No. 15, January 2001
Signs of Recovery for Japanese Nationalism? The Citizen's Committee for Reclaiming Cultural Identity through Textbook Reform
by John K. Nelson, Ph.D.
John Nelson is an assistant professor of East Asian religions in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco. He is the author of two books on Shinto in contemporary Japan (A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine , and Enduring Identities: the Guise of Shinto in Contemporary Japan ),
which are the first extended ethnographies of two important shrines,
one in Nagasaki and the other in Kyoto. Two of his recent articles
include Shifting Paradigms of Religion and the State: Implications of the 1997 Supreme Court Decision for Social, Religious, and Political Change (Modern Asian Studies,
33, 1999), and Warden + Salaryman + Virtuoso = Priest: Paradigms within Japanese Shinto for Religious Specialists and Institutions (Journal of Asian Studies,
56, 1997. Nelson has also produced several documentary videos,
the most recent entitled Japan's Rituals of Remembrance: 50 Years after the Pacific War (1997).
Among his many scholarly interests are the construction of sacred space, the institutional politics of religious specialists, the anthropology of ritual performances, and the relationship between religion, ritual, and politics. In the past year alone, Nelson has given invited talks related to Japanese religion and society at Kokugakuin University (Tokyo), the Japan Society (Manhattan), the School of American Research (Santa Fe), the Center for Japanese Studies (U.C. Berkeley), and the World Affairs Council of the Bay Area (Oakland).
Nelson spent Fall 1999 and January 2000 in Japan working on a film introducing Shinto, as well as researching the topic of spirit calming rituals in Buddhist, Shinto, and broadly East Asian contexts. His next publication will address the continuing imporance of Yasukuni Shrine and its strategic engagement with social memory in contemporary Japan.
We gratefully acknowledge the Kiriyama Chair for Pacific Rim Studies at the USF Center for the Pacific Rim for funding this issue of Pacific Rim Report. If you would like to subscribe to Pacific Rim Report, please email us.
NOTE: Due to typographic limitations, the circumflex is used throughout this article to indicate the long Japanese vowels normally marked with the macron.
For five points credit
towards passing your exam on citizenship,
choose which comes first: the nation or the state?
It is a fundamental act of legitimation,
as well as vindication, that governments
everywhere retell the sequence of events surrounding the birth
and development of their nation. The process is linear and always
progressive, usually starting from premodern communities which
then evolve in fits and startstriumphing over wars, natural disasters, and conflicts of every sort. More often than not, the prescriptive lessons learned along the way are woven into a narrative heavily dependent upon the strategies and goals of those telling the story: primarily, how best to influence people so they think and act as national subjects. Tactical decisions are made about who to include or exclude, which victories and defeats prove most edifying, how to establish cause and effect when defining key situationsall must be weighed and then selected so the narratives
cumulative power might extend beyond its
telling. Will the audience be moved to action by the shining examples
of great heroes and valiant deeds? Will they learn sober lessons
from the past that will guide them in future political or ethical
decisions? Or will they simply shift attention back to their televisions,
computers, and jobs, thinking only of their next paycheck or leisure
pursuit, with little thought for their communities, sense of purpose
as a people, and responsibility to the nation-state that provides
them so much?
Leaders and educators have known since the
early 1800s that the time to first engage
the general public in narratives of the nation is not during a crisis
or electoral campaign but when they are young, impressionable, and
held legally captive in the educational system. Here, the social
architects tool of choice to build a strong foundation for society is the textbook. Mention this word to an average American and eyes usually glaze over, so strong is the association between textbooks and the boredom of compulsory education. But textbooks are really messages to and about the future... They participate in creating what a society has recognized as legitimate and truthful [Apple
and Christian-Smith, 1991:4].
With a decentralized educational system,
as in the United States, textbooks are variously
reviewed and selected for adoption by states, local school boards,
and sometimes even individual principals or the teachers themselves.
