Working Paper No. 107 (June 2005)
History Redux: Japan’s Textbook Battle Reignites
by David McNeill

Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it. Oscar Wilde

One rainy evening in April 2004, the Kudan Kaikan Hall in Tokyo, just down the hill from Yasukuni Shrine, hosted a meeting of angry old men. Speaker after disgruntled speaker among the 1,200 participants in a venue that had seen a very different conference four years previously – the 2000 comfort women’s tribunal -- took the podium to denounce the government, the state of the country, foreign influence and the torpor of Japan’s youth. Mostly, though, the target of their ire was the education system. [1]

“Why are we teaching our children to hate Japan?” said one. “America, China and Britain don’t teach their kids to hate their countries. We should be telling them that this is an amazing country and that they should love it with all their hearts.” “Compared with the colonial rule of the European countries and America, Japan’s rule of Asia was humane,” said another. “If we had not colonized Korea, America or Europe would have. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The conference was organized by the Society for History Textbook Reform, a group of mainly academics and social critics offering a distinctive if familiar historical counter-narrative: Japan was not the aggressor in World War II but the liberator, fighting to defend itself from the U.S. and European powers and free Asia from the yoke of white colonialism; Imperial troops were not guilty, as most historians suggest, of some of the worst war crimes of the 20th century but the “normal excesses” of armies everywhere; Japan’s “masochistic” emphasis on atonement is leading to the “moral decline” of its young.

Like the intellectual defense of British and other historical colonialisms, such sentiments are today mostly the preserve in Japan of neo-nationalists, who bitterly resents how the Imperial era is recorded for posterity. Unlike its counterparts in many other countries, however, the Japanese historical revisionist movement may be in the ascendancy after years of defeats at the hands of progressive educationists. They now have a rejuvenated leadership, strong grassroots support and some heavyweight political and financial backing. “We’re confident we can change the teaching of history in schools here,” says one of the society’s leading intellectual lights, Fujioka Nobukatsu. [2] There is every reason to believe him.

Fujioka’s group was set up in 1996 by men angry at what they considered the “decline of national principles,” which they largely attributed to Marxist- and feminist-influenced teaching in the nation’s schools.[3] The Society claims it has become “virtuous to despise and deprecate Japan and the Japanese people,” and that the school curriculum is leaving youngsters “confused and no longer proud of their nation.” Former society vice-president Namikawa Eita claims teaching methods “torture” children by failing to help them “derive hope and please [sic] from being Japanese.” Textbooks, says current vice-chairman Fujioka, have caused students to “consider Japan the most evil country in the world.”

The Society submitted its own 337-page New History textbook for approval for use in high schools by the Japanese Ministry of Education in late 2000.[4] The highlights of the first draft are by now well known: the Japanese invasion of Asia was called the “war in Asia and the Pacific” and the word “invasion” (shinryaku) changed to “advancement” (shinshutsu), or replaced with neutral phases like “extension of the battle line” (sensen o kakudai). References to Unit 731, a bio-warfare unit that most authoritative researchers claim caused thousands of Chinese deaths, were dropped.[5] The 1937 Nanjing massacre, when some historians estimate imperial troops slaughtered thousands of Chinese civilians, was changed to the “Nanjing incident” and the number of casualties downplayed, with the implication that China fabricated the episode. References to “comfort women,” or an estimated 100,000-200,000 sexual slaves from across Asia forced to service imperial troops, were not included. The comfort women, said Professor Fujioka in a famous essay, were prostitutes and “There is no need to teach children these kinds of facts.”

Other sections of the textbook received less attention: the 1943 Greater East Asia Conference, held in Tokyo, was said to be working for the “cooperation of each country and the elimination of racial discrimination,” even as imperial scientists and soldiers practiced the most barbarous racism throughout the region. The benefits of Japan’s brief colonial rule of the Korean peninsula were extolled and China was essentially blamed for its own subjugation for rebuffing Japan’s attempts in the 1920s to deal with the country “in a spirit of cooperation.” War in China was prolonged, the textbook said, because of the tactics of the Chinese Communist Party, which formed an alliance with the Nationalists in the 1930s. The local population in Japan’s colonial outposts around Asia ‘cooperated’ to defeat Western imperialism. The perspective on World War II and indeed the entire period of 1895-1945, when Japan tangled with the Great Powers in Asia, meshes with the historical narrative found in the refurbished Yasukuni Museum: Japanese aggression is denied except in the pursuit of legitimate strategic aims and the need to protect the country from foreign invasion.

