School History Textbooks and Historical Memories in Japan: A Study of Reception

  • Kazuya FukuokaEmail author


Memory wars in Asia still revolve around Japan. Much has been discussed on the so-called kyōkasho mondai (history textbook controversies), yet, not much has been explored on the domestic social function of history textbooks per se. Emphasizing creators of history narratives (and their production), the field tends to overlook the audience, or, receivers in the process. In this article, by referring to the original interviews with Japanese college students, I question the very assumption of the creator–receiver connection. How are history textbooks perceived as a source for promoting Japanese people’s underlying historical consciousness? How have they been utilized in schools? Are they useful? If so, how? If not, why? I argue that in the case of Japan, how people reflect upon history issues is not necessarily the function of school history textbooks as often assumed, making a strong case for the importance of receivers in the analysis of public discourse.


Collective memory War memory Cultural reception School history textbooks Japan 



I would like to thank Lisa Baglione, Darryl Flaherty, Mikyoung Kim, Susan Liebell, Falk Pingel, Sotetsu Ri, Becki Scola, Zheng Wang, and anonymous reviewers for their insights and helpful comments. Special thanks go to Barry Schwartz and Bin Xu. Their insightful suggestions helped me articulate the theoretical framework of the paper at the initial stage of the project. The earlier version of the paper was presented at History Education in Conflict and Transitional Societies, US Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. (organized by Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, December 2, 2010), and I appreciate the invitation by the project organizer, Karyna Korostelina, and her comments on the paper. This research was funded by Saint Joseph’s University Summer Research Grant (2009).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceSaint Joseph’s UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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