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The history taught to Japanese children via their government-approved textbooks is a key battleground in the history issue. However, it is important to distinguish textbook content, which is fundamentally an issue of what the Ministry of Education textbook screeners consider to be “factually correct” history, and history education, which is the way these textbooks and all other teaching resources are used in classroom settings.
Here is the official explanation of the Textbook Examination Procedure. For a critical reading of some of the problems inherent within this system, see:
Koide Reiko, “Critical New Stage in Japan’s Textbook Controversy”.
For a history of the textbook controversy, see:
Mark Selden and Yoshiko Nozaki, “Japanese Textbook Controversies, Nationalism, and Historical Memory: Intra- and Inter-national Conflicts”.
Two key organizations involved in the textbook controversy in recent years are the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which has produced controversial nationalistic textbooks since its establishment in 1996. The organization Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21 was established in 1998 to “continue the achievements of Ienaga Saburo and his textbook trials”. There have been attempts to write joint textbooks in East Asia, including A History to Open the Future (available on Kindle) produced by Chinese, Korean and Japanese scholars. A New Modern History of Asia (free pdf download) is another.
History education is what goes on in the classroom. It includes the reading of history textbooks, but also includes things like school visits to peace museums, the usage of supplementary materials by history teachers, invited talks at schools by members of the war generation, and references to war in other subjects, particularly Kokugo (Japanese) and Dotoku (morals). In history education, the priorities and perspectives of history teachers can come to the fore.
Philip Seaton and Kurahashi Ayako, “War Responsibility and the Family in Japan: Kurahashi Ayako’s My Father’s Dying Wish”.
I have developed these arguments most fully in Chapter 6 of Japan’s Contested War Memories.
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