The society also produced a civics textbook for junior high school use, which is equally narrowly nationalist in its perspective. The book contains insistent references to the need for a strong state to defend Japan against enemies and lays great stress on the importance of national symbols such as the hinomaru (rising sun) flag and kimigayo national anthem, devoting two pages to a discussion of their merits.

This approach is combined with the sometimes selective use of facts: readers are told that Japanese people tried to save Jews from the Nazi holocaust but not that imperial scientists were also conducting Nazi-style experiments on Chinese and other Asian prisoners; that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been judged a crime on a par with the holocaust and the African slave trade, but not that the Japanese war machine also enslaved millions of Asians. The Japan that emerges from the pages is moderate, stoic and put-upon; a reluctant warrior steering a tortuous path between the Scylla of national security and the Charybdis of Western colonialism. It is a comforting picture, but one that ignores the relentless march of Japanese power across Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, and the heavy toll exacted on Asian peoples.

The New History textbook was one of eight approved by the Education Ministry’s Textbook Authorization Research Council in 2001, after 137 revisions that tempered some of the most inflammatory passages. The original draft, for example, stated that the annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910 was “necessary to defend Japan’s security” and was supported by the Western powers, a passage that was deleted in the final version.[6] The changes were the result of a criterion for authorization that was introduced in 1982, following a protracted battle between Education Ministry officials and historian Ienaga Saburo, which stated that textbooks must consider international harmony in their depiction of historical events in Asia. Nevertheless, the result was an audacious attempt to re-burnish the teaching of history in schools from a nakedly nationalist perspective, and the approval predictably generated enormous anger across Asia.

The Background of the Dispute

The tug of war over history education in Japan began almost as soon as the U.S. occupiers touched down in 1945 and began their own review of the fascist-tinged kokutai no hongi, or cardinal principles of the unity of Japan. The system of censorship used by SCAP was retained by the authorities when the Americans left Japan in the early 1950s and, according to historian Yoshida Takashi, neo-nationalists were again allowed a strong hand in dictating what could be taught about history throughout the 1950s and 60s.[7]

From the late 1960s, and against the background of the anti-Security Treaty and anti-Vietnam War movements and a generalized questioning of establishment principles, grassroots challenges to history censorship began to emerge among teachers, historians and journalists. Historian Ienaga Saburo, who fought a 30-year legal battle against the authorities over textbook censorship, and journalist Honda Katsuichi, whose articles and books exposed to Japanese readers the facts about what happened in Nanjing, were only among the best known.

A key moment in the movement came in 1982, when protests from China and South Korea forced the education ministry to back down over demands that Ienaga remove certain sections of his textbook. The high-water mark of progressive teaching of history came in the 1990s, when all junior high school textbooks included some reference to the Nanjing Massacre. In 1996, the Ministry of Education announced that social studies and history textbooks would mention for the first time the comfort women issue. In the late 1990s, the 83-year-old Ienaga won the won the right to tell Japanese children about Japan’s bio-warfare Unit 731.[8]

It was these perceived victories by progressives, as well as almost a decade of post-Cold War scholarship which had opened up an enormous can of historical worms, that sent nationalists back on the offensive and prompted the establishment of the Society, led by chairman (now honorary member) Kanji Nishio, a specialist in German literature and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Other prominent members included education specialist Fujioka Nobukatsu, then at Tokyo University now at Takushoku University, where Secretary General Takamori Akinori also teaches as a visiting lecturer. Kobayashi Yoshinori, a cult cartoonist with a reputation for jagged, anti-establishment humor and a sharp eye for the socially and politically taboo, was a supporter who gave the group some much needed cache and a huge audience with the under-thirties.

