Irie Yoko: Nihon ga 'kami no kuni' datta jidai
(When Japan was the 'land of the gods');
Iwanami Shinsho 764, published in 2001
Comprehensive analysis of Japanese school textbooks for elementary school
(kokumin gakko) of 1941-1946 - the period when Japan imagined itself being
the 'land of the gods' (kami no kuni) and Japanese children were taught
this kind of ideology in elementary school. The phrase 'land of the gods'
has been paid attention to recently due to the remark of former Prime Minister
Mori Yoshiro in 2000 that Japan always has been the 'land of the gods'.
The author (born in 1935 and therefore having experienced school classes
in which this kind of textbooks where used) summarizes prewar textbook
ideology in thematical clusters which she considers particularly typical:
the use of the national flag hinomaru in textbooks (in text and pictures);
the effort at making children into imperial subjects ready sacrificing
themselves for Emperor and State; the ideology of the 'land of the gods',
i.e. the inclusion of myth in historical accounts and the consequence of
teaching Japanese superiority and, implicitly, inferiority of other nations;
the Emperor cult, focusing on the mythical first Emperor Jimmu and the
founder of modern Japan, Meiji; the role of the 'mother' as depicted in
the textbooks; the increasing role of an enlarging Asia vs. the decreasing
role of 'the West'; the depiction of social organisations such as the Youth
League and the Neighbourhood Societies (Tonarigumi). A must read for everybody
thinking about the role of education within national integration of modern
nation states in general, but particularly for everybody doing research
on prewar Japanese social history.
Translation of two interesting editorials of the daily newspaper Asahi Shinbun
on recent developments in Japan, criticizing pressure put on teachers
to enforce "respect" for the national hymn kimigayo and the national
flag Hinomaru at school ceremonies. Translation by "Japan Focus",
a homepage focusing on introducing critical voices from Japan on political
and societal issues.