But, as Hein and Selden remind us [1998:4], in countries with a centralized,
national curriculum (and this is the rule rather than the exception),
government officials might actually write the texts (as in China,
Taiwan, and Korea) or educational ministries authorize one version
out of several (as in Germany and Japan). Thus, textbooks become
closely associated with the authority of the state and the educational
tastes of its leaders, adding to the raw materials of history a little
spice here, an extra ingredient there, sometimes eliminating entirely
important parts of a given recipe-for-progresssuch is the room
for creativity when preparing sustenance for mass consumption.
For a growing number of Japanese, the word textbook (kyôkasho)
has become one of the most politically and
emotionally charged words in national discourse. The word evokes
decades of contention over self-representation, cultural identity,
and the rendering of a select history to nurture confident and proud
citizens. One dimension of the textbook problem, which
first came before the courts in 1965 and continues to the present,
specifically concerns how both ancient and recent historical events
become resources for constructing a sense of contemporary citizenship.
Both plaintiff (Tokyo Universitys Ienaga Saburo) and defendant
(the Ministry of Education) agree that teaching
elementary and middle school students about their inheritance as
Japanese is vitally important. But the issue is entangled with how
far the state can go in editing, revising, and recasting history
so it bolsters ideologically motivated agendas. To choose only one
example, were the early myths of the eighth century CE composed to
legitimate the origin of a fledgling Japanese state (as Ienaga had
it in his textbook), or were they, as the government demanded, facts
that linked the imperial family to the deities themselves?1
In 1994, aided in part by lower court decisions
in favor of Ienaga, the approaching fifty
year anniversary of the Pacific war, and the end of majority Liberal
Democratic rule, school textbooks incorporated cursory mention of
the comfort women and Unit 731 issues (Nanjing has been noted yearly
since 1985). Opposing this development was a group founded in July
1996 by university educators calling themselves the Liberal View of History Research Group (Jiyûshugi Shikan Kenkyûkai).
Heavily criticized for calling themselves liberal while promoting highly conservative values, they renamed themselves the following year as the Japan Society for Textbook Reform Society (Atarashii
Rekishi Kyôkasho o Tsukuru Kai, henceforth the Reform Society).
Believing that current textbooks in Japans primary and secondary schools were promoting a debilitating and perversely masochistic perspective, the Reform Society will this year disseminate over one million of their own textbooks which, founded on common sense, assure a healthy version of history for future generations. The Reform Societys actions, financing, political and bureaucratic networks, and the dogged determination of its key strategists indicate an uncompromising effort to end what they term the facile self-denunciatory view of history that (based on the judgements of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials) portrays Japan as evil. [Irie
Before providing more detail about this movement
and its goals, it is important to note that
there is little surprising about finding nationalism alive and well
in Japan or elsewhere in the world at the dawn of a new century.
After the various horrors inflicted in the name of nationalism during
the last one hundred years, John Lennon encouraged us in song to imagine theres no countries
, yet the wedding of global economies to local communities is seen by many as requiring an increased protectiveness and heightened awareness about culture and heritage. If anything, the nature of local/global interaction has created considerable entropy and slippage about ones
identity as a member of a national community,
producing in leaders anxiety about the allegiances and affiliations
of the common person [Appadurai 1996: 191]. We will see in a moment
why this is particularly pronounced in Japan.
The politics of cultural identity has become, since the 1980s, one of those comprehensively researched topics for which there is no shortage of theories concerning just how people within nation-states form (or are coerced into) conceptions of citizenship.
From Benedict Andersons imagined communities , to Hobsbawm and Rangers invented traditions , to Michel Foucaults technologies of power 
and so on, we have new models and paradigms for
the ways in which political and corporate elites manage to fashion, implement,
and maintain key ideologies and the social practices that support them.
Through public ceremonies, national holidays,
political elections, coordinated media coverage,
and of course the educational system, these conditions of felicity (to use Pierre Bourdieus term [1991: 116]) bring about a general compliance with (and are often accompanied by a lack of awareness about) select social conditions needed to promote stability and predictabilitykey
ingredients for sustaining market capitalism.
