Textbook Reformations

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 11 Comments |

So, as a note-taking session for my exam (today!), I decided to very briefly summarise the positions of major political parties concerned with the textbook revisions in Japan. I’m looking at things from an academic perspective to help clarify where the parties stand, so it is not meant to be uncontroversial.

You may have your own opinions – so I encourage you to write them in a comment below! Let’s go:

Background

Here’s the Wikipedia introduction for reference which sums it up well:

The Japanese history textbook controversies are about government-approved history textbooks used in the secondary education (junior high schools and high schools) of Japan. The controversies primarily concern what some international observers perceive to be a systematic distortion of the historical record propagated in the Japanese educational system, which seeks to whitewash the wrongdoings of Imperial Japan during WWII.

Also at issue is the constitutionality of the governmentally-approved textbook depictions of World War II, Japanese war crimes, and Japanese imperialism during the first half of the 20th century. The history textbook controversies have been an issue of deep concern both domestically and internationally, particularly in states which were victims of Imperial Japan’s atrocities.

New History Textbook

Above is one of the new textbooks published by Fushosha and written by the members of Tsukurukai.

Revisionist Lefties and Liberal Rightists


In each section, entries nearer the top very loosely symbolise a ‘stronger’ or more stout supporter of that set of beliefs. For example, Tsukurukai is at the top of Right-wing, so they are the most Right-wing in the list of people and organisations (in my humble opinion). It is not fixed however – it is only a very, very rough guide.

Left-wing


Ienaga Saburo – Historian and textbook writer. Fought against and sued the government in the 1950s because the Ministry of Education tried to censor the descriptions in his textbook of Japan’s atrocities during wartime events. The MoE removed the content on the basis that it was ‘factually incorrect’ in its depiction of Japanese war crimes.

Tawara Yoshifumi – Wrote responses to the revised textbooks released by Tsukurukai. One of which was entitled ‘Abunai Kyokasho NO! – Say NO to dangerous textbooks!)

Japan Teacher’s Union – Opposed the Ministry of Education watering down definitions of wartime events in textbooks. JTU much weaker now.

Takahashi Testsuya – Criticised ‘Kokoro no Noto’ (Notebook of the Heart). Kokoro no Noto was a small book released in some schools in Fukuoka that essentially taught students what it was to be a good Japanese person, such as singing the National Anthem and respecting the National Flag. Students would be graded on their level of respect for such things.

Hata Ikuko – Historian

Asahi Shimbun (newspaper)

Democratic Party of Japan – Current main opposition party to the LDP in Japanese politics.

Ozawa Ichiro – Current leader of the DPJ

Neutral


Liberal Democratic Party – Current party in power in Japanese politics. Led currently by Taro Aso.

Shinzo Abe – Former Japanese Prime Minister

Mainichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun (all newspapers)

Right-wing


Tsukurukai – ‘The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform’. Started by Fujioka. The central organisation spearheading the textbook reforms because of their beliefs that Japanese school history textbooks do not give an accurate view of history because the Japanese are depicted as ‘criminals that are continuously apologising’. They aim to give a more ‘balanced’ portrayal of history (hence the ‘Liberal’) in the title.

Kobayashi Yoshinori – Writer of Sensoron, a ‘historical’ manga about various wars over time. Has gained much controversy over what people say is an unbalanced picture of history. Formally a member of Tsukurukai.

Nishio Kanji – Original leader of Tsukurukai and official author of the revised textbooks.

Ministry of Education – Position tends to vary from Neutral to Right-wing. The MoE has been criticised for rejecting textbooks that depict Imperial Japan in a negative light. In short, it seems as though they wish to play down the wartime atrocities Japan committed.

Sankei Shimbun (newspaper), Fusosha (publisher), Fuji Sankei (Fuji TV) and NHK (TV). Generally held to be sympathetic to Tsukurukai.

