History from Below

Japan’s Junior High School History Textbooks and the colonisation of Hokkaidō

Nicholas Henck, Keio University [About | Email]

Volume 15, Issue 2 (Discussion paper 2 in 2015). First published in ejcjs on 30 August 2015.


The scholarly attention that has hitherto been devoted to discussion of Japan’s Junior High School History Textbooks (JJHSHT) has tended to focus almost exclusively on their treatment of the colonisation of Korea and China. Indeed, it appears that the issue of the JJHSHT’s description of the Japanese government’s imperialist ventures in East and South-East Asia has almost completely eclipsed that of these same textbooks’ coverage of the Meiji government’s colonisation of Hokkaidō. This paper then seeks to address one of the most blatant, but least discussed, examples of “victor’s history” concerning Japan—namely, what the JJHSHT euphemistically dub the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō. A textual analysis of all eight government-approved JJHSHT yields interesting results: first, it reveals that they exhibit a degree of variation in their treatment of this subject that is perhaps not commonly associated with these textbooks; and secondly, it exposes both a repeated emphasis on ‘development’ to describe what was in fact colonization, and also a consistent pattern of ignoring, or severely underplaying, the extremely detrimental impact this process had on the indigenous Ainu who experienced it. Indeed, the JJHSHT’s reluctance to heed the alternative perspectives of the minority Ainu fosters historical amnesia by producing historiographies of oblivion, and constitutes a classic example of cultural imperialism. The result is a highly sanitised version of events which substitutes historical reality for a contrived, cosmetic narrative of ‘development’ that lends a veneer of legitimacy to what was in effect plunder. Consequently, what Japanese pupils are being exposed to is a partial, ‘official’ version of history, rather than a nuanced account that finds resonance with the perspective of the Ainu, the testimony of contemporary Japanese eyewitnesses, or the historical narrative produced by modern scholarship.

Keywords: Hokkaidō, high school, colonisation, history, indigenous people, Ainu.

“The teaching of history from the victors’ point of view invariably imposes historical blinders so as to keep the citizenry docile, domesticated, and historically ignorant… [it] must invariably rely on a pedagogy of big lies that give rise to historical amnesia.”

—Howard Zinn

 “… If constancy and hard, laborious progress are the characteristics of history from below, the preferred place of Official History is the ephemeral, amnesia renamed.”

—Subcomandante Marcos

“Official history, mutilated memory, is a long, self-serving ceremony for those who give the orders in this world.”

—Eduardo Galeano


That history tends to be written by the victors, and that it tends to be kind to those writing it, can hardly be denied.1 Indeed, our view of many of history’s great clashes of civilisations can be said to be skewed by the absence in the historical record of the testimony of the losing side. Thus, in the period Before the Common Era, our view of the clash between Greece and Persia is shaped by the absence of any Persian narrative of these events, and that between Rome and Carthage by a similar lack of extant Carthaginian histories. In the Common Era, our view of history has probably been most greatly distorted in those instances where a civilisation that had a well-established and strong culture of writing history clashed with one which did not, or where the victors systematically expunged the testimonies of the vanquished. Hence, there are scant surviving written records penned by the indigenous of the Americas on how they ‘experienced’ their clash with the White Man (be he Pilgrim Father or Conquistador). In this paper, I would like to address one of the most blatant, but least discussed, examples of “victors’ history” concerned with Japan: namely, the so-called ‘opening up’ or ‘development’ of Hokkaidō by the Meiji state (1868-1912) and the impact this process had upon the indigenous Ainu people who lived there.

History textbooks and their reception

Before engaging in a detailed analysis of Japan’s Junior High School history textbooks’ (henceforth JJHSHT) treatment of the colonisation of Hokkaidō, however, it is as well to provide some context, and in particular briefly to survey recent scholarship concentrating on history textbooks in East Asia. Edward Vickers (2005:3) notes that although much in recent years has been penned by western academics on nationalism in the Far East, “… with some notable exceptions, remarkably little attention has been devoted to the role played by history education in schools in reflecting and constructing nationalist visions of the past.” He continues (2005:3), “Popular culture, in the form of literature, film, television, print media and, more recently, the Internet, undoubtedly plays a crucial role here and has justly attracted the attention of a number of scholarly and journalistic commentators;”2 however, Vickers (ibid) quickly points out, “Schools, curricula, and textbooks might also be expected to play a significant part in this process, but these have so far not been the focus of similar interest on the part of academic observers.”

Indeed, this brings us to the important matter of textbooks’ ‘reception.’ Two key points concerning the JJHSHT’s audience have been raised by those studying Japan’s history textbook controversy. The first is concerned with the existence and potency of competing narratives of the same events portrayed via myriad media which may conflict with, counter, or even completely overlay the version of history depicted in the JJHSHT. The second concerns whether the JJHSHT’s messages even reach their intended audiences.Treating these in order, with regard to competing narratives diffused by media other than JJHSHT, Tessa Morris-Suzuki (2005:15) has observed how

A… key problem of the textbook debate is that it is all about textbooks. In other words, it focuses on the content of formal school history education, and in so doing often conveys the impression that this is what determines historical consciousness. But today, more than ever, we learn about the past from a multiplicity of media.

She adds (2005:230-231), “in a multimedia age, people’s knowledge of the past is framed not just by formal history education, but also by representations of history in photographs, film, television, the Internet and so on.”3 However, while in no way rejecting Morris-Suzuki’s general point, or challenging its applicability to the specific case of Japan’s colonisation of Korea and China, Laura Hein and Mark Seldon (2000:4) surely make a valid point when they note that

Some ideas about the past derive from other sources, such as monuments, museums, movies, popular fiction, and family stories, yet formal education carries a special weight. Given their authoritative character, texts are particularly important ‘sites of memory.’

In a similar vein, Peter Cave (2005:322) writes that “The variety of ways students learned about the wars of early Showa does not diminish the importance of school history teaching… ” Moreover, with regard to the focus of the present paper, it is pertinent to note how scant are the competing narratives to be found in different media depicting the colonisation of Hokkaidō. For, while it is true that the Hokkaidō Utari Association provides an alternative portrayal of this process, its narrative certainly has not been diffused via myriad media nor has it permeated general society. Indeed, precisely because the colonisation of Hokkaidō has typically been viewed as a comparatively uncontroversial issue (at least when contrasted with Japan’s colonisation of Korea), it has been taken up relatively little by, for example, journalists, manga writers, film directors/producers, television show scriptwriters, novelists, playwrights and so on.

Regarding the second aspect of reception outlined above, there is a very real question of whether Japanese junior high school students ever arrive at the sections of the JJHSHT which deal with Japan’s colonisation of its Asian neighbours in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. (For example, Nicholas D. Kristof (1995) writes “… the debate over school textbooks in Japan is not very meaningful, because in most cases history classes do not get that far. To avoid embarrassment, the teachers arrange not to get as far as World War II by the end of the school year.” So, too, Christopher Hood (2001: 90) notes how “The irony of the [history textbook] debate is that… this area of history (regarding the events in the Pacific War) are barely covered in lessons, if covered at all, as they appear so late in the course that they usually come after the entrance examinations.”4 The same, however, is not true concerning those sections of the JJHSHT dealing with Japan’s colonisation of Hokkaidō, since these appear earlier on in the textbooks and are not considered controversial (and so do feature in entrance exams and are not avoided by teachers for fear of embarrassment). Rather, the ‘incorporation’ of Hokkaidō (and Okinawa, as well as other islands, such as Ogasawara) is considered a fundamental aspect of nation building, and so the colonisation of Hokkaidō, in contrast to that of East and South-East Asia, tends not to be shunned by teachers and examination setters alike.

