2014: Why on Earth is ... this not in the Textbook?

Quelle:  The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 12, Issue 1, January 6, 2014.
Mit freundlicher Ertlaubnsi von Japan Focus.

"Why on earth is something as important as this not in the textbooks?" – Teaching Supplements, Student Essays, and History Education in Japan
Matthew Penney

After a short introduction contextualizing revisionist history in Japan and controversies over the representation of imperial and wartime violence in Japanese textbooks, this piece presents translations of a wide variety of student writing projects and classroom resources from progressive educators. Focusing exclusively on textbooks results in a limited view of what actually goes on in Japanese classrooms. This collection highlights some of the ways that critical educators have resisted revisionism and brought vivid discussion of controversial issues to the classroom.


The economic setbacks suffered by Japan in the early 1990s brought with them a sense of social malaise that has lingered to the present. In recent years, only a small minority of Japanese believe that their country is on the right track and while “Abenomics” has public confidence on a slight upswing, it is far too early to tell if this will hold.1 A variety of reasons for this malaise are offered – ineffectual government, debt and fears about pensions and healthcare, a revolving door at the Prime Minister’s Office, “out-of-control” bureaucracy, the rise of China and China-Japan clashes, are a few of the most common. The far right, however, has pinpointed a different problem – an education system they deem “masochistic”.

In the 2007 book Nihonjin no Hinkaku (The Dignity of the Japanese), Watanabe Shoichi, one of Japan’s most prolific neo-nationalists and a close advisor to Abe’s Minister of State for Regulatory Reform, Inada Tomomi, sums up rightist fears of what education is doing to Japan’s youth,

Just how are these children who have been told over and over again that “Japan is no good, Japan is no good” going to turn out? There is simply no way that children who are taught things like “Your fathers were aggressors, your grandfathers were aggressors, they committed massacres” can live with their heads held high…. It is because of things like this that Japanese have lost their identity and their pride. When human beings lose their pride, they lose with it the ability to accomplish anything. They lose their energy and they lose their morals. When it gets to this state, society has nowhere to go but down.2

Watanabe’s attempt to connect social ills with education about the past is entirely abstract, but Manga Nihon no Mondai (Manga – Japan’s Problems), one of a number of titles that attempted to cash in on the success of rightwing manga by Kobayashi Yoshinori and Yamano Sharin only to fail and disappear quickly from store shelves, provides valuable insight into how some rightwingers envision critical history education warping young minds,
[Manga images should be read in Japanese manner from RIGHT to LEFT.]3

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