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How is history told in Japan?

Sorb Khan

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After the American occupation, the americans took control of the Japanese media, but how was teaching about WW2 in schools?
The Japanese know what was the real objective of Japan in WW2?
 

Timelyn

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Now this should be an interesting thread :D
Nice!
I would love to read the difference in the point of view between natives and inmigrants.
 

Glenski

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how was teaching about WW2 in schools?
Do you mean how was it taught just after WWII, or how is it taught today?
As for today, there have been many news reports about the historical accuracy/inaccuracy of certain points related to Japan's role in WWII (comfort women, Nanking massacre, torture).
Japanese history textbook controversies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
What Japanese history lessons leave out - BBC News
Why Japan’s Textbook Controversy Is Getting Worse | The Diplomat
The Japanese History Textbook issue | EDUCATION IN JAPAN COMMUNITY Blog
Japanese Textbook Controversies, Nationalism, and Historical Memory: Intra- and Inter-national Conflicts | The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
Books authored or edited by nationalists tend to gloss over those points if they are mentioned at all.
High school often spends so much time on earlier history (purposely?) that there isn't enough time to delve deeply into events as recent as WWII.[/quote]
 

kei1980

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I'm not a scholar, so I don't know well enough, but as for comfort women, NO ONE knew about it and no victim sued until 1991. The story was made up by Asahi Newspaper which is known as a left wing newspaper. They apologized for it's inaccuracy in 2014, but it was too late.
In recent research, comfort women were prostitutes. Receipts of prostitutes have already been found. Broker did exist in Korea and some of them might force women to work as comfort women.
 

Lothor

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I'm not a scholar, so I don't know well enough, but as for comfort women, NO ONE knew about it and no victim sued until 1991. The story was made up by Asahi Newspaper which is known as a left wing newspaper. They apologized for it's inaccuracy in 2014, but it was too late.
In recent research, comfort women were prostitutes. Receipts of prostitutes have already been found. Broker did exist in Korea and some of them might force women to work as comfort women.
How about sticking to the topic of how the war is taught in Japanese schools? Since you're Japanese, let's hear your input. What did you learn about WWII at school?
 

kei1980

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Since I was very lazy, I don't remember well.
Briefly speaking, Japan invaded Asian countries and attacked Pearl Harbor. Then WWII began and two atomic bombs were dropped. Japan surrendered.
 

Lothor

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Since I was very lazy, I don't remember well.
Briefly speaking, Japan invaded Asian countries and attacked Pearl Harbor. Then WWII began and two atomic bombs were dropped. Japan surrendered.

OK, those were the facts you learned, but education is a lot more than learning facts. My next question is how was war portrayed when you were at school?

Strangely enough, I never studied war in history at school but we spent a lot of time in English on the war poets (First World War) and I ended up with a very clear idea of the horror of war and the senseless waste of life, and that war is something is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary and not to be glorified.

Growing up in Japan, were you exposed to similar ideas?
 

kei1980

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I learned what happened in what year, but I think there was no explanation how they killed in the text book(which doesn't mean we didn't learn). I think it's not appropriate to portray the cruelty.
 

Lothor

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I didn't mention cruelty, but the cruelty many nations have shown during times of war is an extremely important lesson to teach our children. It's why we have the concept of war crimes - to try to avoid violence and brutality beyond what may be necessary in a war.

If people don't know that war brings out cruelty, they cannot protect themselves against the temptation to be cruel if war arises.

So what's your argument for not teaching about cruelty?
 
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kei1980

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I just think It's too early for teen-ager. As I said, I don't say I didn't study. I think people are not as clever as you think. We would only hate each other If we study about cruelty when young.
 

Lothor

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I just think It's too early for teen-ager. As I said, I don't say I didn't study. I think people are not as clever as you think. We would only hate each other If we study about cruelty when young.

In most countries, including Japan, teenagers are able to join the army. In fact the Japanese army are actively recruiting junior high students to join military schools at the moment. If teenagers are old enough to learn how to kill others, they are definitely old enough to learn about the consequences of war.
 

Lothor

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I'm going to leave the discussion now, but it was good to exchange views with you. Maybe someone with older children than me or some more Japanese people can answer the original question.
 

Timelyn

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In most countries, including Japan, teenagers are able to join the army. In fact the Japanese army are actively recruiting junior high students to join military schools at the moment. If teenagers are old enough to learn how to kill others, they are definitely old enough to learn about the consequences of war.
If they actually did they probably wouldn't want to join, in my opinion.
 

Sorb Khan

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What I learned in mainstreams sources was that Japan hated Asia, wanted to make Asia what the Europeans did to Africa, and they wanted to westernize Japan changing religion, language, alphabet etc.
But when I was research about it I discovered that Japan wanted to unify East Asia(not dominate), and free other peoples of Western imperialism.
Western historians say it was only a pretext that the Japanese have to dominate the world, but analyzing societies actions such as Black Dragon Society, Japan support the Republic of China, and the attempt of the Iwane Matsui dialogue to convince Chiang Kai -shek to pacifically join the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is clear that Japan had honest intentions.