History textbooks and their intention

In addition to the question of reception, there is also the question of intention. Vickers (2005:4), for example, while conceding that “The study of history textbooks and official curricula cannot necessarily tell us what people actually believe about their national past… ,” concludes, “Nonetheless, it can tell us what those who draft these curricular materials—whether the state or its agencies, textbook publishers, or individual authors—would like children to believe: the kinds of national, local, or global identities considered desirable and appropriate.”5 This is echoed by Fukuoka Kazuya (2011:84) who, while similarly conceding “That someone creates a textbook with a particular intention does not necessarily mean that it will be received as intended,” and questioning (84) “How important are Japanese history textbooks as a tool for cultivating people’s historical understandings?,” nevertheless maintains (87) that “School textbooks are essential devices for socialisation… Through the content of textbooks, students learn the officially accepted version of the national history.” Thus, Vickers (2005:4), while warning that “Official curricular guidelines should always be treated with caution, since they serve as symbols of official intent and are not necessarily reflective of classroom reality,” and conceding that “The same could be said of textbooks in some education systems,’ emphasises the point that

the role of the officially recommended textbook in schools throughout East Asia has tended to be far more central than is the case in systems where official regulation of the textbook market is much more limited, where the variety of teaching and learning materials available is consequently larger and where modes of assessment are designed to discourage the rote memorisation of authorised texts. Across East Asia, the style of public examinations, the level of official control over textbooks, and a strong and long-standing belief in the need for authoritatively ‘correct’ versions of history have all tended to reinforce the importance attached by both students and teachers to the approved texts.

Turning to Japan more specifically, it is worth noting that what little scholarly attention has been devoted to discussion of Japan’s history textbooks has tended to focus almost exclusively ontheirtreatment of the colonisation of Korea and China.6 Indeed, it is safe to say that the issue of the JJHSHT’s description of Japan’s imperialist ventures into East and South East Asia has almost completely eclipsed that of these same textbooks’ coverage of the colonisation of Hokkaidō.7

The JJHSHT and the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō

What follows then is a textual analysis of the JJHSHT which seeks to examine the officially sanctioned version of the Meiji government’s cementing of its control over Hokkaidō during the second half of the nineteenth century. This is in no way intended to downplay the importance of reception, far from it, but the question of how audiences receive and interpret official versions of national history is a question best explored by sociologists (which I am not) who possess the academic training (and therefore skills) and access to interviewees that would facilitate any analysis both of how Japanese students engage with the dominant discourse and to what extent they acquiesce in it. The present paper must then, of necessity, be considered provisional, and in no way purports to represent the final word on this matter; rather, I intend it as a point of embarkation for others (and especially sociologists) to engage with this comparatively neglected aspect of JJHSHT.

All of Japan’s eight Junior High School history textbooks, when dealing with the history of Hokkaidō during the Meiji era, paint a narrative in which Wajin (Japanese) ‘develop’ or ‘open-up’ what the Ainu called ‘Ainu Mosir’ and the Wajin ‘Ezochi’ (i.e. modern-day Hokkaidō). Indeed, all of eight of them specifically employ the Chinese kanji character kaitaku when narrating the history of Meiji-era Hokkaidō, four of them using it in their subheadings covering that period.8 Moreover, one of the textbooks rather heavy-handedly employs kaitaku or its verb form9 no fewer than 22 times in three pages.10 Interestingly, kaitaku and kaitaku-suru are so firmly associated with Hokkaidō in the minds of most Japanese that Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary (p. 477) provides the following two examples as indications of practical usage of the both the verb and the noun:

Hokkaidō ga honkakuteki ni kaitakusareta no wa meiji ikō de aru.

(It was only from the Meiji period that Hokkaidō was really developed)

Hokkaidō kaitakushi

(A history of the development of Hokkaidō)

Thus, the extensive employment of the kanji character kaitaku in the history textbooks means that for the vast majority of Japanese people today, the notion that Hokkaidō was ‘developed’ or ‘opened-up’ by Wajin settlers has been firmly cemented in their minds.

What, one may be forgiven for asking, is the problem with using kaitaku in connection with Hokkaidō? The problem, as I see it, is that kaitaku fosters images in students’ minds of a vast, empty wilderness being tamed and made fit for human habitation by hardworking Wajin pioneers. The widely-perceived-as-right-wing Fusōsha history textbook in particular gives this impression, since when narrating the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō, it does so under the general section heading of “The Promotion of Industry and Civilisation” and the subsection heading of “The Promotion of Industry.”11 Worse yet, it covers the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō in two sentences—in contrast to the three full pages (159-161) devoted to this by the Teikoku Shoin textbook—neither of which makes mention of the Ainu.12 (Indeed, there is no mention whatsoever of the Ainu in the Fusōsha textbook after p. 106 which deals with the revolt of Shakushain in the late sixteenth century.13) The result is that the effects that this ‘development’ had upon the pre-existing indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaidō are completely ignored. Similarly, the Tokyo Shoseki textbook (p. 142) also places its narrative of the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō under the general section heading of “On the way to becoming a Civilised Country” and the subsection heading of “The Promotion of Industry.” However, in contrast to the Fusōsha textbook, that published by Tokyo Shoseki (p. 142) does outline the impact this process had on the Ainu, and even does not shy away from painting a very negative picture by describing “hard labour resulting in many deaths,” the “robbing” of Ainu lands and fishing grounds, and the “oppression” of the Ainu people.

Moreover, kaitaku has positive connotations and therefore encourages a sanitised version of history in which colonisation and conquest are masked with a respectable veneer of almost altruistic ‘development’, in much the same way that the euphemistic use of the phrase “the ‘discovery’ of the Americas” is both Eurocentric and glosses over the conquest of two continents and the near extermination of their indigenous inhabitants. The problem is that, for the Ainu at least, their experience of this process was anything but positive; rather, it was a very painful one of colonisation and severe exploitation, not dissimilar to the experience of the indigenous people of South America at the hands of the Spanish, the Native American peoples at the hands of the White Man, and Australia’s aborigines at the hands of the British. Indeed, despite ample testimony regarding “the dispossession of the Ainu… through expropriation of Ainu land (and fishing grounds),”14 the severe exploitation of the natural resources which the Ainu relied upon for their very survival,15 the Ainu’s enforcedresettlement16 and coerced assimilation,17 not to mention their deaths wrought by starvation18 and epidemics introduced by the Wajin traders and settlers,19 very little of this appears in the JJHSHT.

Indeed, this litany of calamities inflicted upon the Ainu by Wajin traders, settlers, and officials, is either ignored completely or underplayed severely by the textbooks. At least, the impression one is left with after having read them is certainly very far from Siddle’s (1996:63) assertion that “The destruction of Ainu lifeways and economic livelihood was the direct result of Kaitakushi policies… ,”20 and even further from Tabata’s (1993:38) conclusion:

With the Meiji period the onslaught of modern development and forced assimilation as Japanese citizens led to the destruction of Ainu society. Through this Hokkaido took on the nature of an internal colony and a clear role in the capitalistic development of Japan.