Ishihara Shintaro – Current governor of Tokyo

Taro Aso – Current Japanese Prime Minister

11 comments on “Textbook Reformations
  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for the extra information Dave, Yoshi! In the article, I termed the Right-wing as ‘liberal’ because they claim they are trying to balance-out the debate. I think the Left-wing are thought of as ‘revisionists’ because they debate revising the Constitution, although I could be wrong.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the extra information Dave, Yoshi! In the article, I termed the Right-wing as ‘liberal’ because they claim they are trying to balance-out the debate. I think the Left-wing are thought of as ‘revisionists’ because they debate revising the Constitution, although I could be wrong.

  3. Yoshi says:

    Mike
    Yep I mean Left-wing when I say liberal and so on if you convert it in general terms…but it’s more complicated in fact I guess…cos even today left-wing often means socialists and right-wing means hard-cre capitalists sometimes…and I have to say I am liberal but not a socialist…As for Abe, he is the one of the most extreme revisionists…actually Koizumi, too but it’s not so well-known abroad and even in Japan…I guess.

  4. Yoshi says:

    Mike
    Yep I mean Left-wing when I say liberal and so on if you convert it in general terms…but it’s more complicated in fact I guess…cos even today left-wing often means socialists and right-wing means hard-cre capitalists sometimes…and I have to say I am liberal but not a socialist…As for Abe, he is the one of the most extreme revisionists…actually Koizumi, too but it’s not so well-known abroad and even in Japan…I guess.

  5. Yoshi says:

    Well, very interesting! But I have to say a couple of things concerning stances of some people/organisations you mentionned.
    First, Ozawa is definitely a right-winger. So is the LDP. I can tell that to you cos my grandpa was a member of LDP and he was a right-winged guy. Ozawa was a former LDP lawmaker in fact and well-known in Japan for his very right-wing statements (he even mentionned the possibilty of arming Japan with nuclear weapon).
    As for DPJ, it is quite complicated. But DPJ is definitely differnt from US democratics. No Obama in DPJ! :-D Actually, DPJ is mainly formed by ex LDP lawmakers and former Socialist Parties lawmakers (but again righty sect of the Socialist party), which make it very divided and confusing. For instance, 3 most important persons in DPJ, Ozawa, Hatoyama and Kan: Ozawa is right-winger, Hatoyama too(but certainly less right-wingy than Ozawa and Asou) while Kan is considered rather a moderate liberal.
    And Abe does never fit in “netral” category…he is considered as very right-wing even among right-wingers.
    As for newspaper, my considaration is as follows.

    Asahi (liberal)
    Mainichi (moderate liberal)
    Nihon Keizai(moderate conservative but also considered neutral)
    Yomiuri(conservative)
    Sankei (very conservative)

    BTW, Fusosha is the publisher of Atarasii Rekisi kyoukasho…

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Yoshi! Some great insights there, and from somebody who probably has more authority than me! ^^;

      I didn’t know about Ozawa being such a right-winger. Abe, too. I think I made a mistake putting him as neutral ^^;

      Thanks for the newspaper notes! I think people will find them useful for reference when buying papers in Japan! By ‘liberal’ you mean left-wing and ‘conservative’ you mean right wing, correct?

      • Satoshii says:

        Political parties can get a little weird sometimes. Just because they belong to one type of group doesn’t mean they follow that group’s political standings. It’s all a bit hoo-hah with names unfortunately.

        Conservative, Progressive Conservative, Republican, Red; these are all names associated with the Right wing of politics (think the GOP in America or the Tories in the UK.

        Labor, Democratic, Liberal Democratic, Blue; these are all names associated with the Left wing of politics. Think the Democratic Party in the US and the Lib Dems or the Labor party in the UK.

        You also get Left-Right parties. To be honest, the easiest example of that is actually the Labor party in the UK. Although considered ‘Left’ wing, they actually stand more towards the center of the political spectrum.

        There are also neutral parties and then a whole host of other branch factions that I can;t be bothered to go into.