Some of these men were long-established neo-nationalists. Takamori, for example, wrote a doctorate on the state-sponsored Shinto religion. Kanji, perhaps the society’s leading intellectual, has spent much of his academic career trying to reverse conventional historical wisdom: Chinese influence over Japan has been vastly exaggerated; the policies of the Tokugawa-era were not isolationist but simply a strategic refusal to deal with European colonial powers; Japan behaved no better or worse than other great powers during World War II, and so on. Other members have more complex backgrounds: Kobayashi began his intellectual life on the left and Fujioka was a self-professed Marxist who switched ideological sides after feeling ‘ashamed’ at Japan’s behavior during the 1990/91 Persian Gulf War.[9]

The Society launched its campaign to push the textbook into ten percent of junior high schools from a small office in Hongo, Tokyo in 2000, officially backed by some 10,000 ordinary supporters and claiming independence from major political and economic donors. (“We have no support from major business corporations, or a religious group, or anyone,” then spokesperson Takamori said in an interview on Common Ground on July 10, 2001.) But in fact the Society had powerful political and financial backing. A group of over 100 LDP lawmakers including current LDP Deputy Secretary General Abe Shinzo, current Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Nakagawa Shoichi, and Furuya Keiji, ex-senior vice minister for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, lent behind-the scenes support.[10] Regular editorials in the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun (a member of the same right-wing media conglomerate as the textbook’s publisher Fuso-sha and Fuji Television) and to a lesser extent in the Yomiuri Shimbun boosted the Society’s prospects, while corporate sponsors also backed the campaign. As anti-textbook campaigner Tawara Yoshifumi said: “The society likes to see itself as being up against a liberal establishment that controls education in Japan, but much of the establishment backs what it is doing.”

Evidence of financial support was not hard to find. Kanji’s 770-page nationalist history of Japan Kokumin no rekishi (A Nation’s History), regarded as a ‘primer’ for the new textbook, became a nationwide best-seller in 2000/01 with sales of 730,000 copies, and was trumpeted by the Society as proof of significant support for its ideas. Almost all the 2000-yen books, however, were bought in bulk by corporate sponsors and ultra-right-wing groups and then distributed free around the country. Most schools received a copy as did thousands of local and national councilors, journalists and opinion leaders. A letter that came with the book from a self-styled concerned parent’s group listed the problems afflicting Japan’s youth including crime, violence and the breakdown of school discipline before adding: “We believe this book holds the key to the rebirth of Japan.” Estimates put the cost of this distribution at one billion yen.[11]

The launch of the textbook sparked one of the most vitriolic political struggles in recent memory. The Society waged an impressive campaign throughout the summer of 2001, built on hundreds of small meetings around the country, augmented by full-page advertisements in national daily newspapers and regular TV appearances by the more articulate revisionists. Leading political figures such as Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro lent vocal and political support, urging LDP-friendly members on Japan’s 544 selection committees to promote its use. These selection committees (saitaku shingikai) are charged with choosing which book to use from a Ministry-approved list and then recommending it to the local education committees in each district, in practice usually a green light for all the schools in that district to adopt it.

During the middle of this 2001 campaign I visited the headquarters of the Society as a journalist for the Irish Times newspaper, and discussed the textbooks with Fujioka. I found the man famous for calling the comfort women ‘paid prostitutes’ prickly and defensive, and I only later learned that he had just been set up by a BBC crew, which was making a documentary on Unit 731. After getting Fujioka to say on camera that there was no evidence for the existence of the unit, the BBC producer ceremoniously dumped thousands of academic and eyewitness documents on the desk in front of him, making him appear ridiculous.

Fujioka’s conception of education is framed exclusively within narrow nationalist limits. When I suggested that Japan might cooperate with Korean and Chinese educationists to create textbooks, as France and Germany have done, he dismissed the idea. “It is not for other countries to decide how we teach our children. That is a recipe for chaos, and it is not the action of a sovereign nation,” he said. So, does this mean, I asked, that Japan should hide its war crimes? “Great Britain committed war crimes,” he said. “America, too. Regrettably, many nations commit war crimes. My concern is that Japanese children are taught to hate their country. They’re taught that only Japan was wrong in the war. Don’t all countries use history to instill pride in students? The aim of history teaching is to prepare people for citizenship. The facts of history are limitless. We can’t teach them all, so we have to make choices.”

