What Japanese History Lessons Leave Out; How Japanese Education Encourages Hatred Towards its Neighboring Nations 

What Japanese History Lessons Leave Out; How Japanese Education Encourages Hatred Towards its Neighboring Nations 
Yui K. ('23)

The issues with Japanese history textbooks and why it's important. 

Why do Japanese people often fail to understand the origins behind its neighboring countries' grudges against them over the course of history? It can be said that this is due to the fact that the majority of the content that antagonizes Japan regarding the 20th-century history is extracted from Japanese history textbooks taught in Japanese public schools. The fact that the Japanese textbooks studied by the majority of the nation’s youth lack in context of the history between its neighboring countries bring concerns that it would never work to stop encourage hatred toward nations such as South Korea and China in Japan unless revised and fixed as contents that they block out commonly are of events that makes Japan look bad. 

In Japanese history classes, years of history are taught hours of lessons, and it is undeniable that Japanese history textbooks are heavily biased in terms of incidents that have occurred through the 20th century regarding Japan and its neighboring countries. One example is the Nanjing massacre, a bloody massacre that has occurred over the time span of two months during the Japanese invasion of Nanjing, China. Though there is controversy over what happened regarding the number of deaths and the cases of rape, some Japanese including a Japanese author Nobukatsu Fujioka even denies the whole incident altogether. Fujioka, who is noted for his efforts at removing wartime atrocities committed by Japan during world war two from Japanese textbooks writes on the Nanjing massacre that; “It was a battlefield so people were killed but there was no systematic massacre or rape,” and that “The Chinese government hired actors and actresses, pretending to be the victims when they invited some Japanese journalists to write about them.” Alongside far-right nationalists like Fujioka’s claims on the massacre, history textbooks used in Japanese public school’s history classes are said to lack sufficient context of the incident. “It turned out only 19 of the book's 357 pages dealt with events between 1931 and 1945,” said Mariko Oi, who experienced Japanese high school history education, recalling the shortage of education she had received in school regarding the relations between Japan and its neighboring countries. The fact that Japanese high school students only read a single sentence on the massacre while children in China are taught in details of not only the Nanjing massacre but other numerous amounts of crimes Japan has committed during of World War Two is frightening, considering the fact that the two nations’ knowledge and perspectives on the same historical event differs to an unconditional rate which can stir up hateful debates on their accuracy. 

The same situation has occurred in the history of Japan and South Korea. Though there are many noticeable differences between the interpretation of historical events between Japan and South Korea, one of the most talked-about among both nations is the topic of violence and rape that has occurred amidst the Japanese occupation of South Korean Penninsula during World War Two. I asked my father, who spent more than a decade of his life in a Japanese public school if he was able to recall anything of the historical events evolving around South Korea and Japan specifically of the topic of violence and rape, he said, “the thing is, I remember that we definitely were taught about the Japanese colonial invasion of South Korea, but it was only a tiny fragment of the event that we actually learned. Before meeting my wife who is from South Korea, I would have never imagined such brutal acts being done by the Japanese soldiers at the time.” This highlights how Japanese textbooks are made to fabricate and deny many violent crimes that the country has committed during the war and how Japanese people are quick to believe them without a doubt. This makes young people who are oblivious to these debates on the different narratives of history in different countries struggle to understand the complaints and protests China and South Korea make against war atrocities as Japanese youth are simply not taught about what those countries are fighting for. 

The dislike shared among some of the Japanese population against South Korea and China can be said to have embarked due to the nation’s educational system, in where history textbooks are written in a way that veils crimes committed by the Japanese soldiers in its neighboring countries such as South Korea and China during the period of World War Two. If no changes are made regarding the context of history textbooks that are used in Japanese public schools, it will continue to encourage anti-Korean or anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan as it is the children, the future of Japan, who are taught from these textbooks that promote nationalist views on historical events from the past, which is why the textbooks should be fixed as it is whether the Japanese history textbooks will be revised or not determines future relations between Japan and its neighboring countries. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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