Significantly, for example, none of the JJHSHT describes what happened in Hokkaidō employing the word colonisation (takushoku), and none make any mention of famine/starvation or sexual exploitation.21 Moreover, only one of the eight textbooks, that published by Shimizu Shoin (p. 154), refers to “new, contagious diseases” introduced by the Wajin. Confusingly, the Tokyo Shoseki textbook (p. 142), when discussing the era of the kaitakushi (i.e. 1869-1882), states that the Ainu were subject to “hard labour resulting in many deaths,”22 which is somewhat inaccurate in terms of chronology since, as Richard Siddle (1996:68) observes, whereas “Throughout the Tokugawa period, Ainu labour had been essential in the Japanese exploitation of the natural resources of the region,” on the contrary

with the establishment of direct colonial rule, large-scale Wajin immigration, and the integration of Hokkaidō as a settler colony… Ainu labour was no longer essential… on the whole Ainu labour contributed little to Hokkaidō development… [E]xploited labour for the extraction of primary resources and the construction of infrastructure was now taken over by convicts.

A further point worth emphasising is the considerable variation that exists between the eight JJHSHT in their treatment of both the Meiji-era policy of kaitaku in Hokkaidō and the impact that this had on the Ainu.23 At the opposing ends of the spectrum, theFusōsha textbook only devotes one sentence (comprising three lines) to the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō and completely fails to mention the Ainu during this period (or thereafter),whereas by contrast the Teikoku Shoin textbook devotes three pages to it, including seven sentences (comprising more than thirteen lines) specifically on how this affected the Ainu. However, although the latter is the fullest account, even it could stand further strengthening by the inclusion of aspects mentioned in other textbooks (such as disease, oppression, discrimination, the forbidding of the practice of Ainu customs) and incorporating the voices of Ainu themselves, as the Nihon Shosekishinsha textbook does with itsquoting from the poem Kotan (‘Village’) by Ainu poet Iboshi Hokuto. In fact, a relatively full account of what transpired under the Meiji government’s policy of ‘developing’ Hokkaidō could be gained if Junior High School pupils read all of the textbooks, but of course this does not happen. Nevertheless, even if a student were to consult all eight of the textbooks in an attempt to arrive at a comprehensive narrative, his/her vision of events would still be impaired by the language employed by all the textbooks—in particular their use of the passive voice, their omission of the subject, and their deliberate vagueness (especially in relation to cause and effect)—which serves in many instances deliberately to obscure the exact relation between the Meiji government’s policy of kaitaku and the suffering of the Ainu.24 In short, the image typically promoted by the JJHSHT is one in which, as a result (not of people, institutions or even policies, but rather) of a process (i.e. ‘development’), “Ainu culture came to be lost,”25 when a more accurate description would read as follows: “The Meiji government actively sought by means of employing the state apparatus, and in particular the law, to eradicate Ainu culture through a policy of assimilation.”

Ultimately, the JJHSHT’s emphasis on the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō both misrepresents the nature and obscures the cost of what was basically, at least as it was experienced by the Ainu, a brutally exploitative and extractive process typical of colonisation.In this way, the ‘development’ narrative in JJHSHT is analogous to the narrative of ‘progress’ in U.S. school history textbooks, since in both cases the benefits of the process are focused on to the exclusion of any treatment of costs.In this respect, the observation of Howard Zinn and Donaldo Maceo (2005:112) in their work on democratic education is worth citing:

there is a question to be asked: Progress, yes, but at what human cost? Is progress simply to be measured in the statistics of industrial and technological change, without regard to the consequences of that ‘progress’ for human beings? Would we accept a Russian justification of Stalin’s rule, including the enormous toll in human suffering, on the grounds that he made Russia a great industrial power?

Surely we should ask the same questions of ‘development.’

This having been said, it is not true to say that all of the textbooks ignore completely the negative effects upon the Ainu of the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō. Four out of eight tell their readers that the Ainu suffered “discrimination” and the same number write of Ainu land being “stolen.”26Two of them make explicit the Ainu’s “suffering,” with a further two talking of struggling/difficulties.27There is also mention in various of the textbooks of the Ainu way of living being “threatened,” or being “changed” and “gradually becoming difficult to maintain,” or being in “dire straits;”28of Ainu culture being lost;29 of Ainu being forced to move;30 and of the forced learning of Japanese language and culture.31

However, to write of discrimination, not subjugation and enforced assimilation, and to refer to general suffering or struggling/difficulties and not starvation/famine, rape, epidemics, and forced resettlement, is, I would argue, to downplay seriously the experiences of the Ainu during the Meiji era. Moreover, both the phrasing of the textbooks and their focus divert students’ attention from what actually transpired. For instance, the frequent omission of a sentence’s subject—a common facet of the Japanese language—makes it unclear whence the Ainu’s hardships derived, and even suggests on occasion that this was the result of a process, ‘development’, as opposed to the greed, racism and cruelty of Wajin settlers and officials.32 So too, the textbooks’ use of the passive voice leads to the obscuring of the causal agent, resulting in sentences which sound rather indirect.33 (For example, the Shimizu Shoin textbook (p. 154), which is otherwise one of the more nuanced textbook’s when discussing Ainu privations, uses the phrase“The Ainu’s… intrinsic language and also culture gradually came to be lost (ushinawareteitta),” which is particularly misleading: they were not so much ‘lost’ as purposefully and systematically extinguished, and the destruction was effected not by some abstract process, such as ‘development,’ but by people of another ethnicity who were contemptuous of it and who desired to destroy it.) It is equally clear from the textbooks that their focus is not on the Ainu and their experience of ‘development’ but rather the process itself and its undertaking by Wajin colonists. As noted above, in the most extreme case, that of the Fusōsha textbook, the Ainu receive no mention in its account of kaitaku in Hokkaidō. However, even more nuanced accounts, such as the Teikoku Shoin textbook (p. 159) which has a half-page section entitled “The Ainu people’s way of living was changed (kaerareta),” swiftly shifts its focus, moving on to narrate nearly two full pages on how Wajin pioneers and colonists from all over Honshu struggled to ‘open-up’ or ‘develop’ Hokkaidō.34 Significantly, it contains an illustration (p. 160) of such settlers cutting down large trees accompanied by a cartoon-character student next to it saying: “Aren’t those trees very thick, cutting them down looks really tough work.” Obviously then, students are meant to identify, and indeed empathise (if not sympathise), with the Wajin settler, and not with the colonised Ainu.35 There is, needless to say, no such sympathetic character on the preceding page saying something like “Look at the Ainu suffering. Their lives look hard don’t they?” Rather, the text alongside the boy proclaims: “the settlers (kaitakumintachi) cleared virgin wilderness; they undertook various hard tasks and devised ways to adapt to the harsh natural environment.” Finally, there is the case of another of the JJHSHT, published by Tokyo Shoseki (p. 142), which (without a hint of irony) places its narration of the stealing of Ainu land and fishing grounds and the oppression they suffered under the heading of “On the way to becoming a Civilised Country.”

