The Transformation of History Textbooks in Postwar Japan

   The findings of the preceding six sections need to be discussed in terms of the rise and fall of postwar Japanese nationalism. The changes of the nationalism in postwar Japan can be summarized in the following five points.

   First, when the occupation policy by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ) was concluded, the so-called "postwar democratic" educational contents were substantially abandoned. The split of the "victorious countries" shown in the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the start of the Cold War took the teeth out of this kind of "democracy of the postwar days" in Japan.

Second, what took the place of the "democracy of the postwar days" was nationalism from below, which sought to esteem the nation-state system itself. This tendency reappeared in the 1957 version of the textbook after the end of the occupation policy.

Third, such a nationalism soon came to be managed by the "official nationalism" from above as follows: "the idea or the movement in which people recognize their own nation as separated existence from others, and intend to unify, establish, and develop their own nation." This ethnocentric "postwar Japanese nationalism" came to be praised in the 1964 and 1973 versions of the history textbooks.

   Fourth, the movements inside Japan by people who were brought up in the atmosphere of the "postwar democracy" and the tendency toward the globalization of Japanese society had strengthened the operation of the reflexive monitoring between nation-states. As a result, the "postwar Japanese nationalism" was questioned, relativized, and canceled by the monitoring. The 1983 version of the history textbooks expresses the transformation.

   Fifth, such monitoring raised more universal historiographical consciousness among Japanese people. That is, Japanese people began to search for ways of presenting history by which any person who belongs to any nation would write historical events in a similar way. We can see less nationalistic, or "transnationalized," history in the 1994 version of the textbook.

In addition, I can point out two things which did not change through the postwar era. One was the thought among Japanese educationists that the truth of the history must be more important than the honor of their nation. This thought was supported by the concept of democracy brought from the U.S. during the period immediately after the end of the war. In the 1960s and 1970s, this thought remained in the movements to criticize conservative educational policies, such as textbook lawsuits brought by Saburo Ienaga. After the 1980s, being connected with the reflexive monitoring from other nation-states, this thought took shape as a criticism of Japanese government. This can be considered as the core of the educational thought in postwar Japan.

   The other thing that did not change during recent five decades was the textbook screening system. Even if policies of the Ministry of Education changed in each period, textbooks had been controlled by the government to a greater or lesser extent. The textbook screening system was a framework of postwar Japanese history education. If Japanese education would include more liberal contents in the future, it would be necessary to question significance of this system.

Transnationalism and Japanese History Education

   To conclude this study, I would like to return to Anderson's argument about nationalism again, and discuss the relation between globalization of nation-states and the new "historiographical consciousness." In the foregoing paragraphs, I described that the less nationalistic "historiographical consciousness" came to be established in the history education of Japan at the end of the 20th century.

In the first place, the existing image of the nation which members of the nation have internalized through history education or other subjects of social studies is one which had been made through "a half-fortuitous, but explosive, interaction"87) of the technology of transportation and communication with political and economic situations of the nation at the latter half of the 19th century. Anderson points out concerning the establishment of the modern Japan that:

Fortunate to come to power in an era in which numbered accounts in Zurich lay in an undreamed-of future, they [oligarchs having overthrown the Shogunate] were not tempted to move the exacted surplus outside Japan. Fortunate to rule in an age when military technology was still advancing at a relative amble, they were able, with their catch-up armaments programme, to turn Japan into an independent military power by the end of the century.88)

   The main means of transportation and communication were railways and ships in the 19th century. The boundaries of human communities were determined by this level of technology for human communications. Those are borderlines between existing nation-states.

   However, the technological, political, and economical environments surrounding us at the end of the 20th century are very different. Not only the development of aircraft and high-speed vehicles, but also of television and telecommunications has expanded the range of human activity. Recently, the spread of digital media has accelerated the expansion further. The means with which people "imagine" their communities are modernizing.89) With the diversification, speed-up, and the subdivision of the means of transportation and communication, individuals can get the power to expand the width and the depth of their understanding of the world. That is, it is possible for individuals to determine the boundary of the community to which they belong outside of the existing national borders. Therefore, conventional nationally defined historiographical consciousness cannot be uniform.

