The Coexistence of Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism, 1997-2015

The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (JSHTR), launched in January 1997, attacked postwar history education for forcing Japanese citizens to lose national pride: “Especially the modern historiography treats the Japanese people as if they were criminals who must continue to atone and apologize forever. This masochistic tendency became even stronger after the Cold War ended. Right now, history textbooks in Japan present the propagandas of the former enemy countries as historical facts.”1 JSHTR members also met with Minister of Education Kosugi Takashi, trying to persuade him to reject masochistic tendencies—the increased descriptions of Japan’s past wrongdoings—in history textbooks.2

The LDP, too, challenged the history textbooks that had been approved during the 1996 textbook inspection. In February 1997, eighty-seven relatively young LDP members established the Association of Young Diet Members for Examining Japan’s Future and History Education (Nihon no Zento to Reki- shi Mondai wo Kangaeru Wakate Giin no Kai). Nakagawa Shoichi became president of the association, while Abe Shinzo, a future prime minister, served as chief secretary. According to Nakagawa, members of the association were motivated by their shared concern that “Japanese children are now using historically inaccurate, anti-Japanese textbooks. Can these children really carry the future of Japan on their shoulders?”3 In order to examine “how Japanese textbooks should be written for the sake of the Japanese people,” the association organized seminars for Diet members by inviting a total of eighteen guest speakers, three of whom were JSHTR members.4

This collaboration between politicians and nongovernmental actors distinguished the latest wave of nationalist attacks on history education from the earlier waves, where the LDP had either acted alone (the mid- 1950s) or had failed to coordinate its action with the textbook-reform movement led by the National Council for the Defense of Japan (the mid-1980s). Thus, after the fiftieth anniversary of the Asia-Pacific War’s end, JSHTR and the LDP joined forces to undo cosmopolitanism that had been incorporated into Japan’s official commemoration.

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