Furthermore, to date only the Nihon Shosekishinsha textbook includes a contemporary source who writes of the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō from an Ainu perspective. The textbook (p. 157) contains a quotation from the Ainu poet Hokuto Iboshi, who, in his poem entitled Kotan (‘Village’), wrote of the Ainu people being made into “slaves” (dorei) in “the beautiful name of preservation” (hogo to iu bimei ni… ). Thus, while the worst of the textbooks does not discuss the Ainu after the 1669 revolt of Shakushain, even the better textbooks, with the exception of that published by Nihon Shosekishinsha, are substantially marred in their narration of Ainu suffering in the face of Wajin encroachment during the Meiji era. This inconsistency in coverage between the JJHSHT—one which surely calls into question the commonly-held notion that Japanese education is homogenous—needs to be redressed, since at present students using the Fusōsha textbook will know substantially less about the Ainu than students reading the other seven textbooks, while readers of the Nihon Shosekishinsha textbook will be given an added (Ainu) perspective on the history of Hokkaidō when compared to readers of the other seven textbooks.

Where the textbooks are consistent, however, is in their use and emphasis of ‘development’ (kaitaku) to describe what in fact was the colonisation of Hokkaidō by the Meiji government. The result is a highly sanitised version of events that disguises the colonisation and exploitation of Hokkaidō by the Wajin, substituting this historical reality for a manufactured, cosmetic narrative of ‘development’ that lends a veneer of legitimacy to what was in effect plunder by masking an unpalatable truth.36

In fact, such a characterisation is firmly entrenched in the textbook genre. Takegahara Yukio (1993), for example, has an excellent discussion of how the Ainu were treated in Elementary School Textbooks during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, after reviewing all eight of the 1992 New Elementary Social Studies Textbooks, Takegahara states (293):

it is difficult to say that the descriptions of the Ainu in the NESST are appropriate, as they are extremely limited in period and content and fail to describe the Ainu as members of modern society. This illustrates that they have still not overcome the defects of pre-war textbooks.

He then goes on (295) to add that “most of the textbooks have ignored the protests of the Ainu by dismissing the problem of the destitution and deliberate neglect of the Ainu in a few vague sentences that do not clarify the relationships of cause and effect.” He concludes (295): “it is insufficient to see the destruction of Ainu life simply as an aspect of the development of Hokkaidō.” At present then, history is being distorted—kaitakusuru being, at best, a euphemism for colonisation—and most Japanese continue in the belief that what transpired in Hokkaidō during the Meiji era was largely ‘development.’

Victors’ history and competing narratives

Of course, Japan is not unique in sanitising the less attractive aspects of its nation’s history. Since recorded history began, nations or peoples have sought to justify their colonial ambitions and undertakings using rhetoric. The Romans urged that they were civilising other nations (as, to some extent, did the British); the Arab world in the 7th century, the Crusaders in the 11th century, and the Conquistadors in the 16th century, all believed they were bringing the word of God to other peoples; while yet other colonial entities have justified their expansion at others’ expense by arguing either that the land they took was “empty,” a terra nullius, or that those whose land they took were “lazy” or “unproductive”37 and therefore had forfeited their right to it.38 It is this latter pattern of rhetorical justification to which Japan’s textbooks belong—their narratives of empty wildernesses being tamed and populated by settlers very much conforming to the practice whereby, to quote Richard Siddle (1996:22), “In official narratives, the colonisation process is obfuscated through the use of stirring images of pioneer struggles against the forces of nature,” as the spirit of progress opens up ‘virgin lands’ to the forces of civilisation. Thus, the implicit message conveyed by employing the phrase kaitaku or ‘develop/open-up’ is this: either Hokkaidō was empty when the Wajin arrived, or, if it was not strictly speaking ‘empty,’ it was devoid of people who merited consideration. The truth, however, is rather contrary to this: the Wajin ‘development’ of Hokkaidō represents the superimposition of an alien culture by a colonial power onto a pre-existing substantial indigenous presence.

However, why not provide an alternative, more accurate and nuanced history based not on the victor’s perspective, but that of the victims? (As mentioned above, one of the eight history textbooks, that published by Nihon Shosekishinsha, already includes a brief extract from a contemporary source who writes of the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō from an Ainu perspective.) These already exist. For example, the Hokkaidō Utari Association describes the clash of cultures between Wajin and Ainu as follows:

The Japanese government, having taken the first step to becoming a modern state with the Meiji Restoration, unilaterally incorporated Ainu Moshiri into state territory as ownerless land without any negotiation with the indigenous Ainu. Furthermore, the government concluded the Sakhalin-Kurile Exchange Treaty with Imperial Russia and forced the Ainu in Karafuto and the Northern Kuriles to leave their homelands where they lived in peace.

The Ainu were robbed of their land, forests and seas. Taking deer or salmon became poaching and collecting firewood was deemed theft. On the other hand, Wajin immigrants flooded into the land, destructive development (susamajii rankaihatsu) began, and the very survival of the Ainu people was threatened.

The dignity of the Ainu people was trampled underfoot by a policy of assimilation based on discrimination and prejudice. The Ainu were confined to granted lands, and their freedom to move or pursue an occupation other than agriculture was restricted, while their distinct language was stolen from them through education…

The issue of the Ainu is a shameful historical legacy that arose during the process of establishing Japan as a modern state.39

Of particular interest here, we should note the replacement by the Utari Association of the usual kaitaku (development) with susamajii rankaihatsu, which Siddle here translates concisely, but rather weakly, as ‘destructive development.’ To be more precise Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary defines susamajii as “terrible, horrible, dreadful; terrific, appalling” (p. 1385) and rankaihatsu as “unbridled [unrestrained] land development; environmentally destructive development” (p. 2703). Thus, we should perhaps amend Siddle’s translation to the admittedly more cumbersome and inelegant “appalling environmentally destructive development.”

So too, the late Kayano Shigeru (1994:60 & 153), Japan’s only Ainu Diet Member, has left a similar description to posterity:

Mainland Japanese had crossed the strait to our national land hundreds of years earlier, but it was in the early Meiji era that they began a concerted, all-out invasion. Laws like the Former Hokkaidō Aborigine Protection Act restricted our freedom first by ignoring our basic rights, as a hunting people, to hunt bear and deer or catch salmon and trout freely, anyway and at any time, and then by compelling us to farm on inferior land the Japanese ‘provided.’ In ‘providing’ land, the Japanese also legitimated their plunder of the region. The mountains around Nibutani, among others, became the Japanese nation’s ‘national forests’ before we realised it and later were sold off to a big financial combine.

This makes for unqualified invasion. I have no knowledge of the usual methods by which strong countries invade weaker ones. There is no denying, however, that the people belonging to the ‘Japanese nation’ ignored the rights of the Ainu, the prior inhabitants, and—without so much as removing their soiled shoes—stormed into Ainu Mosir, the land of the Ainu people…

The Ainu have not intentionally forgotten their culture and their language. It is the modern Japanese state that, from the Meiji era on, usurped our land, destroyed our culture, and deprived us of our language under the euphemism of assimilation. In the space of a mere 100 years, they nearly decimated the Ainu culture and language that had taken tens of thousands of years to come into being on this earth.