The accusation by the Society of Western double standards strikes a chord with many in Japan who otherwise have little use for the revisionist agenda. Many of the Society’s key supporters, including manga artist Kobayashi, bitterly criticize U.S. actions in Vietnam and, closer to home, the refusal of the U.S. to apologize for the 1945 fire bombing of Tokyo, which incinerated an estimated 100,000 Tokyo civilians, or the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, incidents both he and Governor Ishihara describe as ‘racist.’ “America cannot criticize anyone,” says 32-year-old graphic designer Fujimoto Chiyoko, who regularly reads Kobayashi’s comics. “They bomb and kill when they want. Why should we take all the criticism for what we did years ago.”

Textbooks that whitewash history are hardly unique to Japan: progressives and conservatives in Europe and the U.S. have struggled for years over how to record colonialism and wars, as Oscar Wilde, the son of an Irish nationalist who made his living among the English upper classes, understood only too well. A century later, John Pilger, another writer who treads on establishment toes, writes about the “shockingly” selective high school history of the Vietnam War taught to British students, including the 1968 Tet Offensive, which “ended in the loss of thousands of American lives -- 14,000 in 1969 -- most were young men.” Says Pilger: “There is no mention of the millions of Vietnamese lives also lost in the offensive. And America merely began a ‘bombing campaign’: there is no mention of the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped in the history of warfare, of a military strategy that was deliberately designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes, and of chemicals used in a manner that profoundly changed the environment and the genetic order.”[12]

Fujioka’s prickliness may also have had something to do with his organization’s faltering drive, which had quickly run up against a well-motivated counter campaign coordinated by Ienaga’s former support organization Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, headed by Tawara Yoshifumi. Demonstrations led by teachers’ unions and parents sprung up throughout the country, and protest faxes, letters and e-mails bombarded the offices of the local committees. The turning point was the highly unusual reversal of a selection committee recommendation by the Shimotsuga education council in Tochigi Prefecture. The decision came, according to Kyodo, in the wake of “protests lodged by a Tochigi-based teachers union, as well as other groups and parents, with municipal education boards in the area.”[13] Other councils, intimidated by the protests, followed suit and by the end of the summer, the textbook was on desks in just 10 of Japan’s 10,000 junior high schools. The Tokyo metropolitan board of education, under pressure from Governor Ishihara Shintaro, briefly bucked the nationwide trend by voting to use the textbooks at a handful of public schools for the disabled, but not even the powerful governor had the clout to bring the book into Tokyo’s public school mainstream. But Kanji Nishio wrote in the afterglow of the controversy: “This time the leftists have gone too far,” and promised that his forces would return.[14]

The Next Round

The 2001 campaign to change the way history is taught in Japanese schools is widely considered a failure. Tawara sums up the results as follows: “The initial aim was to get the textbook into 10 percent of junior high schools. The end result was 0.039 percent. Of the 544 regional educational zones throughout the country, not one of these areas adopted the textbook. It was an embarrassment for the Society.”[15] Moreover, it is estimated that the Society lost over 1,000 supporters in the immediate aftermath of the campaign, suggesting strongly at the time that they were a spent force. But this was far from the end of the story.

At the launch of their 2001 campaign, the Society and the textbook publisher Fuso shrewdly capitalized on the enormous publicity by making the history textbook and its companion Atarashii komin kyokasho (New Civics Textbook) commercially available in book stores around the country. According to Fuso, over 700,000 copies of the former and 200,000 copies of the civics text have since been sold; bringing what had been considered extremist, fringe theories about history and society into thousands of ordinary Japanese homes and sending an important signal to the makers of the seven other history textbooks. Since 1996, the number of textbooks that mention the comfort women issue, for instance, has fallen from seven to one.

