Toward Peace: War Responsibility, Postwar Compensation, and Peace Movements and Education in Japan
Previous Table of Contents Next


    Contents of This Chapter
    1. 4-1-1  Self-Defense Forces
    2. 4-1-2  The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty
    1. 4-2-1  Non-Nuclear Weapons Policies
    2. 4-2-2  Movements Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs
    1. 4-3-1  The Victims’ View of History
    2. 4-3-2  The Victimizers’ View of History
    3. 4-3-3  The Textbook Authorization System
    4. 4-3-4  The Ienaga Textbook Authorization Suits
    5. 4-3-5  Rightists’ View of History
    6. 4-3-6  Teaching War by Teaching History


The constitutionality of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) has been questioned by many legal specialists, because Article Nine of the 1947 Constitution asserts the principles of anti-militarism and pacifism.  Article Nine renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” and the abandonment of “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential.”  However, the Constitution has been never amended.  As of 2005, the Constitutional Investigation Committee, which was established by the Diet in 2000, has been discussing the amendment of the Constitution, particularly Article Nine.

The Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of the U.S. military presence in Japan and the Self-Defense Forces, rejecting the judgments of the district courts that declared the U.S. military presence in Japan (Sunakawa case in 1959) and the SDF (Naganuma case in 1982) unconstitutional. 

In 1957, opponents of the U.S. bases illegally entered the Tachikawa base in order to protest its proposed expansion.  Twenty-five people were arrested and seven of them stood trial.  The defendants argued that the U.S. bases in Japan were unconstitutional under Article Nine of the Constitution, and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty violates the spirit of the Peace Constitution.  The state argued that the war potential in Article Nine is in relation to the Japanese, not the American military.  In 1959, Judge Date of the Tokyo District Court declared that the U.S. military presence in Japan was unconstitutional.  The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the judgment.  The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. military does not constitute “war potential” because it is not the military of Japan and that the U.S. military in Japan is a political matter unless it is patently anti-constitutional.

With regard to national security and military concerns, the Supreme Court of Japan has displayed its reluctance to judge, preferring to rely on the political question doctrine.  In 1969, the Minister of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery cancelled the designation of a national forest in Hokkaido in order to build a military base for Air SDF in Naganuma Town.  Some residents brought a suit against the government because building the base for the SDF had no public benefits because of the unconstitutionality of the SDF.  In 1973, the Sapporo District Court declared the Self-Defense Forces unconstitutional because it is based on war potential, prohibited by Article Nine of the Constitution.  The decision of the court caused a sensation because the SDF has existed de facto since 1954.  In 1976, the Sapporo High Court reversed the judgment of the Sapporo District Court, declaring that the constitutionality of the SDF is a political problem, not a judicial one.  In 1982, the Supreme Court, siding with the state, guaranteed the legitimacy of the SDF, without discussing the constitutionality (Enomoto 1993). 

The SDF is not supposed to be “military.”  Therefore, the SDF uses “equipment” (weapons) and “special vehicles” (tanks), and employees of the SDF are not “soldiers” but “personnel.”   The Japanese government has argued that under Article Nine, Japan has the right to have minimum required for self-defense, and that Japan cannot execute the collective self-defense because of Article Nine, though the international laws allow the execution of the collective self-defense (Yomiuri 2002:478-479).  The Japanese government states that the exercise of the right of self-defense under Article Nine is restricted to the following three conditions: 1. there is an imminent and illegitimate act of aggression against Japan; 2. there is no appropriate means to deal with such an act of aggression other than by resorting to the right of self-defense; and 3. the use of armed strength is confined to the minimum necessary level (Bōeichō 2003:113).

In order to amend the Constitution, two-thirds of the Diet representatives and more than half of the citizens, voting in a national referendum should agree with the proposed revision.  The majority party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been in power from 1955 to the present, except for the 1993-95 Hosokawa and Hata eras, has supported for the revision of the Constitution.  Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in 1980 and Komei Party in 1981 abandoned their anti-military stance in favor of supporting the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the SDF.  Finally in 1994 the JSP (Japan Socialist Party; since 1996, the Social Democratic Party of Japan) adopted the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty when the JSP Prime Minister Murayama Cabinet cooperated with the LDP.  Therefore, only the Japan Communist Party (JCP) still insists upon the unconstitutionality of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the SDF, and opposes them, although it now recognizes the activities of the SDF (AS August 26, 2000).

According to a 2002 survey, 57 percent of respondents agreed with the revision of the Constitution, while 29 percent disagreed.  In a 1993 survey after the first Gulf War, more than half of respondents agreed with the revision of the Constitution, and 33 percent opposed.  Two years earlier, 33 percent agreed and 51 percent disagreed.  In 1981, 28 percent of respondents agreed and 44 percent disagreed.  With the exception of respondents who are old enough to remember World War II, the number of those who agreed with amending the Constitution is more than that of those who disagreed (Yomiuri 2002:477-481).

Anti-war and anti-military sentiment remains very strong in Japan.  According to a 1995-96 international survey, only 17.2 percent of Japanese people, the lowest among citizens of respondent countries, answered “Yes” to the question: “If a war happens, will you fight for your country?” while 53.8 percent responded “No,” and 29 percent said “I do not know.”  The percentages of those who stated that they would fight for their country were 42.9 percent in Germany, 68.5 percent in the U.S., 68.9 percent in Russia, 81.6 percent in South Korea, and 89.3 percent in China.  Furthermore, 59.5 percent of Japanese respondents claimed to trust the military while 84.4 percent of the U.S. respondents responded the same way (Dentsū 1999:69-70, 79-80).

Japan’s defense-related expenditures amounted to 4,876.4 billion yen, 5.9 percent of general account expenditures, and 0.974 percent of the GDP in FY 2004 (Boeichō 2004).  The ratio of military expenditure to GDP has generally remained less than one percent since 1976, when Prime Minister Miki set the “one percent ceiling of GDP” guideline for military expenditure.  However, if we include the cost of coast guards, military pensions and base subsidies through local governments to the military expenditure as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) does, military expenditure usually exceeds one percent of the GDP.  Furthermore, “Three Principles of Arms Exports” of 1967 under Prime Minister Satō prohibited the exports/sales of weapons to communist countries, countries under United Nation’s arms embargoes, and countries in or on the verge of armed conflicts.  In 1976, under Prime Minister Miki, “Three Principles of Arms Exports” expanded the ban on weapon exports to all countries.  Since 1983 under Prime Minister Nakasone, only weapons technology can be provided to the United States.  In 2004, the government decided to relax the “Three Principles of Arms Exports” regarding Japan-U.S. joint missile-defense (MD) projects and possibly other programs (AS December 10, 2004).

[Back to the top]

4-1-1  Self-Defense Forces

After the deployment of the National Police Reserve in 1950 and the National Safety Agency with the National Safety Forces in 1952, the Defense Agency since 1954 has had a Ground Self-Defense Force, Maritime Self-Defense Force and Air Self-Defense Force.  As of March 31, 2004, there has been a quota of 255,040 Self-Defense personnel, including 159,921 Ground Self-Defense, 45,839 Maritime Self-Defense, and 47,286 Air Self-Defense personnel.  Approximately 10,900, or 4.6 percent are women.  In addition, there are 7,668 Ready Reserve Personnel and 47,900 Reserved Personnel (Boeichō 2004:264, 399).  As the major military power in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan has 147,000 ground forces, 150 vessels with 414,000 tons and 470 aircraft.  The U.S. forces in Japan have 20,000 troops (Army and Marine Corps personnel), 130 aircraft, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet which has 40 vessels with 610,000 tons and 70 aircraft.  China has 1.7 million ground forces and 10,000 marines, 740 vessels and 2,400 aircraft.  Russia’s forces in the Far East number 100,000 ground forces, 290 vessels and 630 aircrafts.  North Korea has 1 million ground forces, 600 vessels and 610 aircraft.  South Korea has 560,000 ground forces, 28,000 marines, 210 vessels and 600 aircraft.  The U.S. forces in South Korea have 30,000 troops (Army and Marine Corps personnel) and 80 aircraft.  Taiwan has 200,000 ground forces, and 15,000 marines, 340 vessels and 530 aircrafts (Boeichō 2004:37).