Of course, as in any large-scale war, military committed crimes against civilians, but it is taught in a distorted form in schools.
 

kei1980

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Sorry, I completely forgot the original question. I studied how the WWII happened at school, but I can't recall if I studied what Japan was fighting for, but I knew "大東亜共栄圏(Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere)". Japan was trying to make Asian countries one big nation.
 

Glenski

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Of course, as in any large-scale war, military committed crimes against civilians, but it is taught in a distorted form in schools.
Is that why the nationalists want to censor history books, especially about war crimes they committed? Plenty of evidence that they existed, y'know.
 

marley'sghost

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What I learned in mainstreams sources was that Japan hated Asia, wanted to make Asia what the Europeans did to Africa, and they wanted to westernize Japan changing religion, language, alphabet etc.
But when I was research about it I discovered that Japan wanted to unify East Asia(not dominate), and free other peoples of Western imperialism.
Western historians say it was only a pretext that the Japanese have to dominate the world, but analyzing societies actions such as Black Dragon Society, Japan support the Republic of China, and the attempt of the Iwane Matsui dialogue to convince Chiang Kai -shek to pacifically join the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is clear that Japan had honest intentions.

Of course, as in any large-scale war, military committed crimes against civilians, but it is taught in a distorted form in schools.
Have you read John Toland's "Rising Sun"? It gives a very even-handed account of the many motivations and intentions (honest or otherwise) of the players at the time. Just remember the difference between "unify" and "dominate" depends wholly on the means used to achieve the end.

High school often spends so much time on arlier history (purposely?) that there isn't enough time to delve deeply into events as recent as WWII.

This made me smile. Reminded me of my (American) high school history teachers. One was a huge Civil War buff. His classes stopped at about 1860. He'd get his saber out of the closet and start talking about all the battles. The other teacher lost his older brother at Iwo Jima, and for him time sort of stopped then. We'd study WW2 and listen to him complain about "riceburner" Toyotas until the end of the term. Made us watch "Tora Tora Tora" every year. Quite a good film actually.
 

Majestic

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What I learned in mainstreams sources was that Japan hated Asia, wanted to make Asia what the Europeans did to Africa, and they wanted to westernize Japan changing religion, language, alphabet etc.
Your sources are appalling misinformed. Japan was not interested in changing its own religion or language. There have been sporadic ideas to change the alphabet, but never has this idea gained any serious traction.
when I was research about it I discovered that Japan wanted to unify East Asia(not dominate), and free other peoples of Western imperialism.
It was Japan who wanted to change the languages of Asia, and exploit its neighbors for material gain. You should read up on the Japanese occupation of Korea, Taiwan, China, for starters, and particularly how bitterly the Koreans resisted Japanese rule. (Korea and Taiwan were not imperial targets of the west, so this liberation thesis you are claiming is obviously false.). Japan did use the pretext of liberation in Singapore and Vietnam, but the Vietnamese, particularly Ho Chi Minh, was suspicious of Japanese intentions, and he did not welcome them as liberators. In Singapore, the Japanese treated the local population very harshly, and so the Singaporeans have no fondness for the Japanese period of occupation. Same is true for the Philippines.
 

cocoichi

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Interesting how people always talk about the cruelty of WW2, while the occupations and killings of countries from the Romans until Napoleon have something romantic about it.
 

notGButNotGB

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Even at a seminar at Senate House, University of London last year it was made clear that many professors hold a very simplified view of this, so it is difficult to say how the Japanese people could take in all the information relevant to it.

The debate in the papers and internationally tends to be over the minor wording of middle school textbooks, where wording can be mandated, for example that it should say advance into northern China rather than invade. This compares with similar glosses made by British publishers on The Black & Tanns as troops putting down an uprising in Ireland- and that is simple prejudice, not mandated by any Educational authority!
Library texts and books for adults seem more complete about what actually occurred. as it is in the Peace Museums, but there can be a "cutting off" of the focus which avoids some of the worst, especially at sensitive places like the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
 

Harry Rosen

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But , some evidences show that Japan military tested and used bioweapons widely in some asian countries. If the purpose was to unify but not dominate , what's the point to did this ? To show how powerful were the weapons ?
 

Jack CZ

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But , some evidences show that Japan military tested and used bioweapons widely in some asian countries. If the purpose was to unify but not dominate , what's the point to did this ? To show how powerful were the weapons ?
there was a movie about it, i think the title is called "Men Behind the Sun"
you can find it on youtube with english subtitle

 

Sihanssi

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An interesting question as is the discussion following it. The problem, however, with this and similar discussions about Japan’s war time past is that it is still wrought with political and ideological sensitivities, making it hard to get an objective view of this piece of history and the way it is taught. The question itself, although probably unintended, feels like a reproach. Due to the often negative atmosphere invariably pervading discussions about Japan’s recent war past, a question like this more often than not acquires the character of an accusation bordering on that of a condemnation.