        But just because a party say they are left or right, or are named in a left or right fashion, doesn’t mean they actually are. It all depends on policy making and what political leaning their policies have. For instance, they could be a liberal party, but be opposed to abortion, homosexual marriage and trying to deport asylum seekers. Then again they could be part of a strong right wing group, yet be seeking gay marriage rights or equal opportunities among race and gender. It all depends really. Generally it boils down to what the group as a whole decide (by majority of course, at least in the UK it is somewhat a democracy), but sometimes the views of individual members of the party (MP’s in the the UK [Members of Parliament]).

        I hope that was somewhat helpful. If I remember correctly Japan has had a long stint of Right Wing politics spanning many years, only breaking up occasionally I think.

  6. Yoshi says:

    Well, very interesting! But I have to say a couple of things concerning stances of some people/organisations you mentionned.
    First, Ozawa is definitely a right-winger. So is the LDP. I can tell that to you cos my grandpa was a member of LDP and he was a right-winged guy. Ozawa was a former LDP lawmaker in fact and well-known in Japan for his very right-wing statements (he even mentionned the possibilty of arming Japan with nuclear weapon).
    As for DPJ, it is quite complicated. But DPJ is definitely differnt from US democratics. No Obama in DPJ! :-D Actually, DPJ is mainly formed by ex LDP lawmakers and former Socialist Parties lawmakers (but again righty sect of the Socialist party), which make it very divided and confusing. For instance, 3 most important persons in DPJ, Ozawa, Hatoyama and Kan: Ozawa is right-winger, Hatoyama too(but certainly less right-wingy than Ozawa and Asou) while Kan is considered rather a moderate liberal.
    And Abe does never fit in “netral” category…he is considered as very right-wing even among right-wingers.
    As for newspaper, my considaration is as follows.

    Asahi (liberal)
    Mainichi (moderate liberal)
    Nihon Keizai(moderate conservative but also considered neutral)
    Yomiuri(conservative)
    Sankei (very conservative)

    BTW, Fusosha is the publisher of Atarasii Rekisi kyoukasho…

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Yoshi! Some great insights there, and from somebody who probably has more authority than me! ^^;

      I didn’t know about Ozawa being such a right-winger. Abe, too. I think I made a mistake putting him as neutral ^^;

      Thanks for the newspaper notes! I think people will find them useful for reference when buying papers in Japan! By ‘liberal’ you mean left-wing and ‘conservative’ you mean right wing, correct?

      • Satoshii says:

        Political parties can get a little weird sometimes. Just because they belong to one type of group doesn’t mean they follow that group’s political standings. It’s all a bit hoo-hah with names unfortunately.

        Conservative, Progressive Conservative, Republican, Red; these are all names associated with the Right wing of politics (think the GOP in America or the Tories in the UK.

        Labor, Democratic, Liberal Democratic, Blue; these are all names associated with the Left wing of politics. Think the Democratic Party in the US and the Lib Dems or the Labor party in the UK.

        You also get Left-Right parties. To be honest, the easiest example of that is actually the Labor party in the UK. Although considered ‘Left’ wing, they actually stand more towards the center of the political spectrum.

        There are also neutral parties and then a whole host of other branch factions that I can;t be bothered to go into.

        But just because a party say they are left or right, or are named in a left or right fashion, doesn’t mean they actually are. It all depends on policy making and what political leaning their policies have. For instance, they could be a liberal party, but be opposed to abortion, homosexual marriage and trying to deport asylum seekers. Then again they could be part of a strong right wing group, yet be seeking gay marriage rights or equal opportunities among race and gender. It all depends really. Generally it boils down to what the group as a whole decide (by majority of course, at least in the UK it is somewhat a democracy), but sometimes the views of individual members of the party (MP’s in the the UK [Members of Parliament]).

        I hope that was somewhat helpful. If I remember correctly Japan has had a long stint of Right Wing politics spanning many years, only breaking up occasionally I think.

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