Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 24: Room 307

An Appraisal of How Japanese Textbooks Discuss Major Diplomatic Events of 1900-1941

Organizer: Harry Wray, Aichi Mizuho College
Chair: Hoichi "Gary" Tsuchimochi

In the 18th and 19th centuries textbooks of all countries extolled their nations' glory, wars, heroes, and objectives. In the 20th century, however, two disastrous world wars, rampant religious, racial, and national prejudices, and the need for international understanding led historians to the conclusion that historians should try to write as objectively as possible to achieve historical truth. Write history as it was and "let the chips fall where they may" became the goal. Alas, national shame, pride, and domestic politics and ideological objectives have compromised this ideal in every nation. In the United States powerful elements try to sanitize American history by removing, distorting, and omitting truths about such events as incarceration of Japanese-Americans and atomic bombings during World War II, American mistaken diplomacy and atrocities during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and other diplomatic events that tarnish the nation's reputation. In Japan, China, the Koreas, and in other nations the same forces are at work for ideological reasons and from fear that objective truths will undermine their ideologies and school children's love of nation. This attitude raises the questions: Are children that naive and fragile that their love of country can be destroyed by truthful textbooks? Is telling historical truth incompatible with democracy or does the telling of truth to schoolchildren in fact nurture democracy and international understanding? The presentations by Wray, Yoshida Takashi, and Peter Mauch examine how and how well Japanese textbooks in general, and the controversial Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho textbook in particular, discuss major Japanese diplomatic events of the twentieth century. Please omit sections in red, or rewrite to focus on the academic issues you wish to raise.

1) Harry Wray, Aichi Mizuho College
Content Analysis and Comparison of Selected Topics in Japanese History, 1905-1930, in the First and Second Drafts of the Atarashii rekishi kyokasho

This paper makes a comparison of the Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho (ARK) with four other approved 2001 junior high school textbooks' content and scholars' research on selected topics of diplomacy for the period 1900-1930. It is a sequel to content analyses of papers on the ARK's treatment of Wartime and Occupation Periods. The first content analysis contrasts differences between ARK first and second drafts compelled by the Ministry of Education's Textbook Authorization Committee (TAC). A second content analysis examines the merits of TAC criticism. The third content analysis compares the second ARK draft with other junior high school history textbooks and professional scholars' research on the same topics.

Although the ARK has been adopted by only eleven junior high schools, analysis of its content is desirable for four reasons. First, we learn the ideological beliefs of the authors in the first draft. Second, we can observe the extent to which the authors' historical treatment differs from treatments in other secondary textbooks. Third, the short best-seller status of the textbook prior to receiving TAC approval illustrates a sympathetic following for ARK ideology. Fourth, we have to ask two questions: Is the Ministry of Education treading an indefensible line in asserting that textbooks are free? Why did it approve the ARK despite the failure of the second draft to meet fully TAC objections?

2) Takashi Yoshida, Western Michigan University
War over Words: Changing Descriptions of Nanjing in Japanese History Textbooks

Examining history textbooks from the 1930s to 2003 illuminates profound changes in Japanese society as well as in domestic and international politics of the time. During the Asia-Pacific War, textbooks were designed to inspire nationalism and patriotism among school children. Occupation textbooks emphasized to Japanese citizens the importance of cooperating with SCAP to build a new democratic Japan. In the Cold War period, the authorities attempted to put an end to "red textbooks" to cultivate an anti-Communist form of nationalism. After the 1982 textbook controversy, textbook authors could use terms such as "invasion" more freely. By the late 1990s, history textbooks treated with unprecedented frankness and sympathy the sufferings of victims of the Japanese military in China, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. However, these textbooks received fierce challenges from the Society for History Textbook Reform and did not emerge unscathed. I will first examine the historiography of history textbooks from the 1930s to the present by analyzing how the description of the Nanjing Atrocities has changed over time. I argue that, by the late 1990s, history textbooks in general achieved an apex of liberalism and became more inclusive than before of the pains of victims of Japanese atrocities. I will then examine the Society and its impact on existing history textbooks. I will argue that, even though it failed to sell its own textbook to the nation's schools, the Society achieved a major victory by causing existing history textbooks to tone down their discussions of wartime atrocities.

3) Peter Mauch, Kyoto University
Pearl Harbor as New History: Japanese-American Relations, 1938-1941, and the Atarashii rekishi kyokasho

My paper has two inter-linked purposes. First, it analyses the style and content of the first and second drafts of the Atarashii rekishi kyokasho (ARK) for the period 1938-1941. Second, it seeks to delineate the constellation of ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that actually informed Japanese (and other nations') diplomacy throughout that period. In adopting this approach, I suggest that the ARK has supplanted the traditional historicizing question, Wie eigerstlich gewesen? (How it actually was?), with a more ideologically charged question, Wie man es warmehmen soll? (How should it be perceived?). For example, Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro's proclamation of a New East Asian Order in December 1938 is depicted--in the absence of any discussion of Japan's hegemonic aspirations or Chinese resistance thereto--as an almost benevolent attempt to initiate reform throughout the region. In discussing the Axis (Tripartite) Pact of September 1940, the ARK fails to mention the Japanese government's expansionistic intentions vis a-vis the colonial regions of Southeast Asia--an omission that in turn renders discussion of American opposition to the pact inadequate. On the Japanese-American negotiations of 1941, basic factual errors abound, as do errors of omission. The single-most glaring error lies in the ARK assertion that the United States "seduced" Japan into conducting negotiations that were disadvantageous to Japan.

Discussant: Takemoto Toru, Obirin University


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