Bourdieu, like many social scientists, understands that the orderings
of society and politics are neither natural or preordained. Their current
manifestation, which (like democracy in the United States) most people
take for granted, is brought about through the usual struggle over resources
and decision-making powers. But it is also wrought through strategic
negotiations and temporary victories over the meaning of key values,
symbols, and orientations to pivotal historical events.
Social and Political Problems as Calls to Action
To the Reform Society and its allies, evidence
of the failure of contemporary educational curricula
to teach a sense of positive and responsible cultural identity is everywhere.
Focusing on the 1990s alone, the Gulf War of 1991 humiliated many Japanese
because, due to restrictions imposed by their American-drafted postwar
constitution and educational emphasis on peace, they could not participate
militarily other than to contribute $13 billion to the allied causea contribution for which they were never thanked publicly. Next, Japans highly acclaimed economy, praised the world over as a model for growth and innovation, stumbled into a prolonged recession from which it has still not emerged. Japanese confidence was further rattled in 1995 by the Kobe earthquake in February, which toppled buildings and superhighways thought to be quake-proof, and by the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways in April by the religious group Aum Shinrikyô.2
The last three years have only compounded general
unease and angst, with a number of shockingly
violent crimes and murders (decapitations, bus hijackings, matricide, just for fun serial
executions of the homeless or of random grade-schoolers
on a playground) committed by seemingly normal young men in their middle-to-late
teens. Social critics also point to the highly publicized activities
of young women involved in teenage prostitution (enjo kôsai), casually exchanging sex for money to buy brand-name goods. Girls, like their male counterparts, have also been charged in the violent bullying and harassment of weaker classmates in middle and high schools.
What the Reform Society sees as indications of
a severe moral and ethical decay includes the
selfishness of adult sons and daughters who fail to care for their parents
or who postpone marriage and having children in order to prolong their
independence and buying power as trendy consumers. Disillusioned with
society, raised in the lap of material luxury, and isolated from their
workaholic fathers laboring to extract Japanese corporations from the
decade-long recession, young people seem like boats without navigation.
There is a lack of adherence, writes Andrew Gerow [1998:32], to any metanarrative,
whether Marxism, democracy, or Japan itself. Hip young people
dye their hair blonde, identify with African-American hiphop culture
to the point of darkening their skin, and look to transnational Asian,
American, and European cultures for the latest movies, fashion, actors,
To Reform Society leaders and its membership,
many of whom are old enough to remember the utter
devastation by incendiary bombs of Japans major cities at the end of World War II, todays youth manifest a dangerously anti-Japanese behavior that can only serve to corrode, pulverize, melt and disintegrate Japan [Fujioka 1996: 30]. Without a solid national identity (it is thought), Japan cannot compete in the international arena which is, in Hobbesian terms, a mean and brutish place [Gerow
p. 33]. Obviously, when presented with this kind
of crisis scenario, many people would feel that something has to be done.
Signs of Recovery for Cultural Nationalism
After a conservative coalition failed in 1986 to win approval for a revisionist textbook, the new Reform Society learned from past mistakes and crafted remarkably effective strategies that have systematically advanced their agendas.3 Because
of space limitations, I will touch upon only
their greatest hits of the last three years, organizing the signs of recovery for
Japanese cultural nationalism into four categories:
publishing and information dissemination, corporate and organizational
support, influence upon Ministry of Education officials, and changes
in the Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines which teachers are
legally obligated to follow.
Scholars, writers, journalists, and bureaucrats
supporting the Reform Societys proposals and mentioning it within
their publications account for over ninety books
from 1997 to 1999. A two-volume edited series by chairperson Fujioka
Nobukatsu entitled Japanese History Not Taught in Textbooks (Kyôkasho
ga oshienai rekishi) was on the top ten bestseller list of 1997. According to a group monitoring Reform Society activities [Tawara 1999: 66-74], nearly every publication references what they see as the unhappy condition of elementary and middle-school textbook content.4
Himself a professor of education at Tokyo University, Fujioka has written time and again that the power of a leftist coalition5 is
responsible for the selection of current textbooks,
which have slandered and distorted history into an anti-Japanese, masochistic perspective [Fujioka cited in Irie 1997:307]. There are other culprits as well: The indirect aggression of foreign countries that begrudge Japans prosperity has reached near completion in the history texts that form the framework for the nations common store of knowledge. Using government funds to pay for textbooks so full of hatred against our own country and forcing them on schoolchildren represents a grievous violation of the peoples
right to education [ibid].