Nor are such perspectives on the colonisation of Hokkaidō limited to the Ainu; other, non-Ainu, Japanese share and echo them. For example, as early 1988 journalist Honda Katsuichi (1993b:108) wrote of the Wajin encounter with the Ainu in the following way:

At the beginning of the Meiji period, all Ainu land was nationalised. Forests and mountains on which Ainu people had always lived were ‘legitimately’ stolen in the name of ‘public forests’ or ‘imperial estates.’ It became a crime for the Ainu to cut a tree or hunt deer in the forest behind their houses. Even catching salmon became a crime.

More recently, scholar John Lie (2001:91-92), as is evident from his parenthesised citations, has been able to produce the following account of the colonisation of Hokkaidō based on the testimony of Japanese historians, journalists and activists writing during the last thirty-five years:

The Meiji state renamed Ezochi as Hokkaidō in 1869 and declared the territory as imperial land in 1873 (Tamura 1992:92-93)… Although Japanese in Hokkaidō numbered only 168,000 in 1873, the figure increased to 786,000 by 1897 (Shin’ya 1977:179). In addition to the ex-samurai, other Japanese came to exploit the natural bounty of Hokkaidō, resulting in a near depletion of deer and salmon by the 1880s (Horiuchi 1993:17-18). Deforestation proceeded at a rapid pace (Honda 1993a:7-11). Most significantly, the spread of infectious diseases that accompanied Shamo immigration led to a significant decline in the Ainu population (Seki 1983:230-231).

The Meiji state pursued an aggressive policy to integrate Ainu people, whom they regarded as aborigines (dojin), into the modern Japanese polity. The Japanese state forcefully relocated some Ainu people and transformed them into farmers (Kaiho 1992:100-102). Nearly all aspects of Ainu culture were banned outright or became objects of scorn (Shin’ya 1977:183-185). The Ainu were forced to adopt Japanese names (Asahi Shinbun Ainu Minzoku Shuzaihan 1993:92-98) and placed under the national registry (koseki) (Kaiho 1992:18)… Thus the state pursued a policy of assimilation, seeking to transform the Ainu into Japanese, or civilised, people (Kaiho 1992:22-28; Takagi 1994:166-168).

The culmination of the Meiji policy toward the Ainu people was the 1899 Hokkaidō Aborigine Act (Hokkaidō kyūdojin hogohō) (Ogawa and Yamada 1998:409-412). The appellation kyūdojin—former aborigines—captures the dominant Japanese presupposition of Ainu backwardness. Although claiming to protect the Ainu, the legislation sought to transform and, in fact, destroy the Ainu way of life (Shin’ya 1977:188-193).

Unfortunately, these alternative perspectives on the ‘development’ of Hokkaidō find scant resonance in the JJHSHT textbooks. This total exclusion of competing narratives or voices which would serve to challenge the dominant discourse derives, I would argue, from the idea, firmly entrenched in Japan’s Ministry of Education, that history textbooks should produce clear-cut and authoritative accounts, uncomplicated by nuance, which are intended to be memorised, not interpreted.40 (Elsewhere in the world, for example in the U.S., challenges launched by minorities against dominant, majority portrayals of Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas found some resonance in the school history textbooks. More recently, California’s legislature discussed a bill that would make it compulsory for textbooks to treat the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.41) Thus, although all nations’ history textbooks tend to privilege an ‘official’ version of history, reproducing with each new edition the dominant majority view,42 Japan’s Ministry of Education seems especially impervious to challenges from minorities. Such imperviousness, James W. Loewen (1996:274) points out, can be disturbingly self-perpetuating: “If members of the elite come to think that their privilege was historically justified and earned, it will be hard to persuade them to yield opportunity to others.”In short, this tendency of ignoring any alternative narratives produced by minorities constitutes a classic example of cultural imperialism.43

Historical amnesia and the historical record

Perhaps most worrying is the fact that the current JJHSHT’s accounts of Hokkaidō’s colonisation are at odds with the one suggested by the sources and the historical record.Siddle (1999:71-2), heavily basing his narrative of the colonisation of Hokkaidō on Japanese sources and Japanese scholars’ research, produces the following account:

The authorities began in the 1880s to round up and relocate Ainu communities onto reservations, of sorts, to clear them out of rich lands designated for agricultural settlement… Life on these reservations was grim, and in some cases the communities were moved yet again… Traditional ways of life survived into the Meiji period until the resources of land, fish, and game upon which this lifestyle depended were appropriated or destroyed by the development of Hokkaidō; by the early twentieth century most Ainu were sunk in chronic destitution and only barely managing to survive.

Consequently, what Japanese Junior High School pupils are actually being exposed to is a one-sided, ‘official’ version of history as proposed by the dominant majority, rather than a nuanced account that finds resonance with the testimony of contemporary Japanese eyewitnesses, and the histories produced by present-day scholars such as Richard Siddle, as well as the narratives of Japanese politicians, activists and journalists such as the Hokkaidō Utari Association, Kayano Shigeru and Honda Katsuichi. Thus, a yawning chasm currently exists between, on the one hand, the version of Hokkaidō’s ‘development’ as provided by contemporary commentators (Japanese and foreign), and on the other, the version taught to Japanese children at school through their textbooks.

In 1996, Richard Siddle (1996:22), with the Ainu firmly in mind, wrote:

Indigenous peoples have also been engaged in the ‘politics of memory,’ challenging the official versions of the past that promote widespread historical amnesia when it comes to their dispossession.

Although more than a decade-and-a-half has elapsed since he wrote those words, one during which the much trumpeted New Ainu Law (Law no. 52: 14th May, 1997) was passed, supposedly in order to ensure “the promotion of Ainu culture, the spread of knowledge related to Ainu traditions, and the education of the nation,”44 the JJHSHT continue to promote ‘historical amnesia’ through obfuscation when treating the colonisation of Hokkaidō. What is needed therefore is the issuing of new textbooks which provide a frank and sincere account of what was perpetrated in Hokkaidō and the full effects this had upon the indigenous population. Moreover, these new JJHSHT would refrain from employing the term ‘development’ to describe this process and instead call it what it was, i.e., colonisation.This would be far more honest; after all,Wajin contemporaries themselves wrote of the colonisation (takushoku) of Hokkaidō, and the government even established a ‘Colonial Bank’ (Takushoku Ginkō) to help stimulate the capitalist development of Hokkaidō.45 Indeed, Nitobe Inazō (1862-1933), a contemporary of the colonisation process in Hokkaidō and a professor at Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaidō University) from 1891-1897, who was appointed technical advisor to the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan (1901), and who lectured on colonial studies at both Kyoto’s and Tokyo’s Imperial Universities, wrote in 1920 unequivocally of the colonisation of Hokkaidō:

So began, in the [eighteen] seventies, the colonisation of the long-neglected island of Hokkaidō… The colonisation of Hokkaidō was not fraught with great difficulties, as the natives—the Ainu—were a timid and fast-vanishing race… Colonial enterprise had… to be led by the Government… The island… can nowadays scarcely be called a colony, being more a part of Japan than Algeria is of France…46

That this trend appears to have continued at least up until the mid-twentieth century is perhaps illustrated by Takakura Shinichiro, at the time Japan’s most prominent scholar on the Ainu, entitling one of his works Hokkaidō Takushoku Shi (History of the Colonisation of Hokkaidō) (Sapporo: 1947).