Defense-related expenditures include those for the maintenance and operation of the SDF, the maintenance and improvement of the community hosting the defense facilities, the host nation’s support of the U.S. forces, and the management of the Security Council.  Total defense-related expenditure for fiscal year 2004 amounted to 4,876,400,000,000 yen, 0.974 percent of the GDP (Boeichō 2004:97).  Japan’s military expenditure is the fifth largest in the world, after the United States, China, Russia and France.  According to the Military Balance 2003-2004, the U.S. spent $329,616 million (3.3% of GDP), China $48,380 million (4.1%), Russia $48,040 (4.8%), France $38,005 (2.5%) and Japan $37,070 (1.0%) in 2002 (The International 2003).  According to a 2000 survey, two-thirds of Japanese people think the defense capacity of the SDF is about right, 14 percent (6% more than in 1997) agreed with the increase in defense capacity, while 9 percent (7% fewer) wanted to decrease it (AS May 14, 2000).

During the 1991 Gulf War, Japan, which was prohibited from sending SDF, paid $13 billion for the multinational forces; however, its financial support was not much appreciated by international society.  The Japanese government proposed the International Peace Cooperation Law (PKO Law) so that the SDF can be deployed to other countries for peacekeeping.  When the PKO Law was enacted in 1992, almost 60 percent of the public opposed it, fearing that their servicemen and women would be sent overseas on military missions.  On September 17, 1992, 34 first members of Ground Self-Defense Forces went to Cambodia in Peacekeeping Operations (PKO).  Since then, 3,200 Japanese peacekeepers, 300 administrators, policemen and private citizens have participated in sixteen Peacekeeping Operations, humanitarian international relief activities, and election monitoring.  They constructed roads and bridges, transported foods, and offered assistance to refugees.  In 2002, 680, the largest number so far, were sent to East Timor.  According to surveys, about 80 percent of the public has agreed with the participation of the SDF in the PKO, while only 2 percent are opposed to the participation (AS February 1, 2002; AS September 17, 2002).

According to the 1999 Law for Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan, the active sphere of the SDF is limited to Japan’s immediate vicinity; however, under the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, the SDF could conduct refueling and transportation of supplies to the U.S. fleets in non-combat zones.  They could use weapons for self-defense.  In order to support the U.S.-led war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Japan sent its naval vessels for information gathering to the Indian Ocean in November 2001 in the first military deployment in the war since 1945 (Los Angeles Times November 26, 2001).  In 2001, Japan provided approximately 60 billion yen mostly from the ODA (Official Development Assistance) funds, for the recovery of Afghanistan (AS June 3, 2003). 

Responding to North Korea’s claim of nuclear weapons, the terrorist attacks of September 11, and other threats, Japan enacted its first postwar emergency laws in 2003.  These war contingency laws give the Prime Minister the power to respond to enemy attacks or to the perceived possibility of such attacks on Japan, provide the SDF with the authority to requisition private property, and require the public to cooperate.  In 2004, the government enacted seven more laws, including the public protection law to protect citizens’ basic rights in emergency situations. 

With regard to the Iraq War in 2003, the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq was passed in July 2003.  The SDF, for the first time, can embark on an overseas mission without the affiliation with the United Nations or the approval of the host country.  The SDF provides humanitarian assistance, such as restoring electricity, clean water and medical facilities in “non-combat regions,” in the relatively safe areas of southern Iraq.  In January 2004, Japan dispatched 520 Japanese ground troops to Iraq.  After an interim Iraqi government took power from the Coalition Provisional Authority on June 28, 2004, the SDF joined the newly established multi-national forces, though the SDF would not use forces (AS June 29, 2004). 

After tsunamis caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake on December 26, 2004 struck on the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and other countries, Japan dispatched 1,600 members of the Air, Ground and Maritime SDF to the devastated regions to assist in emergency relief efforts (AS January 8, 2005).

[Back to the top]

4-1-2  The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty

The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was concluded on September 8, 1951 when 49 countries signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty.  The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States of America was signed and ratified in 1960 despite the mass demonstration against the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.  The 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty had 10-year term eligibility in Article 10, and after 1970, if either the U.S. or Japan wished to terminate the treaty, the termination would take effect in one year after the notification.  According to a 2000 survey, 84 percent of Japanese citizens believe that Japan should keep the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (AS June 5, 2000).

The Security Treaty does not provide for collective self-defense, unlike the NATO Treaty; however, the principle of self-defense is very close to that of collective self-defense.  The U.S. will protect Japan in case of attack, and Japan will protect the U.S. military and U.S. bases in Japan if the U.S. forces in Japan are attacked.  However, if the U.S. is attacked outside of Japan, Japan is not obliged to protect the United States.  Furthermore, Japan recognizes that the U.S. military can use the U.S. bases in Japan in order to “protect Japan” and “protect the peace and security in the Far East.”  The 1978 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation guaranteed Japan-U.S. cooperation for the defense of Japan.  In 1980 the Maritime Self-Defense Force participated in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) operations for the first time.

In April 1996, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minster Ryūtarō Hashimoto signed the Japan-U.S. Joint Declaration on Security: Alliance for the Twenty-first Century, which permitted modification of bilateral cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. forces in order to maintain peace and security for the Asia-Pacific region for the twenty-first century.  Based on the 1996 Japan-U.S. Declaration, the 1997 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation provide information sharing, policy consultation and joint program, and defense and joint operations under normal circumstances, in case of an armed attack against Japan, and in situations in areas surrounding Japan. 

According to the 1960 Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. will pay all expenses except for facilities and areas used by airfields and ports for U.S. military bases.  However, under “omoiyari yosan” (“appreciation payment”), Japan has paid welfare benefits and other allowances for local employees of U.S. forces in Japan since 1978, and for the construction of housing facilities for U.S. forces since 1979 under the Status of Forces Agreement.  Since 1987, Japan has paid for the labor costs of local employees of the U.S. forces in Japan, utility and training relocation costs.  In addition, local governments are provided with subsidies for bases as a substitute for fixed property taxes. 

Japan’s cost sharing for U.S. Forces Stationed in Japan, “omoiyari yosan” (FY 2004 budget) amounts to 244.1 billion yen, including 143 billion yen in labor costs (58.6%), 74.9 billion yen in facilities improvement projects (30.7%), 25.8 billion yen in utility costs (10.6%) and 400 million yen in training relocation costs (0.1%)(Boeichō 2004:115).

Japan supports the U.S. presence with 650 billion yen a year, including “omoiyari yosan.”  According to Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord, in 1995 Japan provided almost $5 billion a year for the U.S. forces, more than those all of other allied countries.  This covers 70 percent of the costs of the U.S. forces and means that it is less expensive to maintain forces in Japan than in the United States (Umebayashi 2002:133; Suda 1995:16-17).

As of March 2001, 89 facilities for U.S. forces in Japan consisted of 31,350 hectares, one seventh of the area of Tokyo.  About 75 percent of the bases are in Okinawa, and except for Okinawa bases, there are 52 facilities with 7,900 hectares.  Even after the Cold War, the U.S. military presence in Japan has not decreased.  In Okinawa, after 1995 mass demonstration against the U.S. military after the rape of a young girl by American soldiers, the U.S. and Japan agreed to return the airport of Futenma to Japan and another base will be built for the U.S. (AS January 23, 2003).  Approximately 30,000 people gathered to demand an apology and compensation for the crash of a U.S. helicopter from Futenma base at Okinawa International University on September 12, 2004 (AS September 13, 2004).