Having said that, I would like to offer some points for consideration by the open minded. First of all, how is history taught in other former imperialist countries/powers? And how does that compare with the way history is taught in Japan? Take for example the Netherlands, former colonial power and the country I grew up in. My family’s history is part of the Dutch colonial past; I come from an eurasian family on my mother’s side and my father descended from freed African slaves pressed into military service to fight in the Dutch colonial wars in what is now Indonesia. Specifically, our own dirty war in Aceh.

In school not much, if at all, was and is taught about that war. Nor the fact that it took the lives of at least over 100.000 natives condemned to hard labour and forced into being bearers for the Dutch colonial army. Nor did we learn about the genocidal tactics against the population applied in that war. The fact that the Dutch so-called ‘cultures policy’ put a majority of the people of Java in a state of sub-starvation for decades was never mentioned. The recent past, i.e. post WWII, saw the Dutch army unleash a reign of terror against mainly the civilian population during the Indonesian uprising. This was deliberate and structural. However, when some of the atrocities became public, authorities preferred to speak of ‘incidents’. Officially the war was called a “police action” most likely due to the fact that Japan was condemned for waging a war of aggression in that same period. This war and the systematic abuse of the labourers of the Dutch tobacco plantations of Sumatra that lasted from the early 20th century until the Japanese invasion, among others, were not in the history curriculum of the Dutch schools. It probably still is not on the list of items to be taught.

Looking at the histories of the other former colonial powers one cannot but conclude there is very little difference between them. Although I do not know how history is taught in the UK or France, I doubt that it is much different from the way it was and is taught in the Netherlands with respect to the colonial past and colonial wars. Also one should also take into consideration that the general public nor the average pupil in school is very much interested in history.

When the subject of Japan’s war time past comes up certain terms are invariably used. Often assuming ill intentions on the the Japanese side. ‘Invasion’ is a term that frequently pops up. It is used, for example, in ‘the invasion of Manchuria’. This ignores the fact that Japan had a legal right to be in Manchuria subsequent to the treaty it had concluded with the Qing dynasty after the so-called boxer uprising. Now one could dismiss the agreement on moral grounds as it was concluded under the threat of force, but that is a totally different discussion that may go as far as the treaties between the US and the native American nations. Suffice to say that the treaty itself cannot be disproved on legal grounds. Therefore the term ‘invasion’ does not fit here as the Japanese were legally in Manchuria.

Another fact often overlooked is that Japan had not stationed an army in Manchuria but a limited number of troops to safeguard its interests in the area. An army entered Manchuria from Korea after the provocations and attacks of Chinese guerilla’s on Japanese interests and Japanese civilians. The US have taken similar actions in Panama and Grenada for similar reasons.

When one talks about the invasion of China it is taken for granted that it was a planned undertaking with the intention to dominate. The way the Japanese armies were prepared and deployed, however, suggests an ad hoc undertaking rather than a carefully developed plan for conquest and domination. In addition, the deployment of a considerable number of reservists in the early stages of the conflict does not indicate a long term planning. The train of events leading up to the conflict where the Japanese forces are seen to be more reactive than following a set strategy bears that out.

War crimes were committed by all sides. There is no excuse for it. However, it strikes me as unfair that when it comes to the war in the Pacific mainly the Japanese war crimes are highlighted. No one can dispute that attacking civilians and civilian targets are war crimes. It is something that the Americans have done structurally and consistently during the war in the Pacific. The fire bombing of Japanese cities up to and including the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki all fall well into that category. What makes it worse is the lack of any military requirement whatsoever for it. Morally it is despicable as; Walzer has argued, when an opponent is beaten militarily offering negotiations - which the Japanese were and did - all hostilities should cease if only to prevent further loss of life. Considered in this context the extermination of two cities full of civilians is morally indefensible.

Justice Radhanibod Pal in his dissenting verdict at the Tokyo trials has pointed out the inconsistencies and improbabilities in the testimonies (often written and not given in person) of witnesses from different countries the Japanese have occupied. In addition I refer to the numerous pictures taken during the “rape of Nanking”. It does not take an expert eye to notice that many of them are obviously fake; the way shadows fall, the leaves of the trees (the fall of Nanking was in winter time), the wrong uniforms etc. That does not mean that war crimes were not committed by the Japanese but it does require an objective appraisal by scholars with a high level of integrity.

Majestic commented that Korea and Taiwan were no targets of western imperialism. Well, actually they were. Korea was the object of conquest/domination of the French and the Russians. Taiwan has been under Dutch domination until the Chinese kicked them out. In contrast with the colonial policies of the other powers Japan’s policy appeared to be geared to incorporation rather than exploitation. No other colonial power at that time has established an educational system equal to that of the homeland in their colonies, for example. Though not a popular viewpoint I think it is safe to say that the foundation of South Korea’s development was laid in part by the Japanese.

Considering the encroachment of the western powers on Asia and the efforts of the Anglo-Saxon block, i.e. the US and Great Britain, to thwart Japanese efforts to establish a sphere of influence in the area, it is understandable that Japan felt threatened in its existence. Especially so given the fact that it has hardly any natural resources. It does give weight to the argument that Japan acted in self defence.

Like so much in history there are many grey areas here too. More likely than not those will clearly be discerned and accepted by many generations hence.
 
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