The new textbook commissioned, edited, and now published by the Reform Society, Kokumin no rekishi (A
Citizens History), puts forward the view that Japans history is best characterized as unique and superior, with little influence from China [all quotes from Tawara 1999:68-69]. This lays the foun-dation for a defense against current perspectives suggesting that all kinds of different ethnic people came to Japan. In the Reform Societys
view, this pluralism is one of many factors undermining
Many conservatives feel a distinguishing feature
of this Japanese cultural identity is (as Prime
Minister Mori rather bluntly reminded everyone on May 15, 2000) having
the emperor at the center of the nation. Speaking at a thirty-year anniversary
celebration for a political action group espousing a correct relationship
between the religious tradition of Shinto and
politics (Shinto Seijirenmei),
Mori referred to Japan as a divine country with an emperor at its center. Part
of the domestic and international uproar over
his comments (aside from the fact that, while apologizing for the misunderstanding
they caused, they were never retracted) is precisely because the imperial
lineage has never been repudiated as an active player within Japanese
politics and society. Scholars such as Pulitzer Prize winner John Dower
(Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II) and Herbert Bix (Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan)
argue persuasively that despite the postwar wrappings
of democracy and pluralism, the Shôwa emperor remained an aristocrat whose ultimate loyalty was to his ancestors and position rather than to his people. One look at the Imperial Household Agencys ample staff and resources indicates how divine heritage
(reaching back to the earliest mythological accounts
of the founding of the islands) continues as a political resource that
anchors and, whenever possible, attempts to legitimate this important
component of Japanese cultural identity.7
Not surprisingly, we find Moris statement has written precedent in the Reform Societys new textbook. Divided into two parts, one dealing with ancient history and the other with more recent events, the author of the latter, Sakamoto Takao, describes Japans history as very exceptional, unique, and wonderful. This is a claim available to textbook historians of any nation, but few could then add that the reason for this happy state of affairs is because ...the emperor was at the center (of society) [Sakamoto
in Tawara 1999:68].
Sakamotos wonderful version of the contemporary era can only be sustained by his adherence to Reform Society policies regarding some of the decidedly horrific events associated with Japan and the war. In glossing the Asia Pacific War,8 Sakamoto
eliminates references found in current textbooks
to the Nanjing massacre, to the practice of recruiting or forcing women
to serve as sex slaves for soldiers (the comfort women issue), and to the infamous Unit 731s gruesome biological experiments upon live prisoners of war in China. These exclusions are justified on the grounds that a term like comfort woman is inaccurate because it was not in use at the time, that testimony from former comfort women, survivors of the Nanjing massacre, or members of Unit 731 are not credible, and that to teach about these incidents denigrates the Japanese and only the Japanese. Tokyo Universitys Fujioka writes, Nothing is to be gained from delving into the darker aspects of human nature at this early stage in students lives [Irie 1997:310]. In fact, so strongly do the leading figures in the Reform Society feel about this issue that another director, Namikawa Eita, equates it with the mistreatment, crimes against, and even torture of
children in the classroom [Namikawa 1998:15].
Many of these and other writers have been featured
speakers at regional and local meetings held
under the sponsorship of what appear to be grassroots organizations formed
by Reform society regional leaders. With innocuous-sounding namesthe Parents Group for Protecting Children, the Osaka Citizens Group for Correct Education, the Network for Rebuilding Education, or the Group of 100 Regional Representatives and Citizens for Reviving Educationelected officials have also attended, lending further legitimacy to these events. Since 1997, there have been more than 350 symposia held nationwide, all on textbook and correct history-related
topics [Tawara 1999:63].