In 1955, the number of U.S. forces in Japan was reduced from 210,000 to 77,000 in 1957; by 1960 the number had dropped to 48,000 (Dower 1993:20).  According to the official records, there are between 40,000 and 45,000 American military personnel in Japan, not including 10,000 sailors in the Seventh Fleet.  The Seventh Fleet is based in Yokosuka, but it is not counted in the total because the Seventh Fleet is not under the American commander in Japan.  However, the Japanese government provides housing for these soldiers.  It is reasonable to place the number of U.S. military at 51,000 to 60,000, including the Seventh Fleet soldiers.  Both the forces in Japan and the Seventh Fleet are under the U.S. Pacific Command; therefore, 47,000 members of the American armed forces serve on the land and 12,000 on the sea.  Almost half were stationed in Okinawa, in January 2001.  In the Pacific, 101,450 were stationed on September 30, 2000, including 52,060 in Japan, 80 in the Philippines, 11,450 in the Pacific Ocean, 180 in Australia, 50 in Indonesia, 410 in Singapore, 530 in Thailand, 70 in China, and 36,570 in Korea (Umebayashi 2002: 62-79).

People who live near U.S. bases, complaining of the incessant roar of aircraft and have gone to court to request the suspension of night flights and compensation.  However, the courts usually recognized the compensation for past suffering and dismissed their requests to suspend the night operation of military airplanes, saying that the Japanese courts have no authority over the U.S. military. 

[Back to the top]


Prime Minister Kishi visited Washington, D.C., where he signed the revised U.S.-Japan Security Treaty on January 24, 1960.  Despite the sit-down demonstration of socialist members in the Lower House on May 19, the LDP passed the Treaty in a late-night session on May 19-20, with all socialists and some conservatives absent.  Japan’s national newspapers reviled the underhanded way in which the Treaty was passed.  Workers, housewives, socialists, labor unionists, and students staged mass demonstration in Tokyo and other cities.  On June 10, Press Secretary James C. Hagerty and Ambassador Douglas MacArthur II were surrounded by protesters at the Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, and had to escape by a military helicopter. 

On June 15, 1960, thousands of students stormed into the Diet and struggled with the police.  One female student was killed and 600 students were injured.  Nationwide, 5.8 million people participated in the demonstration in defense of the constitution and democracy.  The Treaty was ratified on June 19, as more than 300,000 protesters surrounded the Diet.  On June 23, the U.S. and Japan exchanged the ratified Treaty (Scalapino and Masumi 1962:132-141; Kobayashi 1995:32).  Afterwards, the passions cooled on both sides and anti-Treaty movement evaporated.

Zengakuren, the national student organization founded in 1948, had been active in the anti-ratification protests.  All college students in Japan automatically belonged to their institution’s student government association.  In the 1950s, Zengakuren had close relations to the Japan Communist Party (JCP).  However, by 1960, the “Trotskyite” Main Current of the Zengakuren turned against the Pro-Communist Minsei faction. 

By 1968, Japan’s college and university campuses were rife with blockades and strikes against rising tuition and authoritarian campus policies.  Student councils were polarized between pro- and anti-Communist militants of many persuasions.  Almost all Zengakuren were led by former participants in the 1960 protests (Mainichi 1968:62, 71).  Nonsectarian form of Zenkyōto (university-wide struggle) emerged, and many less militant students also engaged in political debates and demonstrations.  In September 1969, main factions, except Minsei and Kakumaru, united into the Zenkoku Zenkyōto Rengō (All-Japan Federation of University-wide Struggle Associations) in order to fight for campus autonomy and to express opposition to the 1970 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. 

Besides anti-war student movements, Beheiren (Citizens’ Association for Peace in Vietnam), founded in 1965, had more than 380 branches until its dissolution in 1974.  Beheiren was a temporary organization which called for peaceful demonstrations against the war in Vietnam.  Labor unions, Zengakuren, and the general public attended Beheiren demonstrations, teach-ins and marches (AS March 5, 2002). 

4-2-1  Non-Nuclear Weapons Policies

In December 1967, Prime Minister Satō informed the Budget Committee of the Diet that Japan would not produce, possess or permit the introduction of nuclear weapons.  In a 1969 communiqué between Prime Minister Satō and President Nixon, the United States promised to return Okinawa to Japan without nuclear weapons.  In 1971, the Diet declared the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” during the discussion over the return of Okinawa. 

However, the third condition: the introduction of nuclear weapons has been violated, though the Japanese government has denied it.  According to the Standard Operating Procedure for Atomic Operations in the Far East, atomic weapons and components were stored under the Far East Command in the 1950s.  When the 1951 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was revised in 1960, the Kishi-Herter Exchanges of Notes and the Kishi-Eisenhower Joint Communiqué suggested that Japan would approve of any “major changes” in American weapon and force deployments, including stationing nuclear weapons after “prior consultation.”  However, the United States has never consulted with Japan, and the Japanese government insists that there are no nuclear weapons on Japanese soil (Hook 1995:65).  When the environmentalist organization Greenpeace revealed in 1989 that an airplane with hydrogen bomb had fallen into the sea near Okinawa in 1965, a former high official of the U.S. government said to the Associate Press that Prime Minster Kishi and President Eisenhower had exchanged a secret document confirming the “Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) policy” concerning the presence of nuclear weapons in 1960 (Suda 1996:32-33).  In 2000, the entire secret document was declassified, and showed that the U.S. would not have to consult Japan when its U.S. fleets called at Japanese ports and the U.S. military made a sortie in case of war in Korea.  The U.S. and Japan confirmed in 1963 that the introduction of nuclear weapons to Japanese soil was limited to the storage of nuclear weapons (AS August 30, 2000).

It is now known that Japan served as a nuclear-attack platform of the Far East in the 1960s.  A secret telegram from the U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk to the American Ambassador to Japan, Edwin O. Reischauer on February 24, 1966, states that “the confidential 1960 agreement affords U.S. right to seek GOJ [Government of Japan] consent to introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan.”  In 1974, Admiral LaRocque testified before Congress that U.S. vessels with nuclear weapons did not unload prior to port calls to Japan.  Furthermore, in an interview with Reischauer in 1981, Reischauer said that the transit was permitted even after the revision of the security treaty (Hook 1996:65-67).

According to the confidential 1969 Agreed Minute between President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Satō, disclosed in 1994 by Wakaizumi Kei, an envoy of the negotiation of the return of Okinawa, “in time of dire emergency the United States Government will require the re-entry of nuclear weapons and transit rights in Okinawa with prior consultation with the Government of Japan” (Wakaizumi 1994; Wakaizumi 2002:209).  Regarding the entries of nuclear weapon capable U.S. planes, fleets and submarines, the U.S.’s  “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” policy has been respected by Japan.

Japan signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1970 and ratified it in 1976.  Under the NPT, the U.S., the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China had the right to possess nuclear weapons, but were barred from transferring nuclear weapons, other nuclear explosive devices or their technology to any state that did not have nuclear weapons.  States that did not have nuclear weapons were forbidden to acquire of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for monitoring the use of nuclear technology in states that do not have nuclear weapons.  By 2002, 187 states were members of the NPT, but Cuba, Israel, India and Pakistan were not.  India and Pakistan now have nuclear weapons.  In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT membership and started to build nuclear weapons.  Between 1967 and 1996, nuclear-free zones have been established in Latin America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

Every year since 1994, Japan has proposed resolutions on nuclear disarmament at the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly.  The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996, prohibits all nuclear testing.  As of August 2003, 167 countries had signed and 104 countries had ratified the Treaty.  Among the 44 countries that have nuclear weapons and/or nuclear facilities whose signature and ratification are required to bring the treaty into force, all but India, Pakistan and North Korea have signed.  Thirty-two countries have ratified the treaty.  The U.S. and the People’s Republic of China have not ratified it.