   Certainly, there are many regions where sub-nationalism is rising in present world. Bosnia-Herzegovina90) and many countries in the former U.S.S.R. are examples of the regions. But it is important to note that what they are now establishing is national capitalism, not global capitalism. In such countries, national historical narratives are still needed.

   On the other hand, what regions with more advanced capitalism are now experiencing is globalization of capitalism. Transcending national boundaries of historical narratives seems to be one of the inevitabilities under the further development of capitalism. In other words, the images of the world circulating in advanced societies are hardly ethnocentric or nationalistic any more. I think all capitalist societies would follow in the footsteps of more advanced capitalist societies.

As I have previously stated, EU nations made a united history textbook, trying to merge many histories of each nation-state. Also, same phenomena have already occurred in the U.S. As Meyer and Feinberg remarked, "from 1919 to 1950, American education turned away from the use of languages other than English for instruction in both the public and the private schools. This period in American history was marked by intense nativism."91) However, the intense nativism, or the social values and virtues of white middle- and upper-class males were challenged by the minority revolution and internationalization of U.S. society after the 1960s.92) Glazer and Ueda described the situation of U.S. history education in the 1970s as follows:

The new treatment of ethnicity in current textbooks changes a text from one with a single and simple national perspective to one that incorporates a variety of group perspectives. History can no longer be written from a single and unchallenged national point of view --the common stance of the past-- when the histories of different ethnic groups become a major thread of historical narrative.93)

   I would like to place the tendency toward transnationalism of Japanese history education in the same context of changing historical narratives as those of European countries and the U.S. For example, in 1998, accounts of the Nanking Massacre are included in all of seven kinds of history textbooks for junior high schools in Japan,94) in 14 out of the 18 world history textbooks for high schools,95) and in 14 out of the 19 Japanese history textbooks for high schools.96) Moreover, accounts of the military comfort women in Asia taken by the prewar Japanese military, which caused hot debates with support from the feminist theory to criticize the conventional patriarchy after the 1990s, are included in all of seven junior high school textbooks in Japan since 1996,97) and in 16 out of the 19 Japanese history textbooks for high schools as of 1998.98) The earlier ultra-nationalism cannot be re-established among Japanese people at the turning period of the century.

   Of course, there are some reactionary movements. For example, the group called Jiyushugi Shikan Kenkyukai (the Study Group of Liberal Historical View) appeared in 1995 as protesters against the mainstream view. They claim that positive aspects of modern Japanese history should be taught in order to nurture pride among their children. Moreover, they insist on the necessity of teaching the view of history in which the "national interest" is regarded as most important among the Japanese.99) Their chauvinist campaign got called the "third textbook attack."

   Even if they might have some influence, it does not seem that they can win the support of the majority of Japanese people, because the Japanese people are expanding the ranges of their activity outside Japan. For example, it is hard for multi-national corporations to be preoccupied with the "national interest" of one country. Actually, they produced no effect as of late 1998. A slightly revised 1998 edition of Yamakawa's World History included a new item "Result of World War II," and there seems no intention to transmit ethnocentric nationalism to young Japanese in the description.100) The mainstream of the history education in present Japan continues to regard the fixation of objective facts as most important.

   Although I do not think that the ideal "borderless society" or the "world-state" will come to be realized soon, physical and geographic borderlines, political borderlines, and economical borderlines are currently eroding. If we think it true that the mode of human communication prescribes the situation of human communities,101) we could assume that invisible cultural borderlines including education would change in the relation to the visible borderlines, affecting each other. The newly born historiographical consciousness expressed after the 1983 version of the history textbooks in Japan is one of its expressions.

In this study, the transformation of the contents of the history textbooks in postwar Japan has been analyzed in terms of the rise and fall of postwar Japanese nationalism. What should be noted as two major turning points of the transformation are the mid-1950s, when the revisionism was begun, and the mid-1980s when changes in the nationally defined "historiographical consciousness" could be observed.