Furthermore, there is the need to address the human and ecological cost of this “appalling environmentally destructive development.” What we have at present in the JJHSHT is ‘feel-good’ history, written by the victors. This, I believe, needs to be replaced with an accurate account of events; for, as James W. Loewen (1996:97) notes: “the antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history, but honest and inclusive history.”47

Future research directions

Prior to concluding, I would again emphasise the preliminary nature of this paper, and propose three possible directions future research on the subject may take. First, the conducting of a functional grammar analysis of the JJHSHT’s treatment of the ‘development of Hokkaidō’ similar to the one Christopher Barnard (2003) carries out in his book-length study of the Japanese textbooks’ treatments of the rape of Nanking, Japan’s attacks at the start of the Pacific War, and Japan’s surrender, couldbe profitably pursued. Second, a comparative approach similar to that adopted by Peter Cave (2005), whereby Japanese history textbooks are compared with British ones, may, with some modification—i.e., Cave’s comparison of the JJHSHT’s treatments of Japan’s colonisation of Korea and China with U.K. textbooks’ treatments of Britain’s colonisation India, being substituted, I would urge, for a comparison of the JJHSHT’s treatments of Japan’s colonisation of Hokkaidō with U.K. textbooks’ treatments of England’s colonisation of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—yield interesting results. Finally, an examination of preceding JJHSHT’s discussions of Hokkaidō kaitaku could furnish us with an insight into the continuities and/or changes in perceptions and portrayals of this process over a period of more than a century.48


At this stage, it merits asking whether we can draw any wider conclusions concerning history education in Japan from the way that the JJHSHT treat the colonisation of Hokkaidō. I believe we can. At the minimum level, for example, it exemplifies how what Edward Vickers (2005:21) describes as “the move away from teaching a single, received narrative of the national past and toward a more in-depth, contemporary, and thematic focus involving the use of primary sources… promoted for its contribution, on the one hand, to developing generic analytical skills and, on the other, to encouraging attitudes of tolerance of diverse views and skepticism toward dominant interpretations of the past,” has simply not taken place in Japan. In this respect (as in many others), there appears then a sizable gulf between how the teaching of history, and the purpose behind it, is envisaged in Japan compared to in other countries. For example, Vickers (2005:21) also notes how in some societies and education systems there has been a “decreasing emphasis on the traditional account of high politics” and that this “has been accompanied in some systems by efforts to increase the amount of attention devoted to the history of previously neglected or despised groups—women, blacks, Native Americans, or Australian aborigines.” In particular, he notes (ibid) how “[i]n Western contexts, this vision of history education thus sees itself as playing a crucial role in the formation of an active, tolerant, democratic citizenry.” In contrast, in Japan, at least during the nine years of compulsory education, the teaching of history tends, as Peter Cave (2005:326) points out, to be seen and deployed “as a tool for developing national identity, especially in the governmental circles that control the curriculum…” Moreover, Cave (2005:326-27) continues, “these same governing powers are at best ambivalent about the desirability of developing in schoolchildren the kind of critical, autonomous thinking that could be fostered by in-depth study of key periods of modern history.” Such an approach to history has implications concerning “historical truthfulness,” which, Tessa Morris-Suzuki (2005:28) argues, “provides a possible starting point for combating historiographies of oblivion…” Indeed, Morris-Suzuki (2005:238) proposes that “Central to historical truthfulness… is the willingness and capacity to pay attention to the differing representations of the past created by people who view (or viewed) the same set of events from different places, social backgrounds and ideological perspectives.” Unfortunately, at present the JJHSHT’s narratives of the colonisation of Hokkaidō exhibit scant willingness or capacity to heed Ainu perspectives and thus abet the fostering of historiographies of oblivion.

Finally, history is, of course, never purely about the past—not only do we view past events through contemporary lenses, but the past affects, and is used to justify, the present. Thus, at the risk of ending on a pessimistic note, we may predict with relative certainty that the JJHSHT’s treatment of this particular episode in the nation’s history is unlikely to be substantially revised any time soon. Quite simply, doing so would have serious implications for the present, since any admission by the JJHSHT that what transpired in Hokkaidō constituted Japan’s colonisation of an alien land, as opposed to the development of its ‘inherent’ territory, would weaken its claim in the Northern Territories/Kurile islands dispute with the Russian Federation.

Appendix 1

Textbook Frequency kaitaku is employed Space devoted to Hokkaido’s kaitaku Space devoted to the Ainu under the kaitaku policy
(p. 154)
2 times
(kaitaku x2)
1 sentence = 3 lines none
Kyoiku Shuppan
(p. 121)
5 times
(kaitaku x4; kaitakushi x1)
4 sentences = 6 lines 2 sentences = 3.3 lines
Nihonbunkyo Shuppan
(p. 119)
7 times
(kaitaku x6 times; kaitakushi x1)
6 sentences = 14.5 lines 2 sentences = 5 lines
Nihon Shosekishinsha
(p. 157)
1 time
3 sentences = 11.75 lines (of one column = half page) 2 sentences = 8.25 lines
Osaka Shoseki
(p. 145)
5 times
kaitaku x1; kaitakushi x2; kaitakumin x1; kaitakujigyō x1
4 sentences = 10 lines, plus one sentence footnote 2 sentences = 3.5 lines, plus one sentence footnote
Shimizu Shoin
(p. 154)
6 times
kaitaku x4; kaitakushi x1; kaitakusha x1
6 sentences = 18.5 lines 2 sentences = 8.75 lines
Teikoku Shoin
30 times
kaitaku x22; kaitakushi x3; kaitakudantai x3; kaitakuki x1; kaitakumin x1
3 pages = 18 sentences 7 sentences = 13.66 lines
Tokyo Shoseki
(pp. 119 & 142)
1 time
p. 119 = 3 sentences = 7.5 lines (of one column = half page)
p. 142 = 4 sentences (= 7.75 lines)
p. 119 = 2 sentences = 4.5 lines
p. 142 = 3 sentences (5.75) 7 sentences = 13.66 lines