The Soviet Union’s development of an atomic bomb in 1949 triggered a nuclear arms race with the United States.  However, the 1960s disarmament movements initiated through the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and the 1970 NPT.  The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (signed in 1987) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union eliminated all nuclear-armed ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles) by 1991.  

In May 2002, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Moscow Treaty that reduced the number of nuclear weapons on each side from about 6,000 to no more than 2,200 by the end of 2012.  However, the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 in order to make progress on the National Missile Defense program.  In 2003, the U.S. repealed the 1993 ban on the development of small nuclear arms in order to deter terrorist groups and rogue states such as North Korea.  In 2004, the U.S. had 5,886 nuclear warheads while Russia had 4,422 (Los Angeles Times December 6, 2004).

[Back to the top]

4-2-2  Movements Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs

In May 1954, the crew of a small tuna boat called the Lucky Dragon was exposed to radiation from a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb experiment of the U.S. at Bikini.  A group of housewives under the leadership of Professor Yasui Kaoru of Hōsei University in Tokyo started to collect signatures to ban the H-bombs.  The following August, they formed the National Council for a Petition Movement to Ban Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs.  This grassroots movement gained momentum after the boat’s radio operator, Kuboyama Akikichi, died from radiation sickness in September.  The total number of signatures approached 32.4 million by August 1955.  The National Council held an annual convention of anti-atomic and hydrogen bomb activists, the first World Conference on the tenth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, in 1955.  A new non-partisan organization, the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyō) was established under the chairmanship of Yasui.  The organization circulated petitions and offered assistance to the victims of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  By the end of 1955, every prefecture had established its branch affiliate of the Gensuikyō. 

However, when the Conference publicly opposed the renewal of the U.S. Security Treaty in 1959, the conservatives left the Gensuikyō and established their own anti-nuclear weapon organization, the National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons (Kakuheiki Kinshi Heiwa Kensetsu Kokumin Kaigi or Kakkin Kaigi) in 1961.  The socialists parted company with Gensuikyō, forming the Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuibaku Kinshi Nihon Kokumin Kaigi or Gensuikin) in 1965.  Since then, the two organizations, Gensuikyō with the JCP (Japan Communist Party) and Gensuikin with the JSP (Japan Socialist Party; since 1996, the Social Democratic Party of Japan), have held separate annual conferences separately in Hiroshima and Nagasaki every August.  From 1977 to 1985 the two organizations were united for the world conference; however, in 1986, the two separated again.

When the worldwide anti-nuclear and anti-hydrogen weapons movements peaked in the early 1980s, the Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU) hosted an international symposium in Hiroshima under the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) in 1982.  They discussed how to describe Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the textbooks and reaffirmed the goal of peace education, that Japan should be in the vanguard of the movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons (Takenaka 1988).  However, the anti-nuclear and anti-hydrogen weapons movements lost their momentum after the end of the Cold War, and now, the annual memorials for Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs are the only times that the Japanese public hears from these activists.  According to a 2001 survey, 80 percent of respondents are interested in anti-nuclear weapon movements, but only 10 percent have ever participated in the movements, while 18 percent, including 23 to 25 percent of young people in their 20s and 30s, are not even interested (Chūgoku Shinbun July 16, 2001).

On August 4, 2002 two conferences took place in Hiroshima.  Gensuikyō had 7,000 participants and Gensuikin had 3,500 (AS August 5, 2002).  In the summer of 2005, the Japan Confederation of A-Bomb and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization (Hidankyō), the Gensuikyō and Gensuikin will hold a joint conference: the International Citizens’ Conference, No More Hiroshima, Nagasaki in Japan (AS September 21, 2003).

[Back to the top]


In 1974, the General Conference adopted the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning Education for International Understanding, Co operation, and Peace, and Education Relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  Peace education has grown from the traditional study of conflict resolution in wartime (“negative peace”) into the study of justice, poverty, and freedom (“positive peace”)(Reardon 1997).  Currently, peace education encompasses instruction in and discussion of human rights, multiculturalism, development, world studies, international understanding, and environmentalism.

The militarization of Japan’s educational system during World War II brainwashed children into believing that it was honorable to die for their emperor.  Although war plunged the nation into a crisis, wartime education glorified war beyond all reason.  All teachers supported the militaristic emphasis of their curricula.  Using ultra-nationalistic textbooks, they taught children to dedicate their lives to Japan, the Country of the Living God, and Emperor Hirohito.  After the war, many teachers felt guilty their role in creating willing soldiers.  The guilt forced some teachers to leave the profession.  However, the majority of teachers stayed, if only to make a living.  After the war, the Japanese as a whole lost their taste for displays of militarism and nationalism.

The GHQ repudiated imperialistic, militaristic wartime education and banned all school materials and practices relating to wartime ideology.  The GHQ suspended classes in ethics, Japanese history, and geography, because they had been used to glorify Japan’s war aims.  The GHQ ordered the removal of militaristic references from schoolbooks.  Children, following their teachers’ orders, blacked out sections praising war heroes, the Greater East Asian Cooperative Sphere, and deifying of emperor.  The symbol of prewar imperial education, the Imperial Rescript on Education, the Photograph of the Emperor, and the Altar of the Imperial Family were removed from schools.  These drastic and inexplicable changes in the curriculum troubled many students, who wondered if they could believe anything that their teachers were telling them.

In 1946, the GHQ ordered the purge of teachers who had taken militaristic doctrines to an extreme.  The MOE (Ministry of Education) reported that before the investigation there were 115,778 teachers who resigned and were eligible for pensions (Yamamoto 1994:3, 337).  The MOE issued the “Regulation Concerning the Committee of Investigation for the Qualification of Teachers.”  However, in practice, these committees consisted of career educators and community leaders who had supported the principles of wartime education.  According to the memoirs of one committee member, an investigation committee in Nagano Prefecture included six established men and seven principals.  They applied a point system in order to determine the extent to which teachers had participated in militaristic education.  They also investigated letters from local residents about the appropriate qualifications of the teachers.  After the investigation, 171 out of 556 failed to qualify to become teachers because they had encouraged their students to join the military or serve in Manchuria during the war.  Many teachers who were labeled as inappropriate were cleared in a second trial.  Eventually, after 1951, most “inappropriate” teachers were acquitted.  Nationwide, only 0.5 percent of investigated teachers, or 7,003 teachers out of 1,311,066 were labeled as “militaristic” and purged (Nagahama 1981). 

Concerning college professors, many prominent scholars had published manuscripts praising the emperor during the war, and then adopted more liberal and democratic tones after the war.  Only 86 college professors out of 24,572 who were examined were purged as “inappropriate” (Nagahama 1981:297).

According to the MOE’s 1947 textbook, About the New Constitution, “The renunciation of war means that we will not own anything required for war, such as soldiers, warships, aircraft…. But do not be scared.  We, Japan, did the right thing first before other countries.  There is nothing stronger than doing the right thing….  Let’s try not to let that terrible war break out again and not to make war again” (Tokutake 1995:49).  In 1946, the MOE, under the direction of the GHQ and with the collaboration of leading historians, released the first history textbook, Kuni no Ayumi (The Footsteps of a Nation).  This textbook described Japan’s “invasion” of China and the “cruel behavior of the Japanese military” in Nanking (Tokutake 1995:47).

[Back to the top]

4-3-1  The Victims’ View of History

Teachers began peace education right after World War II, based on anti-militarist sentiments stemming from their bitter sense of guilt and remorse.  The left-leading Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU) and progressive intellectuals stressed the evils of war, and that Japan should not make war again.  The JTU, which included almost all teachers, took the initiative in postwar peace education.  Its 1951 conference passed the resolution “Never send our students to war!”  In the 1960s and 1970s, the JTU, together with unions, and grass-roots citizens’ groups, not only spread the principles of peace education, but also actively participated the anti-nuclear and anti-hydrogen weapons movements (Nihon 1989).

