-65. Daqing Yang offers a thoughtful assessment of the reasons for the massacre in “Atrocities in Nanjing: Searching for Explanations,” in Diana Lary and Stephen MacKinnon, eds, Scars of Warfare on Modern China (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2001), 76-97. See also Fujiwara Akira, “The Nanking Atrocity: An Interpretive Overview,” in Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, ed., The Nanking Atrocity 1937-38: Complicating the Picture (London: Berghahn Books, 2007).
31 Mainichi Shinbunsha Kyoiku Shuzaihan, Kyokasho senso, 11-13.
32 For a detailed discussion of forced suicide in an Okinawan island, see Matthew Allen, “Wolves and Tigers: Remembering the Kumejima Massacres,” in Identity and Resistance in Okinawa (London: Routledge, 2002), 27-52.
33 Eguchi Keiichi, "Kyokasho mondai to okinawasen: Nihongun niyoru kenmin satsugai o chushin ni" [The textbook controversy and the battle of Okinawa: On the description of the murder of Okinawans by Japanese forces], in Fujiwara Akira, ed., Okinawasen to tennosei (Tokyo: Rippu Shobo, 1987), 223-254. See also, Aniya Masaaki, “Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan’s Textbook Controversy,” Japan Focus.
34 Nozaki and Inokuchi, “Japanese Education,” 96-126.
35 Although the media reported that the term “aggression” was replaced with “advance” in the section of the textbooks treating Japanese invasion of northern China, in fact the replacement had taken place previously in the 1960s and 1970s.
36 Tokutake, Kyokasho no sengoshi, 201-203.
37 Allen, “Wolves and Tigers," 27-55.
38 Eguchi, "Kyokasho mondai," 232-233
39 “Seifu Kenkai: Kanbochokan danwa” [The government position: The chief cabinet secretary’s unwritten statement], 27 August 1982, Asahi Shinbun, 1. Miyazawa’s statement appeared in the form of a danwa, an official but unwritten statement of the government position.
40 “Rekishi kyokasho nitsuiteno bunso danwa” [The education minister’s unwritten statement on history textbooks], 24 November 1982, Asahi Shinbun, 14.
41 It is somewhat ironic that history textbooks became more progressive under Nakasone’s watch. However, he implemented other educational reforms that directly impacted schools, and scholars are divided in their appraisals of the reform results. For further discussion, see, for example, Leonard James Schoppa, Education Reform in Japan: A Case of Immobilist Politics (London: Routledge, 1991); Christopher Hood, Japanese Education Reform: Nakasone’s Legacy (London: Routledge, 2001); and Roger Goodman and David Phillips, eds, Can the Japanese Change Their Education System (Oxford: Symposium Books).
42 See Nagano Tsuneo, “’Shinpen nihonshi’ jiken nitsuite” [On the event of the New Edition History], in Kakinuma Masayoshi and Nagano Tsuneo eds, Kyokasho ronso o koete (Tokyo: Hihyosha, 1998), 133-146. See also a number of articles published in Kyokasho Repoto, 31 (1987).
43 In this study, we employ the term “comfort women” (hereafter without quotation marks) because it is the term that has been most often used, though we are fully aware of inadequacy of it (i.e., speaking of these women’s experiences as “comfort”). The nationalists made it extremely controversial what terms should be used to name these women. See Yoshiko Nozaki, “The ‘Comfort Women’ Controversy: History and Testimony,” Japan Focus.
44 Yoshimi Yoshiaki, Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). See also Yuki Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women. Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the US Occupation (London: Routledge, 2002).
45 “Jugun ianfu chosakekka nikansuru kanbochokan danwa” [Chief cabinet secretary’s unwritten statement on the results of the investigation into war comfort women], 5 August 1993, Asahi Shinbun, 2.
46 The breakdown of the 1955 regime took place against the background of the collapse of Japan’s “bubble economy” in the late 1980s leading to a prolonged recession from which signs of recovery only became clear in the mid 2000s. During these years, the Japanese economy experienced intensified globalization, including the shift of manufacturing production overseas, resulting in uneven distribution of benefits and damage across the nation. Although we can assume that the economic stagnation has had some connection to the rise of neonationalism, we would like to leave the analysis for the future study.
47 “Hosokawa shusho kishakaiken no yoshi” [An outline of a press conference of Prime Minister Hosokawa], 11 August 1993, Asahi Shinbun, 3.
48 “Shusho no shoshin hyomei enzetsu” [The prime minister’s address on his positions], Asahi Shinbun, 23 August 1993, Asahi Shinbun, 3.