Appendix 2

Textbook Stated Detrimental effects of the kaitaku policy on Ainu people
Fusōsha (p. 154) none
Kyoiku Shuppan (p. 121) Hunting & fishing grounds stolen (ubaware); pushed into a state of bitterness (kurushii tachiba ni oikomarete ikimashita); the gov. implemented the Former Natives Protection Act, but discrimination (sabestu) continued
Nihonbunkyo Shuppan (p. 119) Hunting & fishing lifestyle became threatened (obiyakasareru) due to Ainu access to mountains & rivers being limited (seigensareru); gov. encouraged (susume) Ainu to start farming and to assimilate (dōka) to being Japanese, but the result wasn’t effective (kōka ga agarazu) & discrimination (sabestu) didn’t change (aratamerarenakatta)
Nihon Shosekishinsha (p. 157) Ainu taken into Japanese koseki, names changed into Japanese; designated ‘former natives;’ customs forbidden (fūshū wo kinshishimashita); Ainu robbed (ubaware) of their land & so came to lose the places which sustained their way of life (seikatsu no ba wo ushinatte ikimashita)
Osaka Shoseki (p. 145) Ainu came to lose (ushinaii) their work & land; & came to struggle with life (seikatsu ni komaru); obliged (gimuzukerareta) to use Japanese language & adopt Japanese names; received tax relief, were given farmland, & Ainu school established as part of protection policy, but their status & life as indigenous didn’t improve
Shimizu Shoin (p. 154) Ainu life became bitter (kurushikunatta) as they were pushed off (oidasareta) the land they fished & hunted on, & immigrants overfished & overhunted; new diseases were spread (atarashii densenbyō ga hiromatta); Although gov. implemented the Former Natives Protection Act, it was difficult for Ainu to live by farming, and as they were struggling to survive (seikatsu ni kurushimu) their own unique language and culture was lost (ushinawarete itta)
Teikoku Shoin (pp.159-161) p.159 = Ainu robbed (ubawaremashita) of their fishing & hunting grounds; gov. prohibited (kinji) Ainu from practicing their customs, & pursued a policy of assimilation (dōkaseisaku); gov. encouraged farming but uncultivatable land (kaikon dekinai youna tochi) was given the Ainu, & some lost the land as they were not acquainted with farming; gov. didn’t want Ainu to live alongside (zakkyo) Japanese, and so used the law to take their land (tochi wo toriage) & forced them to resettle (kyōsei ijū); Ainu way of life & culture became difficult to maintain (konnan ni narimashita); p. 160 = as kaitaku proceeded, Ainu people’s life was being changed (seikatsu wa kaerarete ikimashita)
Tokyo Shoseki (pp. 119 & 142) p. 119 = The land of the Ainu became Japanese territory; many Japanese immigrated to Hokkaidō & farming, mining & fishing became main industry, in that process the Ainu were oppressed (appaku) & assimilated (dōkasarete ikimashita) to Japanese; p. 142 = Ainu & prisoners used as hard labour (konnan na rōdō) for road building & consequently many sacrifices were made (ooku no giseiisha wo dashimashita); Ainu were robbed (ubawarete) of their land & fishing grounds, and their life became oppressed (appakusarete ikimashita)


Primary Sources (Textbooks)

Fusōsha. 2006.Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho. Tokyo.

Kyoiku Shuppan. 2006. Chūgakushakai rekishi: mirai wo mitsumete. Tokyo.

Nihonbunkyo Shuppan. 2006. Chūgakusei no shakaika rekishi: nihon no ayumi to sekai. Osaka.

Nihon Shosekishinsha. 2006. Watashitachi no chūgakushakai: rekishiteki bunya. Tokyo.

Osaka Shoseki. 2006. Chūgakushakai rekishiteki bunya. Osaka.

Shimizu Shoin. 2006. Shinchūgakkō rekishi: nihon no rekishi to sekai. Tokyo.

Teikoku Shoin. 2006. Shakaika chūgakusei no rekishi: nihon no ayumi to sekai no ugoki. Tokyo.

Tokyo Shoseki. 2006. Atarashii shakai: rekishi. Tokyo.

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[1] See Winston Churchill’s famous utterance: ‘History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.’

[2] Vickers (2005:3-4) adds: "Western-based analysts of the history, politics, and culture of East Asia tend to focus overwhelmingly on the writings and pronouncements of prominent intellectuals, artists, and political leaders. These are undoubtedly far more stimulating than the banalities of school history textbooks, but they are by no means necessarily more important or influential."

[3] In particular, Morris-Suzuki (2005:177) notes how in Japan “comic-book versions of history—whether fictional or non-fictional—have probably shaped popular understandings of history at least as much as any textbook.”

[4] In an accompanying footnote, Hood (2001: 179, n. 22) notes that “[E.H.] Kinmonth [1997] points out that whatever is said about the 1930s and after in textbooks may be largely irrelevant, because this period has not been stressed in entrance examinations, and it is entrance examinations that largely drive student attention to the textbooks.”

[5] Similarly, Laura Hein and Mark Seldon (2000:3&4) claim that: “textbooks are important vehicles through which contemporary societies transmit ideas of citizenship and both the idealised past and the promised future of the community… directly or indirectly, they carry the imprimatur of the state…”

[6] For a succinct and useful summary of Japan’s textbook issue to date, and in particular the four crises provoked by it since 1982, see Fukuoka Kazuya (2011:85-87).

[7] This may be due in large part to Hokkaidō being an area that the world has come to recognise as an integral part of Japan’s national territory.

[8] I have not, of course, included references to kaitakushi, the Office of Development, which, as a governmental institution that bore this name at the time, can legitimately be expected to appear in the JJHSHT.

[9] In the verb form it appears as kaitakusuru, Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary (p. 477) definition of which is: “develop; open (up); cultivate.”

[10] Indeed, the Teikoku Shoin history textbook (pp. 159-161) employs the kanji character three times within five sentences on p. 159, and eight times in less than two-thirds of a page on p. 160. Moreover, the kaitaku character appears once in a page heading (p. 160) and four times (out of four) in subsequent sub-headings.

[11] The Fusōsha publishing house is a subsidiary company of the right-wing newspaper Sankei Shimbun. Its history textbook has sparked considerable controversy over both its inaccuracies and its treatment of Japan’s wartime conduct, especially in connection with the colonisation of Korea and China.

[12] These two sentences from p. 154 of the textbookread as follows: “In 1869, the government renamed the Ezo region Hokkaidō, and sent shizoku and soldier-farmers there to develop the region. Once policies intended to increase production and promote industry were implemented, further attempts were made to exploit the resources of Hokkaidō (Hokkaidō kaitaku ni chikara ireta);” this translation available at: http://www.tsukurukai.com/05_rekisi_text/rekishi_English/English.pdf.

[13] Again, cf the Osaka Shoseki (p. 228) textbook, which devotes an entire page to Ainu in the twentieth century.

[14] Richard Siddle (1996:74). See too, John Lie (2001:93), who writes of the Ainu being deceived out of their land, as well as them experiencing ‘abuse,’ ‘exploitation,’ and ‘discrimination.’

[15] For the exploitation of game, see: Tabata Hiroshi (1993:37), NomuraGiichi (1993:83-84), Kayano Shigeru (1994:59),Richard Siddle (1996:62), and John Lie (2001:91). Siddle (62) notes “the drastic over-hunting by Wajin armed with rifles,” continuing: “Whereas during the Matsumae period the Tokachi basho had yielded around six or seven hundred hides annually, over 12,500 were produced there in 1878 alone. The total Hokkaidō yield in 1875 was 76,500 hides.” John Lie (2001:91), drawing on Honda Katsuichi (1993a:7-8), notes also that “Deforestation proceeded at a rapid pace.” On the exploitation of Ainu people, see John Lie (2001:93).

[16] Siddle (1996:66& 67) writes: “various local administrations began to set up small ‘reservations’ (hogochi) based on the 1877 regulation authorising bureaucratic control over Ainu residential land.” Siddle (1996:66 & 67) also writes of Ainu being “resettled away from farmlands set aside for the Wajin moving into the area,” of communities being “forcibly relocated,” and of “Forced population transfers… [which] ensured that a large proportion of Ainu were segregated and excluded from the most productive land.” See too, Ogawa Masahito (1993:239-240) and Kayano Shigeru (1994:37-41).