Until the early 1980s, peace education emphasized the cruelty of war and the “victim consciousness” (higaisha ishiki) by teaching about the tragedy of Japanese war victims.  The authors of history textbooks, left-of-center historians, and educators emphasized sufferings of the Japanese people and the importance of anti-militarism.  Many postwar intellectuals felt profound remorse and sought solutions in Marxism and progressivism.  They studied the historical development of social structures (Kawai 1960:208; Yoshida 1997:188).  The “war” meant the Pacific War (1941-1945) from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and “war victims” were the Japanese soldiers and civilians, especially the atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The “victim consciousness” of Japanese people became a theme of their writing, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki embodied the victimization of the people as the world’s only atomic bomb victims. 

Teaching Japanese children about the suffering of Japanese civilians from aerial bombardment, and the tragedy of atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in history classes has been a focal point of peace education.  In the 1960s and 1970s, a grass-roots movement for recording survivors’ wartime experiences became popular (Fujiwara 1990:132-133).  Students were also encouraged to interview family and neighbors about what had happened to them during the war. 

Japanese students learn about the horrors of atomic bombs in social studies classes and read stories about atomic bomb victims in their language classes.  Many primary and secondary schools arrange school trips so that the students can see the remnants of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum and Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum.  Students are expected to assume that the Japanese people are spearheading the international movement for the elimination of nuclear and hydrogen weapons because Japan is the only country that has suffered atomic attack.  The slogan of peace education, created in 1982 by a survivor of the atomic bomb, is “No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki, no more war, no more atomic bomb victims.”  In 1979, the JTU created a study group on “Peace and Ethnic Education” in order to improve the teaching of peace education (Nihon 1989:627). 

4-3-2  The Victimizers’ View of History

Since the 1980s, liberal and leftist historians and journalists have portrayed Japan less as a victim and more of a victimizer.  In June 1982, major Japanese newspapers announced that a new high school textbook, screened by the MOE, had changed Japan’s “invasion” (shinryaku) of China during the 1930s into an “advance” (shinkō).  This charge directed international attention at the textbook authorization system and at descriptions of war in Japanese history textbooks.  The Chinese media followed the textbook controversy, and noted the Japanese newspapers’ report of the change in wording.

In July, the Chinese and Korean governments protested this change to the Japanese government.  The MOE replied that there had been no textbook in which the Japanese had “advanced into” instead of “invaded” China (Kyōkasho 1996:36-37).  For three months, from July to September 1982, 2,439 articles in the leading newspapers in nineteen Asian countries were devoted to the “invasion” statement (Ajia 1982).

Asian victims of the Japanese “invasion” accused Japan of trying to expunge its war crimes from textbooks.  The outcry showed that Asian people had not forgotten about the war and the casualties that were inflicted by the Japanese Imperial Army.  They were extremely worried about how future generations would come to understand Japan’s role in the war.  The government yielded to pressure from its trading partners in Asia.  In August 1982, Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi apologized to the Chinese and Korean governments.  He promised to improve the criteria for screening textbooks on Japan’s responsibility for the war, and to seek collaboration with neighboring countries in future screenings.  In 1982, the government required screeners to check the accuracy of the textbook’s treatment of the histories of other Asian countries, with special attention to international understanding and cooperation.

Particularly after the 1982 Textbook Controversy, liberal and leftist textbook authors have emphasized more freely than ever before Japan’s responsibility for the war in history textbooks from the victimizer’s perspective.  Liberal historians and history teachers believe that students must gain an appreciation for other Asians’ view of the war, and to understand their suffering.  Asian countries teach students about the Asia-Pacific War in much greater depth than Japan does. 

It is important to remember that victimizers tend to forget their war crimes while war victims remember their sufferings and pass down their resentment to future generations.  The Memorial Museum of Independence, containing artifacts and documents reflecting Japan’s aggressive colonization policies, was opened in Korea, funded by the donations of citizens who were outraged by the textbook controversy.  The Nanking Massacre Memorial Museum, commemorating the 300,000 victims who were murdered by the Japanese Army, opened in Nanking in 1985.  The Japanese, as victimizers of the war need to be very sensitive and understanding when it comes to the suffering of the victims of World War II, and to make efforts to teach their own children accurate historical facts about their war crimes.

The debate over Japan’s complicity in the war revived after the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989.  Historians and activists argued that Japan bore full responsibility for aggression against other Asian countries and for committing war crimes against Asian victims.  They believed that the Japanese government owed compensation to individual war victims.  In the 1990s, Asian war victims, including the much-publicized former comfort women, filed many lawsuits seeking formal apologies and compensation.  Supporters of Japan’s victims formed study groups to uncover the truth about war crimes that the Japanese Army committed against Asian people, and to assist Asian plaintiffs involved in war compensation lawsuits. 

In 1990, Fujiwara Akira, a leading leftist historian, who was inspired by a joint German-Polish history textbook research group, organized a similar research group of Japanese and Korean historians.  The Japan-Korea Textbook Joint Study Group held four conferences in 1991 and 1992.  All participants agreed that history textbooks should emphasize Japan’s invasion and Korea’s resistance from the Korean perspective.  Japanese historians argued that accounts about a few “good” Japanese people who opposed the policies of their country needed to be added to the story of Japan’s war crimes.  Korean historians reluctantly agreed so they could complete the project and accomplish the overall goal of bringing together future generations of Japanese and Koreans (Nichikan 1993:104).

In the 1990s, inquiries into war responsibility have expanded from the war crimes of military leaders to the wartime efforts of the mass media, neighborhood organizations and religious groups.  Starting in the 1990s, regional history museums have sponsored exhibitions on Japan’s war crimes.  In the mid-1990s, the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki added displays on Japan’s invasion through the eyes of the people who were conquered and occupied.  

According to a 2000 survey, 51 percent of respondents agreed that the Asia-Pacific War was a war of aggression; 15 percent disagreed.  Half of the respondents said that the postwar generation should take responsibility for World War II while 27 percent said that it was not necessary.  Forty-three percent of respondents believed that the Japanese people were victims of a war that had been caused by the government and military leaders, while 29 percent believed that the Japanese people were victimizers because they actively supported the war (NHK 2000).

[Back to the top]

4-3-3  The Textbook Authorization System

The textbook authorization system was put into force in 1948, and was based on the 1947 School Education Law that grants the MOE the power to authorize textbooks.  The Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) set up the predecessor of the screening system, allowing the Textbook Authorization Committee of the MOE to screen and authorize the textbooks published by private publishers during the American Occupation.  Since 1903, the MOE had written textbooks.  The controversy over the screening system involved cases in which the conservative MOE screeners rejected the “biased” views of liberal and leftist history textbook authors, while liberal and leftist authors accused the MOE screeners of imposing their “biased” conservative perspectives on textbook descriptions.

Before the change of the textbook authorization system in 1990, private publishers submitted manuscripts to the MOE every three years, and the Textbook Authorization Committee sorted the manuscripts into three categories: pass, conditional pass, and no-pass.  For the “conditionally-passed” textbooks, screeners, writers, and editors discussed the revisions to be made and eventually reached some compromise.  The MOE states that materials must follow the guidelines of the Fundamental Law of Education, the School Education Law, and the Course of Study, and that the materials must be fair and impartial concerning politics and religion. 

The new 1990 textbook authorization system created a new category under which “conditionally passed” textbooks have no guarantee of passing after the authors and publishers correct the statements that the screeners questioned, if the changes fail to satisfy the screeners within 40 days.  Authors and publishers complain that it is worse than the previous screening system because they have to make great compromises to satisfy the screeners’ criterion.  Since 1990, the screening cycle has been expanded from three years to four years (Kimijima 1996:187, 190).  Starting in 2000, the MOE published the opinions of screeners in order to give authors and publishers easier access to those opinions.