49 The committee reached its conclusion and disbanded in February 1995.
50 The treatment of the Hinomaru and the Kimigayo in schools has been one of the major fronts of postwar struggles between the left and the right, or progressives and nationalists. Not until 1999 did they become the national flag and anthem respectively. Since 1999, the MOE in practice made hoisting the flag and singing the anthem mandatory at school ceremonies. In Spring 2004, the Tokyo Prefectural Education Board, whose members are appointed by Governor Ishihara Shintaro, punished more than 200 teachers who acted against the policy at the graduation ceremony. See N. Ikezoe, “Tokyoi no sessoku tairyo shobun ni hirogaru hamon” [A growing stir at the large scale, quick punishment by the Tokyo education board], Shukan Kinyobi 504 (16 April 2004), 22. For further discussion, Adam Lebowitz and David McNeill, “Hammering Down the Educational Nail: Abe Revises the Fundamental Law of Education,” Japan Focus.
51 Wada Haruki, Ishizaki Koichi, and the Sengo Gojunen Kokkai Ketsugi o Motomerukai, eds, Nihon wa shokuminchi shihai o do kangaete kitaka [How Japan has reflected on colonial domination], (Tokyo: Nashinokisha, 1996).
52 Wada et al., Nihon wa.
53 An English translation of the Murayama statement “On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end” (15 August 1995) is available, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, (accessed 5 February 2008).
54 At its convention in January 1996 immediately after Murayama’s resignation, the SP changed its name to Shakai-minshuto (abbreviated as Shaminto; Social Democratic Party, SDP). In September, approximately half of its lower house members left the party to join a new party Minshuto (Democratic Party). In the lower house election in the same month, SDP gained only 15 seats, losing its position as the major opposition party to Minshuto.
55 Nihon no Zento to Rekishi Kyoiku o Kangaeru Wakategiin no Kai, ed., Rekishi kyokasho heno gimon [Questions for history textbooks] (Tokyo: Tentensha, 1997).
56 The LDP appealed successfully to parents concerned about teaching about the sex and prostitution in schools.
57 Tsukurukai succeeded in developing a textbook entitled New History Textbook and obtaining MOE authorization for it. For a discussion of flaws in the draft text, see “Fact Sheet Concerning New History Textbook,” Critical Asian Studies, (accessed 5 February 2008). Interestingly, the draft submitted to the MOE contained a line “History is not a science” (a language similar to one used by the MOE in the 1950s and 1960s to order a history revision); however, during the screening process, the line was dropped, apparently at MOE request.
58 For discussion of attack on textbooks in light of the comfort women controversy, see Nozaki, “The ‘Comfort Women.’”
59 Tawara Yoshifumi, "Kenpo ihan shinryaku senso kotei no ’abunai kyokasho’ no jittai" [The reality of ideologically ’dangerous textbooks’ that affirm aggressive war and that violate the constitution], Senso Sekinin Kenkyu 30, 37.
60 For further discussion, see Yoshiko Nozaki, “Japanese Politics and the History Textbook Controversy, 1945-2001,” in Edward Vickers and Alisa Jones, ed.s, History Education and National Identity in East Asia (London: Routledge, 2005), 295.
61 See Lebowitz and McNeill, “Hammering Down.” For an update on Tsukurukai, see Nozaki, War Memory, 148-149.
62 Extensive reports on the comfort women controversy at Japan Focus include the following:
Congressional Research Service, “Japan’s Military ’Comfort Women;’"
Violence Against Women in War-NET Japan, “Responsibility Denied: Japan’s Debate Over the Comfort Women;”
Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word;"
Alexis Dudden and Kozo MizoguchiI, “Abe’s Violent Denial: Japan’s Prime Minister and the ‘Comfort Women;’”
Norma Field, “The Courts, Japan’s ‘Military Comfort Women,’ and the Conscience of Humanity: The Ruling in VAWW-Net Japan v. NHK;” and
Hayashi Hirofumi, “Government, the Military and Business in Japan’s Wartime Comfort Woman System.”
63 Kawabata Shun’ichi and Kitazawa Yuki, “A Story That Won’t Fade Away: Compulsory Mass Suicide in the Battle of Okinawa,” Japan Focus.
64 For example, as of December 2007, MOE’s position on the description of Okinawan suicides in the Battle of Okinawa was to allow textbook authors to refer to “the involvement of Japanese forces” but not “coercion by Japanese forces.” See Ishiyama Hisao, “Futatabi Okinawa o uragitta monbukagakusho: Kyokasho kentei ’shudan jiketsu’” [MOE betray Okinawans again: Textbook screening of “mass suicides”], Shukan Kinyobi 686, January 18, 2008, 17-19.