One of the more publicized gatherings receiving
national media coverage was the fifth nationwide
symposium, convened in September 1998 in Tokyo. Titled Contemporary Japans War and Peace,
it featured popular manga (comic) artist Kobayashi Yoshinoris new book, Reviewing Discussions on the War, and packed a hall with 2,200 mostly young people while more than 200 stood outside. The symposium was repeated in Osaka for similar crowds and Kobayashi went on to sell more than 620,000 copies of this volume within the next year. I see textbooks as the landmark for moves to change trends in society, commented Kobayashi. If you rewrite the texts, you rewrite social trends [Irie
We have seen that part of this historical revisionism
includes eliminating references to the Nanjing
massacre. On January 24, 2000, Osakas International Peace Center hosted a highly controversial symposiumVerification of the Rape of Nanking: The Biggest Lie of the 20th Centuryintended to challenge Japans record of atrocities during its occupation of China. Reacting in part to Iris Changs
1997 problematic bestseller The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II as
well as nearly fifteen years of mention in middle-school
textbooks, the event was roundly criticized by Chinas leading dailies and prompted official diplomatic protests as well, not to mention challenges from Japans peace-related activists. Although the Reform Society was not listed as a sponsor, it seems likely that through affiliations and other networks, the Societys advocacy for eliminating the Nanjing massacre from textbooks help set the self-righteous tenor of the event. The fact that the symposium was held at all certainly indicates an increased willingness on the part of city officials and the general public to entertain revisionist perspectives regarding Japans
actions in the war.
The Reform Society has had considerable assistance in furthering its agendas, thanks in part to their alliance with the Nippon Kaigi (Japan
Association), itself a merger between The Society to Protect Japanese Citizens and The Society to Protect Japan. In
addition to broad-based local support, the Nippon Kaigi counts some 204 elected officials as high-profile members, all of whom support its five part platform (an agenda shared by other groups as well, including the group of legislators [Shinto Seijirenmei] to whom Prime Minister Mori delivered his controversial remarks).
Topping the list is to increase respect for and
veneration of the imperial family, as well as
to strengthen the emperors role in government. Second, the (U.S. written and imposed) postwar constitution must be amended so as to revoke the anti-war clause (Article 9s, Japan will never have a standing army), and to permit official visits to Yasukuni Shrine (where the spirits of the military dead are enshrined [see Nelson, forthcoming]). Next advanced is a thorough reform of educational policy, part of which would address moral education (dôtoku kyôiku)
and lead to the fourth point, raising awareness
and appreciation about the glorious spirits of the military dead (eirei).
Finally, they promote increasing Japans defense budget so the nations military forces can be deployed, like any normal country, to
protect national interests wherever they are
Since the early 1990s, Nippon Kaigi supporters blitzed rural
and urban areas with annual summer caravans (trucks and vans
with loudspeakers blasting and banners flying)
supporting a bill in the Diet to legalize the rising sun flag and kimigayo
anthem (which praises the continuity of imperial rule). Nippon Kaigi slogans
exhorted people to think about an intersection of flag and anthem with
cultural identity: Recognizing the flag and anthem, lets convey pride in being Japanese to todays young people! (Kokki,
kokka o tsujite, seishonen ni Nippon no hokori
After considerable debate, this bill passed into
law in August 1999a
major victory not only for the Nippon Kaigi but for virtually every neo-conservative group currently operating in Japan.9
Partners in High Places
The momentum propelling flag and anthem to the
forefront reflects a sea-change in public advocacy
of neo-conservative issues since the early 1990s. Yoshino Kosakus work  on the ways in which Japaneseness is advanced through company brochures, training films, and guidelines alerted scholars to an obvious but overlooked dynamic in constructing cultural identity: the corporate connection. Anyone familiar with Japanese society knows that self-introductions usually link ones name with their employer (Hello, Im the Bank of Tokyos Tanaka Hiroshi),
providing an unambiguous first step in the dance
of status, hierarchy, and propriety characterizing not only business
but social relations as well. Thus, when we survey some of the key executives
in the Reform Society and its partner the Nippon Kaigi, we might think at first what an employee chooses to do with his or her political affiliations is a private affair.