Due to the strict rules of screening, few large publishers participate in textbook publication.  Several textbook publishers dominate the market.  Three publishing companies command 80 to 90 percent of the market for elementary and middle school textbooks (Kodomo 2000:102).  Publishers usually ask ten to twenty professors and teachers to write a textbook.  If the textbook does not pass, all the money and time invested goes to waste.  Therefore, publishers and authors are very careful about the contents and materials of the textbooks. 

The municipal boards of education select an authorized textbook for public elementary and middle schools every four years.  After the distribution of free textbooks for elementary and middle schools in 1964, the majority of boards of education decide which textbook to use.  In contrast, the Tokyo board of education takes votes from individual schools.  For high school textbooks, which are not free, teachers choose a textbook (Kimijima 1996:192).  Critics of the selection system claim that the teachers, not the board of education, should choose the textbooks they use in class.  They argue that teachers should select their own teaching materials, textbooks, and pedagogies (Tokutake 1995:59).  In practice, some teachers are involved in the selection council of the board of education, though the boards of education oversee the selection.

[Back to the top]

4-3-4  The Ienaga Textbook Authorization Suits

The 32-year-long Ienaga Textbook Authorization Suits (1965-1997) against the MOE had been supported by a coalition of leftist individuals and groups, such as the JTU (Ienaga Kyōkasho 1998).  In 1965, Professor Ienaga Saburō of the Tokyo University of Education sued the government, claiming that the textbook authorization system was unconstitutional and illegal.  He requested 1.9 million yen as compensation for his emotional distress caused by the screeners’ comments on his textbook, the Shin Nihonshi (New Japanese History).  He claimed that he had suffered mentally because his textbook was rejected in 1963, and was conditionally approved pending 247 changes in 1964.  He argued that the screening process should be limited to technical correction of typographical and factual errors, and that the screening system was an act of unconstitutional state censorship that sought to “correct” some historical descriptions against his will and academic expertise, and to enforce the conservative MOE’s viewpoints.

Ienaga argued in his second suit in 1967 that the MOE unconstitutionally and illegally rejected authorization of his history textbook, New Japanese History, and requested overturning the screeners’ decisions, which disapproved of three cases and six items in his New Japanese History of 1966.  The MOE argued that the screeners’ opinions were valid, and that the textbook authorization system was a necessary means to enforce minimum national standards. 

Four months after the first suit in 1965, the JTU, the Japan High School Teachers Union, the publishers’ union, historians, and educational associations formed the National Federation of Support Groups for the Textbook Authorization Suit.  Major newspapers discussed the textbook issues when the court declared its verdict, and many books about the Ienaga suits were sold.  The general public became informed about the screening procedure where the government tried to impose its conservative views on authors and publishers.  Otherwise, the public would have never known how textbooks were written and how the Asia-Pacific War was being taught to the rising generation. 

In the 1965 and 1967 lawsuits, Ienaga claimed that the screeners tried to minimize the cruelty of war and the importance of anti-military demonstrations.  For example, the picture of a former soldier had the caption: “The soldier’s lost hands and legs were never recovered.”  Screeners wanted the picture and caption removed because they thought that it was too graphic.  The screener also asked him to remove the sentence: “Because the war was beautified as a ‘sacred war’ and the defeat of the Japanese military and its cruel conduct in battle was all concealed, the majority of people were not able to adequately know the facts of the war and were made to earnestly help the cruel war” (Tokutake 1995:149-152).  Ienaga repeatedly referred to the war crimes of the government and military leaders.  However, the government had censored the media to keep reports of military defeats from the civilian population.  Therefore, the MOE screeners overstepped their authority. 

Ienaga’s only complete court victory came in 1970, when his second suit was decided.  Judge Sugimoto of the Tokyo District Court declared that the textbook authorization system was unconstitutional and illegal if the inspection went beyond the correction of facts and technical errors, and supported the plaintiff’s request that the rejection of the textbook be reversed.  The ruling stated that the Authorization System violated the prohibition of censorship from Article 21 Item 2 of the Constitution, as well as the obligation and limit of educational administration from Article 10 of the Fundamental Law of Education. 

The government immediately appealed to the Tokyo High Court.  The 1975 verdict did not address the constitutionality of the Authorization System, but supported the plaintiff.  The Supreme Court requested that the Tokyo High Court reconsider the case in 1982.  In 1989, the Tokyo High Court rejected the case, because there was little benefit to hearing a case that had originally been filed in the 1960s.  The plaintiff lost the second case. 

In the first suit, the 1974 Tokyo District Court supported some of the plaintiff’s demands and awarded him 100,000 yen, but the Tokyo High Court rejected all Ienaga’s demands in 1986.  In 1993, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the authorization system.

Ienaga brought a third suit to the Tokyo District Court in 1984, and asked the government to compensate him for two million yen for emotional distress caused by the conditional approval of eight sections in his 1980 textbook, New Japanese History, the rejection of his “correction” in 1982, and finally its conditional approval in 1983.  The descriptions in question dealt with the Nanking massacre, Unit 731, and the War of Okinawa.  One screener asked Ienaga to add the phrase “with tremendous confusion” to his original sentence: “Right after the conquest of Nanking, the Japanese Army killed many Chinese soldiers and civilians” because otherwise, “it can be interpreted as a massacre organized by the Army.”  In the sentence, “Among the Japanese soldiers, there are quite a few Japanese soldiers who ‘humiliated’ Chinese women,” the screener suggested that this kind of action would occur “everywhere in the entire world, East or West, Ancient and Modern” (Tokutake 1999:165-168).  The Supreme Court declared in 1997 that the screeners had unfairly and illegally asked Ienaga to change his description of the “Troop Somo,” the Nanking massacre, the rape of women, and Unit 731, while upholding the constitutionality of the textbook authorization system, and ending Ienaga’s 32 years of litigation.

Furthermore, the screener suggested omitting discussion of Unit 731 when Ienaga wrote, “[Japanese Army] established a unit specialized in bacteriological warfare called Unit 731 in the outskirts of Harbin [in China] and [they] continued to engage in such atrocious acts as killing several thousands of foreigners, mainly Chinese people by using them in biological experiments for several years until the Soviet Union entered the war” (Ienaga 1993:217).

However, the screener’s suggestion about the War of Okinawa was declared “legal.”  The screener asked Ienaga to add a reference to “mass suicide.”  Ienaga changed his original passage: “Okinawa prefecture became the battlefield of the ground war, and about 160,000 residents, old and young, men and women died violently in the war.  Among them, there were quite a few people who were killed by the Japanese Army” into the passage: “About 160,000 [Okinawa] residents died unnaturally by bombs and mass suicide.  Among them, there were quite a few people who were killed by the Japanese Army” (Ienaga 1993:229, 232). 

On June 11, 1993, a high school teacher named Takashima Nobuyoshi, following the precedent of the Ienaga Textbook Suits, brought his case to the Yokohama District Court, asking the MOE for 1,000,000 yen in compensation.  In 1992, textbook screeners asked him to change four sections in his high school civics textbook, The New Contemporary Society.  The disputed passages dealt with the extraordinary media coverage of the death of Emperor Showa in 1989; the U.S. government’s censorship of the media during the first Gulf War; Fukuzawa Yukichi’s ideas on the colonization of Asia; and the opinions of Asian countries about the overseas deployment of the Self-Defense Forces (Tokutake 1995:226-229). 

The Yokohama Regional Court ruled in 1998 that the opinions of the screeners in the Fukuzawa and the SDF cases were inappropriate, and ordered the government to compensate him for 200,000 yen, although the Court upheld the constitutionality of the textbook authorization system.  Takashima appealed to the Tokyo High Court.  On May 29, 2002, the Tokyo High Court overturned the ruling of the Yokohama Regional Court regarding accusations of inappropriate actions by the MOE, rejecting all requests from Takashima.  He plans to appeal to the Supreme Court (AS May 30, 2002).