65 Statement by Nakagawa Shoichi at the young neonationalist Diet members’ meeting on 27 February 1997, quoted in Tawara Yoshifumi, “Ianfu” mondai to kyokasho kogeki: dokyumento [The issues of “comfort women” and the attacks on textbooks: A document] (Tokyo: Kobunken, 1997), 38.
66 Perhaps surprisingly, the Japanese textbook controversy does not appear to have tapped directly into the related sensitive issues of minorities and migration, despite the fact that Koreans and Chinese comprise the largest group of migrants and other controversies swirl over their presence in Japan.
67 Another global dimension is the continuing discussion of comfort women issues at the United Nation’s human rights committee.
68 Comments by Prasenjit Duara at the Department of History Symposium at the University of Chicago “History Textbooks and the Profession: Comparing National Controversies in a Globalizing Age,” 2007.
69 A major gap in the literature, and an important area for future research, derives from the nearly exclusive focus on textbook content and lack of discussion of whether and how the issues of war and empire are taken up in the classroom. To be sure, whether or not the textbook policies and struggles have had impact upon actual classroom teaching and learning cannot be conflated with their effects in the realm of politics. Equally important for grasping popular understanding of the issue is its treatment in manga, anime, film, literature and other expressions of popular culture (e.g. the most influential neonationalist manga such as Kobayashi Yoshinori, Sensoron [On War] (Tokyo: Gentosha, 1998). See Rumi Sakamoto, “‘Will you go to war? Or will you stop being Japanese?’ Nationalism and History in Kobayashi Yoshinori’s Sensoron,” in Michael Heazle and Nick Knight, eds, China-Japan Relations in the Twenty-first Century. Creating a Future Past? (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2007); Matthew Penney, “Nationalism and Anti-Americanism in Japan – Manga Wars, Aso, Tamogami, and Progressive Alternatives,” The Asia-Pacific Journal.
Allen, Matthew, “Wolves and Tigers: Remembering the Kumejima Massacres,” in Identity and Resistance in Okinawa, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, 27-52.
Aniya, Masaaki, “Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan’s Textbook Controversy,” Japan Focus.
Congressional Research Service, “Japan’s Military ’Comfort Women,’" Japan Focus.
Dudden, Alexis, and Kozo Mizoguchi, “Abe’s Violent Denial: Japan’s Prime Minister and the ‘Comfort Women,’” Japan Focus.
Eguchi, Keiichi, “Kyokasho mondai to okinawasen: Nihongun niyoru kenmin satsugai o chushin ni” [The textbook controversy and the battle of Okinawa: On the description of the murder of Okinawans by Japanese forces], in Fujiwara Akira, ed., Okinawasen to tennosei, Tokyo: Rippu Shobo, 1987, 223-254.
“Fact Sheet Concerning New History Textbook,” Critical Asian Studies, http://www.bcasnet.org/campaigns/campaign1_b2.htm.
Field, Norma, “The Courts, Japan’s ‘Military Comfort Women,’ and the Conscience of Humanity: The Ruling in VAWW-Net Japan v. NHK,” Japan Focus.
Fujiwara, Akira, “The Nanking Atrocity: An Interpretive Overview,” in Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, ed., The Nanking Atrocity 1937-38: Complicating the Picture, London: Berghahn, 2007, 29-54.
Hara, Yoshihisa, Sengoshi no nakano shakaito [The Japan socialist party in postwar history], Tokyo: Chuokoron shinsha, 2000.
Hashimoto, Juro, Sengo no nihon keizai [Japan’s postwar economy], Tokyo: Iwanamishoten, 1995.
Hayashi, Hirofumi, “Government, the Military and Business in Japan’s Wartime Comfort Woman System,” Japan Focus.
Hood, Christopher, Japanese Education Reform: Nakasone’s Legacy, London: Routledge, 2001.
“Hosokawa shusho kishakaiken no yoshi” [An outline of a press conference of Prime Minister Hosokawa], 11 August 1993, Asahi Shinbun.
Goodman, Roger, and David Phillips, eds, Can the Japanese Change Their Education System, Oxford: Symposium Books, 2003.
Ienaga, Saburo, Ichi rekishigakusha no ayumi [The way of one historian], Tokyo: Sanshodo, 1977.
Ienaga, Saburo, Japan’s Past, Japan’s Future: One Historian’s Odyssey, trans. Richard H. Minear, Lanham MD: Rowman Littlefield, 2001.
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