The Society spent the intervening years since 2001 laying the groundwork for its second major offensive, which sparked anti-Japanese demonstrations across China in April and May of 2005. Some of the more contentious historical passages of the 2001 history textbook, particularly the mythological framing of Japan’s distant past, have been removed or downplayed in a bid to win greater mainstream support. Revisions include a lengthy section on North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, which the Society calls “The greatest attack on Japan’s postwar sovereignty,” while saying almost nothing about Imperial Japan’s prewar and wartime abductions of millions of Asians, including forced laborers, draftees and comfort women.[16] The Society’s civics text claims jurisdiction over a clump of rocks called Takeshima in Japanese (Tok-do in Korean) that is much closer to Korea than Japan and has been held by Korea since 1945. “What nonsense is this,” said an editorial in the normally mild Korea Herald.

In preparing for the launch of the new books, the Society staged hundreds of meetings around the country to generate support and again worked to place sympathizers on local education boards. In early 2005 they had their most high-profile success with the election of the Society’s former deputy chairman Takahashi Shiro to the Saitama education board. Saitama Governor Ueda Kiyoshi is widely believed to have pushed for Takahashi’s selection. The 6-member board in Tokyo city is also stacked with vocal supporters of textbook revision, including writer Uchidate Machiko, Shogi master Yonenaga Kunio, Iwao Toriumi (an adviser to the trading house Marubeni), ex-Arts Council Director Kokubun Masaaki and chair Yokoyama Yoichi. The neo-nationalist views of these board members, three of whom were aides or classmates of Ishihara, are hardly secret. In the Metropolitan Assembly on March 16, 2004, Yokoyama warned that teachers who fail to “instruct students properly” on the merits of the flag and anthem issue “will have to face punishment.” In early 2005, Yonenaga was publicly rebuked by no less a figure than Emperor Akihito. When Yonenaga rather imperiously claimed that he was “doing his best to make sure” that students and teachers across the country raised the flag and sang the national anthem, the emperor replied, “It’s not desirable to do it by force.” Nonetheless, all this reflects a strategy made very clear by Society leaders such as Fujioka, who told a symposium of sympathetic lawmakers, “The target is the education committees.”[17]

How much financial backing the Society enjoys this time around is not clear. Its website boasts sponsorship by a long list of senior corporate figures, including Ishii Koiichiro, ex-chairman of Bridgestone; Arai Masaaki, honorary chairman of Sumitomo Life Insurance; and Ajinomoto ex-president Suzuki Saborosuke. But on closer inspection, many of these people have died or retired from the positions advertised. The corporations themselves say sponsorship of the Society is an “individual issue,” and since the controversy blew up again in April 2005 many of the sponsors’ names have been removed from the website.

Political backing for the Society has grown in the intervening years, led by a large segment of the LDP, which has openly sponsored conferences and meetings on the historical revisionist movement and quietly leaned on local education councils to support the textbooks. Since much of the deal making that fuels the campaign takes place behind closed doors, it is impossible to quantify, but occasionally a rare glimpse inside the political black box is provided. In December 1997, for instance, editors from seven textbook publishers were summoned to a meeting at LDP headquarters in Tokyo. Chaired by 15 lawmakers, the assembly told the publishers they were “deeply unhappy” at the drift in textbook content and wanted changes. The story later leaked to the press.

Again, during the NHK censorship scandal that broke in January 2005 [see Henry Laurence, “Censorship at NHK and PBS,” JPRI Critique, Vol. XII, No. 3 (April 2005)], the Asahi newspaper alleged that two senior LDP lawmakers, Abe Shinzo and Nakagawa Shoichi -- both key figures in the party textbook support group -- had pressured NHK executives back in January 2001 to change a documentary about a citizen’s tribunal on the comfort women issue, which held that the deceased Showa Emperor was responsible for their plight. The documentary was substantially altered.