The “Support Group for the Yokohama Textbook Suit” has 1,300 members, including the Kanagawa and Yokohama City Division of High School Teachers’ Union, and the Federation of Unions of Publication Companies, in addition to 125 lawyers belonging to the Yokohama Lawyers Association (Shibata 1998:59).  The Yokohama Textbook Suit has drawn much less attention than the Ienaga suits.  However, it is important to continue the textbook authorization suits initiated by Ienaga and to pressure both the MOE and screeners not to impose their political opinions upon history textbooks.

[Back to the top]

4-3-5  Rightists’ View of History

Conservative and right-wing groups have criticized people whose interpretations of the past differ from their own.  The conservative Democratic Party (a predecessor of the Liberal Democratic Party) published a series of reports called “The Deplorable Textbooks” (ureubeki kyōkasho) in 1955.  The authors complained that the proliferation of textbooks were biased “red” textbooks which praised labor unions, the Soviet Union, and Communist China while criticizing Japan.  In the early 1980s, a conservative group from the University of Tsukuba published a critique, Gimon darake no chūgaku kyōkasho (Middle School Textbooks With Lots of Doubts), that claimed that scholars who wrote the textbooks were promoting the views of the JTU and the Japan Communist Party.

The National Council for the Protection of Japan (Nihon o mamoru kokumin kaigi), a rightist association that sought the revision of the Constitution, published their own history textbook, Shinpen Nihonshi (The New Japanese History) in 1986.  The MOE screened this textbook and suggested changes at the request of other Asian countries. 

The authors of the textbook were told to include the Nanking “Massacre,” “Invasion,” the emperor’s declaration on “Human Sovereignty,” and the apology of the Japanese government in the 1982 Joint Statement between China and Japan.  The MOE finally approved the textbook by the National Council in 1986.  Leftist historians accused the textbook of emphasizing the imperial view of history and downplaying Japan’s war responsibility in Asia.  This textbook was poorly received, and fewer than 10,000 copies a year were selected for use.  The publisher suspended the publication of this textbook in 1993.

In 1995, the textbook was renamed Saishin Nihonshi (The Newest Japanese History), passed screening, and was published by Kokusho Publishing Company.  Critics have successfully denounced the textbook as inauthentic, non-academic, and right-wing.  The textbook has been very unpopular among educators.

The Federation of Representatives to Consider the Textbook Issues (Kyōkasho mondai o kangaeru giin renmei) requested that Admiral Tōgō Heihachiro, the hero of the Battle of the Sea of Japan during the Russo-Japanese War be included in the history textbook.  They succeeded in including Admiral Tōgō among the forty-two “important historical figures” that are mentioned in sixth-grade history textbooks, in accordance with the 1989 Course of Study (Tokutake 1995:235).  All textbooks refer to him in a very factual manner because leftist textbook authors do not wish to exaggerate the accomplishments of military strategists.

In 1994, Fujioka Nobukatsu, a professor of education in Tokyo University published a series of articles, “Suggestions on the Improvement of Classes for Modern History.”  Fujioka, together with Nishio Kanji, a professor of German literature at Electro-Communications University, and Kobayashi Yoshinori, a cartoonist founded the Liberal View of History Study Group (Jiyūshugi shikan kenkyūkai) in 1995 to rewrite the history of modern Japan.  Supporters include conservative activists, teachers, scholars, politicians, journalists and other conservative organizations. 

Since January 1996, the group had published a series of articles under the title, “The History that Textbooks Do Not Teach” (Kyōkasho ga oshienai rekishi) in the Sankei Shinbun, a major conservative newspaper.  These articles were intended for middle school students and the general public, and were later published in a two-volume set.  The book illustrates the achievements of modern Japan through the presentation of great historical figures and events.  The Liberal View Group treated the Asia-Pacific war as a war of self-defense against imperialist Western countries, and asserted that the war eventually liberated Asian countries.  Responding to the sudden popularity of Fujioka’s history book, leading leftist historians challenged the authenticity of the book and accused Fujioka of not using original sources and not being a qualified historian (e.g., Fujiwara 1996).  

The Liberal View Group argues that postwar history education has overemphasized the Marxist interpretation of history, and overstated the war crimes of the Japanese military.  Moreover, they claim that the textbook descriptions of Japan’s modern history, especially during the war years, are “masochistic,” “dark,” and “anti-Japanese” because they dwelt on Japan’s aggression against other countries.  They argue that students will feel bad about being Japanese after learning about this “masochistic” view of history, and that they need a history textbook with a more affirming view of history that included “healthy” nationalism, realism, freedom from ideology and criticism of bureaucratism (Nishio and Fujioka 1996).

The Liberal View Group further argues that the postwar peace education is obsessed with anti-militarism and one-country absolute pacifism.  Peace education teaches that all war is bad, and that Japan should protect the “absolute peace” of Article Nine of the Constitution.  The Liberal View Group accuses peace education of ignoring international politics and realities (Nishio and Fujioka 1996:174, 177).  They claim that the left has become too sensitive about any kind of patriotic expression because of a fear of militarism. 

The Liberal View Group claims that peace education has produced unpatriotic youths.  According to the 2000 world survey, only 15.6 percent of Japanese, the lowest level of all, would fight for their country in case of war, while 46.7 percent would not participate and 37.7 percent do not know whether they would participate in war or not (Takahashi 2003:66-67).  According to the 2000 NHK Survey, 48 percent of all respondents were worried about expressing too much affection toward Japan, while 93 percent of them agreed that affection for one’s country is important (NHK 2000). 

In 1996, all seven middle school history textbooks that mentioned the comfort women passed textbook screenings.  Right-wing forces immediately attacked the textbooks, and clamored to “correct” the war descriptions.  The Association of Bright Japanese Diet Representatives (Akarui Nihon kokkaigiin renmei) criticized the description of comfort women in the textbooks.  In December 1996, the groups established the Society for the Creation of New History Textbooks (Atarashi rekishi kyōkasho o tsukurukai) in order to write their own history and civics textbooks.  The Society had 10,000 members, each of whom paid annual dues of 6,000 yen (Nishio 2001:18).  They opposed any mention of comfort women in middle school history textbooks, arguing that the subject is too difficult for children to understand and because the historical facts of the comfort women issue are still debatable. 

In 1997, the National Council for the Protection of Japan and the Society for the Protection of Japan (Nihon o mamorukai) merged into the Japanese Council (Nihon kaigi).  The Council lobbied to exclude references to comfort women from textbooks and argued for the revision of biased history textbooks. 

The board members of the Japanese Council include representatives of right-wing Shinto organizations, the associations of bereaved families, and the federation of former soldiers, as well as many financial institutions.  At the local level, the Okayama Textbook Correction Association, which includes 34 conservative organizations such as the Okayama Shinto Shrine Association, and the Okayama Veterans’ Association, petitioned the Okayama prefectural assembly to remove references to comfort women and to atrocities committed by the Japanese Army in China.  The assembly adopted it in December 1996.  Other local legislatures adopted similar resolutions.

In recent years, the Society for the Creation of New History Textbooks has been actively promoting its ideas through the books, public lectures and symposiums.  Kobayashi Yoshinori wrote the best-selling comics, “The Theory of War,” which sold 620,000 copies in 1998 (Tawara 1999:63-64).  Through his comics, Kobayashi has persuaded many young readers of the right wing’s interpretation of the war.  The Society has more than 10,000 members and an annual budget of more than 130 million yen (Tawara 2000:300).