But when an association with a brand name company
is leveraged during organizational and promotional
activities, the play is to evoke legitimacy and draw upon established
networks of alliance and support. The company or organization can always
say they have neither control over nor knowledge of their employees private activities, yet at the same time the company name is inextricably associated with and thus enhances that employees
affiliation with revisionist agendas.
And so, the Reform Societys board of directors bring in associations with Tokyo University and with six other institutes of higher learning (Taishô, Meisei, Kokugakuin, Gakushuin, the Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and the University of Electro-Communications). At its regional branches, the Reform Society lists executives from major construction firms (Obayashi, Kajima, and Taisei), steel companies (Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Kawaseki), auto makers (Isuzu, Hinô, Mazda, Yanase, BMW Tokyo), oil companies (Marubeni, Maruzen sekiyû,
Idemitsu), electronic companies (Toshiba, Fujitsu,
Canon, NTT Wireless), banks (Tokyo/Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Asahi), and
food suppliers (Ajinomoto and Kentucky Fried Chicken). Likewise, Nippon Kaigi board
members include the managing director of one of the Osaka regions private railways (Kinki Tetsudô), the publisher of a newspaper agency in Shimane prefecture (north of Tokyo), and the managing director of Kumamotos
main television station [Tawara 1999:65].
Thanks in part to the willingness of these individuals
to align themselves (and, by association, their
companies) with Reform Society goals, membership has increased dramatically
in the last two years, now totaling over 12,000. Before scoffing at what
might seem an insignificant number, we should remember that Japans grass-roots organizations, or groups involved in class-action lawsuits, have had, despite limited membership, considerable impact on national policy in areas of the environment, election reform, consumer rights, and religion/state separation. As in the debate over the legalization of the national flag and anthem, one can also assume considerable support beyond the number of actual Reform Society members. Groups such as the six million strong Bereaved Families Association
(Izoku Kai), any number of veterans organizations, the Shinto Seijirenmei as
well as the Central Association of Shinto Shrines,
several new religions, and the Boy Scout organization would all be boosters
of Reform Society goals. Thus, once an appeal or campaign has been endorsed
by like-minded organizations, and appears to have the support of major
corporations through the affiliations of their employees, a momentum
both capable and ready to influence policy.
Influencing and Reforming National Educational Curricula
We can cite concrete evidence that a new sense
of Japanese cultural nationalism, modeled closely
along Reform Societys guidelines, has already found its way to the level of the nations educational curriculum. Since the final selection and adoption of Ministry of Education-approved materials takes place at the local committee level, jockeying for influence during the selection process has been an area of considerable Reform Society emphasis. Lobbying, appeals, and petitions to the Ministry of Education and local curriculum committees (Open the eyes of the 14,000 (local) educational curriculum committees!)
have been part of the strategy and slogans of
the Reform Society since its inception.
One of the most successful accomplishments thus
far has been the cultivation of top Ministry
of Education officials, including its director in 1997, Machimura Nobutaka.
Despite constitutional guidelines prohibiting this kind of solicitation,
Machimura remarked in a 1998 session of the Diet that when you think about the balance of history, textbooks are missing some parts... giving us a negative impression [Tawara 1999:69]. In a similar vein, Fukuchi Toru, the deputy minister for reviewing textbook manuscripts prior to their selection and publication, remarked in a column published in the Sankei newspaper, Japan
was forced by circumstances (yamu ni yamarenu) into the war. If
Japan did not advance into Korea and China, China
would have been divided between Russia and England. Japans advance into China stopped that kind of move by the Russians. In this context, he also remarked that war is not evil (sensô wa
aku dewa nai), but the resulting firestorm over these remarks, (including
his use of advanced rather than invade or attack)
forced his resignation. After a short respite
however, Fukuchi was reassigned to a higher position within the Ministry
where he met with and coordinated the activities of educational curriculum
Acting upon his opinions about the negative impression of history texts, in 1998 former Education Minister Machimura (who, after a brief hiatus, was reappointed to the same position in late 2000) helped implement new guidelines for middle school courses on civics and history. Its opening statement reads, We must deepen our love for the history of our country in order for its citizens to nurture self-consciousness as Japanese. (Waga
kuni no rekishi ni taisuru aijô o fukame, kokumin toshite no jikaku
o sodateru.) A June 30, 2000 report from the Kyôdô News service indicates that textbook authors and publishers submitting textbooks for the 2002-2003 school year are trying indeed to cooperate with these new guidelines. Only four out of the seven submitted manuscripts mentions the issue of military comfort women, whereas eight out of eight textbooks from the previous year had discussions of the issue. Similarly, treatment of the Nanjing massacre has been truncated as well: two textbooks had a specific number of casualties (200,000) whereas all other versions mentioned only that casualties were many or that the exact number is not known. There are also revisions of key terms, with invasion by the Imperial Army now replaced with advance.