The textbook issue, initially dismissed by some observers as the product of an extremist but essentially fringe movement, can now be seen more clearly as part of a broader attempt to roll back the progressive educational gains of the post-Vietnam era, led by what historian Jeffrey Kingston memorably dubbed the “Dr. Feelgoods of Japanese history”[18] -- neo-nationalist intellectuals and the most regressive rump of a party which in classic reactionary fashion is mining the past for patriotic answers to the intractable economic and social problems of the present. Abe, Nakagawa, Ishihara and other lawmakers who support the revised textbooks also favor expanded emphasis on patriotic educational content and closer control over the national curriculum as an antidote to the “infection” of progressive teaching methods, which they blame for destroying discipline in schools. After years of lobbying, the neo-conservatives succeeded in 1999 in making the playing of the anthem (kimigayo) and the flying of the hinomaru (rising sun) flag compulsory at Japanese school ceremonies. Led by Tokyo, the state has since waged a remarkably petty campaign to destroy acts of individual conscience by teachers who refuse to toe the line on a line they say resonates with Japan’s colonial ambitions of the 1930s.

The objective of the Society’s new campaign, say its progressive critics, is to reassert control over the education system where the state’s grip is weakest: at the bottom. For years, teachers have supplemented the official curriculum with their own materials. Hasegawa Takashi, a teacher and activist in Kanagawa says: “The issue that most concerns the Society and those who back it, is the autonomy of teachers, because they used to decide a lot of things among themselves, including methods and materials. This autonomy is waning. It is under attack from directives from the top such as the hinomaru and kimigayo law, and these textbooks, which are taking away teachers’ freedom to choose the most suitable class materials. School principals are increasingly taking their cue from education committees and ignoring the teachers.”[19]

Whether the Society succeeds on its second attempt remains to be seen. In 2001, its opponents were able to cobble together a powerful coalition that included everyone from Communists to Christians. This movement may yet spring back into life. On February 6, 2005, nearly 1000 teachers staged a rally in the Tokyo Education Hall to protest against the national anthem directive and proposed changes to the Basic Educational Law, and larger meetings are on the way. Still, the Society has grounds for optimism. It is backed by Japan’s most powerful political party, which explicitly declared at its annual conference on January 18, 2005 that “biased textbooks must be reformed,” prompting some to suggest that far from waning, the historical revisionist movement is growing. “I don’t think we have seen the peak of the Society’s activities, and in fact it can be said that they have more power than ever,” says Kim Jongsoo of the Korean Youth Association in Japan. “It is true that the number of public supporters has decreased, but their political, economic and religious support is much stronger.”[20]

The progressive movement meanwhile, mostly made up of remnants of the Vietnam-era generation, is aging: Tawara is in his early seventies, most of the teachers fighting the anthem directive are middle-aged or older, as are many of the local activists who formed the backbone of the 2001 campaign. Organizational forces that might be expected to fight the new educational directives, especially teachers’ unions and the Social Democratic Party, have been greatly weakened in recent decades. There is little doubt that the Society is planting its ideas in more fertile ground for them this time, thanks to a sea change in popular consciousness since Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s failed attempt to mend diplomatic relations with North Korea. “The Japanese media has focused strongly on Japan as the victim of crimes by North Korea, particularly the kidnapping of its citizens, so the memories of what Japan did in Asia is fading,” says Tawara. “Many young people have little idea of what went on in the colonial past.”

Many progressives hoped the violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, which were flashed across the world’s TV screens for weeks, might have persuaded ordinary Japanese to question an education system that has served them particularly badly. Instead, much of the political and media debate in Japan has successfully deflected blame away from the revisionists and their LDP backers onto Beijing, which is struggling with its own domestic problems. Japan must be the “adult” in this relationship with its unpredictable neighbor, wrote Japan Times commentator Hanabusa Masamichi, in one of the more restrained comments.[21] Most seemed willing to frame the debate in an unhelpful binary: “democratic, open Japan versus authoritarian China,” neglecting the similarities on both sides. The Chinese government, struggling to deal with the massive social fallout from over two decades of breakneck capitalist growth, has repeatedly resorted to banging the nationalist drum to keep the country united, at the risk of alienating the Japanese capital, technology, and markets it so desperately needs. But Japan too is grappling with economic problems, and in a chilling echo of the 1930s, finds itself increasingly tugged to the political right by a neo-nationalist movement that wants to confront the Chinese threat both militarily and ideologically.

