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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.
May 2004

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.

April 2004

  • Languages

    German, Japanese