If this is the beginning of a trend of self-restraint among textbook authors and publishers, perhaps in as little as ten years time Japanese students will be reading textbooks very close in tone and content to those published in the late 1930slearning that Asia was liberated from colonialism by Imperial Army forces, that the wars causal circumstances point to American and British racist conspiracies hatched in the 1920s, and how all criticism of Japans actionsinternal as well as externalis
an attack on the nation itself [Hein and Selden,
The signs of recovery presented in this report
indicate substantive steps towards the realization
of long-standing conservative goals. Though ideologically charged in
scope and design, it is probably good to remember that, as Carol Gluck
reminds us, ideological agendas appear to be everywhere when traced from
the center outward, but by embedding ideology more evenly in its context, its proportions are more realistic [Gluck 1985:14]. Should the revisionist textbook of the Reform Society be promoted for adoption in schools by the Ministry of Education, it must still be approved at the local level and will, I believe, come under increasingly harsh scrutiny by both domestic and international critics. Or at least we have to hope so, for the alternative of a conscious whitewashing of history evokes a been there, done that kind
of fatalism hardly conducive to the first years
of what will surely be, in national narratives the world over, the most
progressive century ever.
I am grateful to Dr. Barbara Bundy of the USF Center for the Pacific Rim for extending the opportunity to discuss this timely issue in a Pacific Rim Report. My thanks also to Dr. Stephen Roddy for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. All shortcomings of interpretation are my own entirely.
1. A full account of Ienagas persistence, as well as court decisions
encouraging incremental steps towards more state
control regarding textbook content, can be found in Inokuchi and Nozaki,
1998. BACK TO TEXT
2. Though its leader and top officials are in
prison on murder charges, Aum carries on via
the internet, and through its business wing Aleph. It was revealed early
in 2000 that Aleph had provided high-tech assistance as a subcontractor
employed by several large corporations as well as by Japans armed
forces. BACK TO TEXT
3. The economic boom of the 1980s gave rise to
a more confident and assertive nationalism, especially
with Nakasone Yasuhiro as prime minister. When textbooks were revised
to portray Japan as advancing rather than invading into Korea and China, a major international controversy developed. Forced to back down and even apologize officially for this move was deeply troubling to the neo-conservative groups supporting it and other nationalistic causes (such as Nakasones equally provocative official visit as prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine in April, 1983). Nakasone is still active as a senior statesman, and recently had a secretive dinner to discuss Japans
course in the 21st century with prime minister
Mori and outspoken Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro (Asahi News, September 2, 2000). BACK TO TEXT
4. High school textbooks have a closer adherence
to established historical facts. However, students
are studying so frantically for university entrance exams, which heavily
emphasize early historical periods, teachers rarely devote time in class
to cover the contemporary era. The material is indeed in text-books,
but students are told to study it on their ownknowing full well
from decades of precedents that it will not appear on the entrance exams. BACK TO TEXT
5. Groups singled out for inclusion are the main
teachers union (Nikkyô So), publishers unions
(shûppan rôren), The Society of History Educators (Rekishi
Kyôikusha Kyôgikai), and a Liberation League for Oppressed Ethnic Japanese (Dôwa
Kankei Dantai). BACK TO TEXT
6. One of the key words in this debate over an inclusive versus an exclusive Japanese identity is toitsu sei,
implying that whoever came to the archipelago
encountered and quickly adopted its unique social arrangements and culture,
thus becoming wholly Japanese. It is doubtful this magical assimilation will work for Japans