The Society published a pilot textbook, The People’s History (Kokumin no rekishi) in 1999.  The Federation to Seek Truth and Freedom in Textbooks (Kyōkasho ni shinjitsu to jiyū o renrakukai), comprised of leading left-wing historians and critics of the Society, as well as leading scholars, criticized what they saw as sloppiness and flawed arguments in The People’s History.

The Society submitted its history and civics textbooks to the screening committee in 2000.  The MOE screeners asked the authors to change 137 passages that justified Japan’s military aggression toward Asia, and the Society reluctantly agreed to change the passages in question.  The Society also agreed to revise all 99 questionable statements in their civics textbook.  Both history and civics textbooks for middle school students written by the Society for the Creation of New History Textbooks were approved by the MOE upon completion of these revisions (AS April 4, 2001).

In spite of vigorous lobbying efforts by the Society, no public or national middle schools would use its textbooks during the 2002-3 school year.  Only a few schools for disabled children and eight private schools planned to use its textbooks (AS August 16, 2001).  The market share of the Society’s textbooks was less than one percent.  During the selection period, the Korean and Chinese governments officially protested the approval of these textbooks by the Japanese government and requested changes in some sections.  In the end, most municipal boards of education, schools and teachers decided not to cause trouble by choosing the controversial textbooks.  The Society’s textbooks never became available to the majority of students, although they are in print and available in bookstores and libraries.

For the 2003-4 school year, the prefectural board of education in Ehime Prefecture decided to use the history textbook written by the Society in three secondary schools.  A total of 480 students studied this textbook in spring 2003, the first public general middle school students to do so (AS August 16, 2002).  Due to the very limited usage of their history and civics textbooks at school, and the resignation of Kobayashi Yoshinori from the Society in 2002, the Society has lost much of its influence (Oguma and Ueno 2003).

[Back to the top]

4-3-6  Teaching War by Teaching History

The popularity of Society for the Creation of New History Textbooks implies that the public is no longer comfortable with Japan’s assumption of full responsibility for the war and its apparently endless apologies to Asian countries.  According to the 2000 NHK polls, the majority of Japanese people think that Japan has reflected on its past conduct, and has paid enough compensation.  In contrast, one third of the people think that Japan needs to continue to reflect on its past and continue to compensate Asian countries (NHK 2000).

On the other hand, there is a consensus on the left that Japan did terrible things during the war. The Japanese people, therefore, have to be sensitive to the suffering of the people of Asia. When the Japanese show compassion to their Asian neighbors, their relationship will improve.

Defenders of Japan’s colonial policies in Korea have been labeled as insensitive.  Right-wing groups have criticized the inflexibility of left-wing arguments and provided opinion that not everything that Japan did was evil.  They also argue that not only Japan but also many western countries invaded and conquered Asian countries, so Japan should not be forced to shoulder full responsibility for the aggressive war against Asia.  Although there is bias on the left, there is just as much, if not more, on the right.  Conservatives and nationalists often make light of the cruelty of the Japanese Army, and accept the emperor’s decisions uncritically.  The integrity of their historical analysis is constantly questioned by trained historians.  The history of 15-year Asia-Pacific war will be reconstructed more accurately by painstaking research and the declassification of more records.

It is the job of teachers to decide how to teach the war, and which materials to use.  Teachers need to present a range of viewpoints and adhere to the known historical facts.  The teachers should encourage their students to discuss what they have learned, and form their own conclusions about the causes and effects of the Asia-Pacific War, and about Japan’s role in the war. 

The general public also prefers the objective approach to the history of the war.  According to a 2000 public opinion survey, 58 percent of respondents supported non-ideological teaching methods that let children decide.  Twenty percent of respondents preferred teaching children about past mistakes as a cautionary lesson, and 11 percent wanted to teach children about the past so that they would be proud to be Japanese (NHK 2000).

Despite much debate on how to teach about Japan’s responsibility in the Asia-Pacific War, many teachers did not have enough time to teach everything that they wanted, in the depth that they wanted, because modern history is taught at the end of school year.  Many teachers must rush through postwar history, the last chapter of the history textbook and many students do not retain much of the information.  Thirty-three percent of the public said they studied World War II and remembered it while 58 percent of them said they studied World War II but did not remember much (NHK 2000).

The history of Japan after the Meiji Restoration deserves more attention in schools because modern history is important and relevant.  Furthermore, teachers must consider the development level of their students when teaching about the war.  Elementary school and middle school students are not as interested in social systems, and instead, the stories about historical figures may make more sense to young children.

[Back to the top]


The Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in Japan under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty are responsible for national defense.  The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the U.S. military in Japan and the Self-Defense Forces, though many find contradictions between the SDF and the abandonment of “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential” in Article Nine of the Constitution.  Recently, almost two-thirds of Japanese recognized the SDF as constitutional and approximately 80 percent praised Japanese role in the Peacekeeping Operations.  As of March 31, 2004, there has been a quota of 255,040 Self-Defense personnel, including 159,921 Ground Self-Defense, 45,839 Maritime Self-Defense, and 47,286 Air Self-Defense personnel.  In addition, there are 7,668 Ready Reserve Personnel and 47,900 Reserved Personnel.  The U.S. forces in Japan fluctuate between 51,000 to 60,000, including the Seventh Fleet sailors, and Japan financially supports them with 650 billion yen a year, including 250 billion yen for “appreciation payment,” covering labor costs, facilities improvement projects, and utility costs and training relocation costs (Boeichō 2004; Umebayashi 2002).

Japan has kept the stance of a peace-loving country by protesting the development and the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs, and by promoting disarmament.  Japan led international anti-atomic and hydrogen bombs movements since 1955, declaring “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” since 1971, and calling for the early enforcement of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the U.N. since 1994.  Furthermore, Japan has generally managed to keep defense expenditures under one percent of GDP since 1974, though defense spending is the second only to the U.S. because of the high value of yen.

Japan’s role in precipitating the war and the behavior of Japanese forces in the conquered lands are well documented in history and social studies textbooks.  Peace education was initiated immediately after World War II by conscience-stricken teachers who had agreed to teach the imperialist and nationalistic wartime agenda in classrooms.  Peace education emphasized that war was terrible and evil by teaching about the tragedy of Japanese war victims who had endured aerial bombardment and atomic bombs.  This “victim consciousness” (higaisha ishiki) was taught in schools until the early 1980s. 

In the wake of the 1982 Textbook Controversy, historians and teachers began to underscore Japan’s war responsibility and war crimes that the Japanese military had committed in Asian countries.  The victimizer’s viewpoint gives insights into the suffering of Asian victims and to promote future cooperation with Asian countries. 

Professor Ienaga Saburō spent more than 30 years challenging the constitutionality and legality of the textbook authorization system in his three lawsuits.  Only the Tokyo District court in his second suit declared the textbook authorization system unconstitutional in 1970.  However, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the textbook authorization system in 1993 and 1997.

Ienaga also accused the MOE screeners of imposing their conservative perspectives on his textbooks.  In the 1965 and 1967 lawsuits, Ienaga claimed that he had been warned not to emphasize the cruelty of war in the textbooks.  In his 1984 case, Ienaga questioned censoring of his textbook descriptions of the Nanking massacre and Unit 731.  The 1997 Supreme Court verdict affirmed that the screener “illegally” asked Ienaga to rewrite these sections, and assured the right of authors to write about Japan’s war crimes from the perspective of Asian victims.

In the 1990s, conservative groups gained popularity by claiming that the textbooks overemphasize the war crimes of Japan and by blaming textbooks for making Japanese children unpatriotic.  In 1996, they established the Society for the Creation of New History Textbooks.  In spite of their vigorous campaigns, most boards of education, schools and teachers did not want to choose such controversial textbooks.  Also, historians vigorously question the historical accuracy of the claims and analyses made by the groups. 

[Back to the top]

Previous Table of Contents Next

Copyright 2005  All rights reserved.