For these and other reasons, Fujioka’s recent claim to author John Nathan that the Society is moving with the popular and political current in Japan, may not be an idle boast. “More and more people share our opposition to instilling self-hatred in our children,” Fujioka said. “I am confident it won’t be that long until New History sets the standard.”[22]


1. Earlier versions of this paper can be found in the South China Morning Post, April 23, 2004, and online at the History News Network: <> (January 16, 2005). [RETURN TO TEXT]
2. Personal interview, August 2001. All Japanese names are with family name first, followed by given name. [RETURN TO TEXT]
3. This and the following statements can be found on the society’s home page at <> (January 7, 2005). [RETURN TO TEXT]
4. Atarashii rekishi kyokasho (New History Textbook), Tokyo: Fuso, 2001. [RETURN TO TEXT]
5. Daniel Barenblatt says the number of deaths caused by Unit 731 is close to one million. A Plague Upon Humanity: The Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare Operation (London: HarperCollins, 2004). Sheldon H. Harris says the death toll is certainly in six figures, probably about 300,000. Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-Up (London: Routledge, 1995). The authoritative Japanese author on Unit 731 is Tsuneishi Keiichi, who says at least 3,000 people died in experiments at United 731 alone. See his Igakushatachi no soshiki hanzai: Kantogun Dai 731 Butai (The Kanto Army’s Unit 731: A Criminal Organization of Medical Researchers) (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun, 1994). [RETURN TO TEXT]
6. See “Disputed History Textbook Approved,” Japan Times, April 4, 2001, p. 2. [RETURN TO TEXT]
7. See Yoshida Takashi, “A Battle Over History: The Nanjing Massacre in Japan,” in J. A. Fogel, ed., The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000). [RETURN TO TEXT]
8. For an account of this see Laura Hein and Mark Selden, eds., Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2000). [RETURN TO TEXT]
9. Personal interview, August 2001. [RETURN TO TEXT]
10. The official name of this group is Nihon no Zento to Rekishi Kyoiku o Kangaeru Wakate Giin no Kai, awkwardly translated as the Association of Young Lawmakers Considering History Education and the Future in Japan. [RETURN TO TEXT]
11. Personal interview with Tawara Yoshifumi, Secretary General of the anti-textbook organization called Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, April 18, 2004. [RETURN TO TEXT]
12. John Pilger, “Attacking Our Memory,” Z-Net, February 19, 2005, available online at [RETURN TO TEXT]
13. “Council in Tochigi Reverses Decision to Adopt Controversial History Text,” Japan Times, July 26, 2001. [RETURN TO TEXT]
14. Misato Tateno, “Saitaku de ‘Tsukuru kai’ wa naze ‘haiboku’ shita no ka,” (Why Did the Society for History Textbook Reform Lose the Selection Battle?), Chuo Koron, September 2001. [RETURN TO TEXT]
15. Personal interview, note 11. [RETURN TO TEXT]
16. See Eric Johnston, “Abductions New Cause for Text Revisionists,” Japan Times, March 13, 2003. [RETURN TO TEXT]
17.Fujioka made the statement at a conference of supporters, including several lawmakers, in the Kensei Kinenkan (Parliamentary Museum) in Nagatacho, 14 June, 2004. The Yonenaga/emperor exchange was reported by the wire services at the time. See, for instance, Mainichi Daily News, Oct. 29, 2004. [RETURN TO TEXT]
18. See “Historians Battle to Redeem the Past,” Japan Times, April 7, 2001, p. 15. [RETURN TO TEXT]
19. Personal interview, January 8, 2005. [RETURN TO TEXT]
20. Personal interview, January 11, 2005. [RETURN TO TEXT]
21. See “Has China Learned a Lesson?” Japan Times, April 28, 2005. [RETURN TO TEXT]
22. John Nathan, Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation’s Quest for Pride and Purpose (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004), p. 152. [RETURN TO TEXT]

DAVID MCNEILL is a journalist for the Irish Times and Independent newspapers and teaches at Sophia University in Tokyo. He has lived in Kanagawa prefecture for the past 5 years. He is also the author of “Confessions of a Foreign Correspondent,” JPRI Critique Vol. X, no. 7 (November 2003). He can be reached at

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