many guest laborers from Brazil, Iran, the Philippines,
and elsewhere in Asia. BACK TO TEXT
7. Gavan McCormack argues that, unlike Germanys clear historical break with their Nazi past and embrace of a regional integration, Japans political system remains continuous with prewar structures. After all, charges against the emperor were dismissed on political grounds, and, as Japans wartime head of state, he remained in power until 1989. The emperor remains the quintessential Japanese self: unsullied, sublime, and imperial. (McCormack
1998:19, 22). BACK TO TEXT
8. In this 55th year after the war, controversy
continues over what to call it in school textbooks
as well as in political records. Should it be the conservative, Reform
Society choice, The Greater East Asian War (Dai
Tôa Sensô) that evokes Japanese policies to liberate
East Asia from imperialist oppression? Or should
it be the victors term, The Second World War (Dai Niji Sekai Taisen)
or the more recent and politically correct Asia Pacific War (Ajia
Taiheiyô Sensô)? BACK TO TEXT
9. After the passage of this law, the new school year beginning in March/April of 2000 saw dramatic compliance. Schools that previously had neither sung the anthem nor raised the flag, such as most high schools in Osaka, were reported to be 100% in compliance. There was considerable protest and resistance however, with an extreme incident occurring in Hiroshima prefecture. Due to the pressure brought upon him by the local school board to comply with the new law, a local principal killed himself in protest before the new school year began. (Japan Times Online, June 1, 2000). BACK TO TEXT
Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Apple, Michael and Linda Christian-Smith. 1991. The Politics of the Textbook. London: Routledge.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press.
Chang, Iris. 1997. The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. New York: Basicbooks.
Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and other Writings, 1972-1977. Colin Gordon, trans. and ed. New York: Pantheon Books.
Fujioka, Nobukatsu. 1996. Ôjoku no kingendaishi (Shameful Modern History). Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten.
Fujioka, Nobukatsu and the Liberal View of History Research Group. 1997. Kyôkasho
ga oshienai rekishi (Japanese History Not Taught in School Texts), vol. 1 and 2. Tokyo: Sankei Publications.
Gluck, Carol. 1985. Japans Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late
Meiji Period. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hein, Laura and Mark Selden. 1998. Learning Citizenship from the
Past: Textbook Nationalism, Global Context, and
Social Change. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 30(2):3-17.
-------. 2000. Censoring History. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Hobsbawm, Eric and Terrence Ranger, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Inokuchi, Hiromitsu and Yoshiko Nozaki. 2000. Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga Saburos Textbook Lawsuits, in Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States, Laura Hein and Mark Selden, editors. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.
Irie, Yoshimasa. 1997. Rekishi kyôkasho daisensô (The Great War Over History Textbooks). Bungei
Shunjû, pp. 306-315.
Japan Economic Newswire. 2000. New Japanese Textbook Drafts Proving Controversial. June
McCormack, Gavan. 1998. The Japanese Movement to Correct History. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 30(2):16-23.
Namikawa, Eita. 1998. The Iniquities of History Education in Japan During the Postwar Period. Tokyo: Japanese Society for Textbook Reform.
Nelson, John. Forthcoming. Social Memory as Moral and Ritual Practice:
Commemorating Spirits at a Shinto Shrine for
the Military Dead. Journal of Asian Studies.
Tawara, Yoshifumi. 1999. Rekishi o kaizan suru uha seiryoku no saikin no doko: atarashii rekishi kyokasho o tsukuru kai o chushin ni. (Recent trends in tampering with history by ultra-conservative groups: Whats
going on with the Society for New History Textbooks). Senso sekinin kenkyu kikan (War Responsibility Research Quarterly) 25 (Fall): 62-71. Tokyo.
Yoshino, Kosaku. 1992. Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan. London: Routledge.