[17] Siddle (1996:61 & 70) writes: "One of the first manifestations of this [Kaitakushi] policy was the banning in 1871 of Ainu customs such as tattooing, the wearing of ear-rings, and the burning of the dwellings of the deceased… Assimilation (dōka) meant… the transformation of the Ainu into model Imperial subjects through eradication of their former language, customs and values." See too, Tabata Hiroshi (1993:37-38), Nomura  Giichi(1993:83-84), Ogawa Masahito (1993), Kayano Shigeru (1994: 153) and John Lie (2001:91-92).

[18] Siddle (1996:63).

[19] See Siddle (1996:67 & 72-73) for Ainu deaths from cholera and tuberculosis (respectively). For a brief discussion of the impact of “foreign contagions” on the Ainu over a period of several centuries, see Brett L. Walker (1999:102-107).

[20] Similarly, see Ogawa (1993:238): “What did bring about drastic change in Ainu society was the destruction as a result of Kaitakushi policies of the resources that sustained that way of life.”

[21] Cf Siddle (1999:71-2) who makes mention of these in his recreation of the colonisation of Hokkaidō, which draws heavily on Japanese sources and Japanese scholars’ research.

[22] Similarly, the Nihon Shosekishinsha textbook (p. 109) states: ‘… the Ainu being worked like slaves in Wajin-run fisheries, the population decreased greatly.’ However, in the Nihon Shosekishinsha’s case, the statement forms part of the last sentence in a section dealing with Shakushain’s War (1669-1672), and is introduced with the phrase ‘after that’ (referring to the death of Shakushain), thus making it pertinent and avoiding the anachronism found in the Tokyo Shoseki textbook.

[23] See the appendices below for tabulated summaries of the JJHSHT’s narratives on the Meiji government’s policy of kaitaku in Hokkaidō.

[24] That this is ‘deliberate’ can be seen from Horiuchi Kōichi (1987:28), who notes how, in the late 1950s, the wording in the only High School History textbook to treat “the Ainu problem” was made to be toned down by the Ministry of Education. Consequently, the phrase “they robbed [ubai] the hunting and fishing and forestry rights of Ainu and they forced [kyōseishita] them to assimilate to being Japanese,” became “hunting and fishing, which had been supporting Ainu’s life, became overwhelmed [attōsare] by the inhabitants of Honshu [naichijin] and they [i.e. the Ainu] were called on [motomerareta] to assimilate to being Japanese.”

[25] Perhaps the best example of this is the Osaka Shoseki (p. 145), which informs its readers that: “As development continued, the indigenous Ainu people, who carried out fishing and hunting of their own accord and had their own distinctive culture, lost their occupations and their land, and came to have problems in making a living.”(kaihatsu ga susumu to, jiyū ni gyogyō ya kari wo okonatte dokuji no bunka wo motteita senjumin ainu no hitobito wa, shigoto ya tochi wo ushinai, seikatsu ni komaru you ni narimashita).”

[26] The Nihonbunkyo Shuppan (p. 119), Kyoiku Shuppan (p. 121), Nihon Shosekishinsha (p. 157) and Osaka Shoseki (p. 228) textbooks refer to discrimination; the Kyoiku Shuppan (p. 121), Tokyo Shoseki (p. 142), Nihon Shosekishinsha (p. 157) and Teikoku Shoin (p. 159) textbooks write of land being stolen.

[27] The Kyoiku Shuppan (p. 121) and Shimizu Shoin (p. 154) textbooks refer to suffering,the Osaka Shoseki (p. 145) and Teikoku Shoin (p. 159) textbooks to struggling/difficulties.

[28] In the Nihonbunkyo Shuppan (p. 119), Teikoku Shoin (p. 159), and Osaka Shoseki (p. 145) textbooks respectively.

[29] In the Shimizu Shoin (p. 154) and Teikoku Shoin (p. 159) textbooks respectively.

[30] In the Teikoku Shoin textbook (p. 159).

[31] In the Teikoku Shoin textbook (p. 159).

[32] See Christopher Barnard (2003) for a book-length analysis of the linguistic devices and grammatical forms Japanese history textbooks adopt when narrating the rape of Nanking, Japan’s attacks at the start of the Pacific War, and the country’s surrender.

[33] That such a practice is not the exclusive preserve of JJHSHT can be seen from Daniel Goldhagen’s (1996) treatment of narratives dealing with the Holocaust. Goldhagen (1996:6) urges “using not the passive but the active voice in order to ensure that they, the actors, are not absent from their own deeds,” since at present “The use of the passive voice removes the actors from the scene of carnage, from their own acts,” thereby resulting in the production of an understanding of the Holocaust that is “robbed of human agency” (475).

[34] Donald Calman (1992:234ff & 244-251) writes that these pioneers and colonists comprised Tokyo’s urban poor, convicts, and POWs from the Boshin War, who had been duped or coerced into going to Hokkaidō and who died in significant numbers due to the hardships they experienced there. See too, Richard Siddle (1996:58-59) on the use of “convict labour, including defeated soldiers from the rebel army of Saigō Takamori as well as ordinary criminals,” concluding “Convicts played an important role in the development of Hokkaidō.” If Calman and Siddle are correct, the JJHSHT misrepresent not only the colonisation process in Hokkaidō, and the experience of the Ainu who were on the receiving end of it, but also the nature and fate of those sent there to carry it out.

[35] This attempt by a textbook to engage students on an emotional level represents a significant anomaly within an overwhelming predominant pattern of total reliance on facts ‘pure and simple’ to produce a bare chronology of events wholly devoid of commentary, discussion or analysis.

[36] Or, as Siddle (1996:52) puts it, “To naturalise conquest as development (kaitaku) is to obscure the violence associated with the economic, cultural and social marginalisation of conquered peoples to the fringes of colonial society.”

[37] On stereotypes of indolent indigenous peoples, see Syed Hussein Alatas (1977).

[38] For an interesting parallel, see Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2007:167-8), in which he interviews ladino landowners in Chiapas, Mexico, about how their ancestors came to own estates in the area. Two of the landowners claimed that the territory in those days was “an enormous empty forest… unpopulated…” and was “a place where nobody lived.” When faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the landowners dismissed the indigenous who previously lived there on the grounds that they had not used the land productively.

[39] New Law Concerning the Ainu People (Draft), adopted at the General Assembly of the Utari Kyōkai (27th May, 1984); the translation is that of Richard Siddle (1996:196-197).

[40] See Horio Teruhisa ([1988] 1994:176): “the view of textbooks dominant among those who certify them in Japan is not one which places value upon their capacity to stimulate the intellectual powers of students; this educational philosophy measures the value of a textbook solely in terms of how faithfully it reproduces knowledge which has already been officially certified as ‘truthful.’”

[41] See James W. Loewen (1996:279).

[42] Howard Zinn (2001:182) notes how in the U.S.: “we always new our education system ‘socialised’ people, but we never worried about this, because we assumed our social norms were worth perpetuating. Now, and rightly, we are beginning to doubt this.” In Japan, it seems to me, the dominant majority remain supremely convinced of the worth of Japanese social norms.

[43] See Edward W. Said (1994:xiii): “the power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them.”

[44] Article 1. This English translation of the Ainu Shinpo is posted on the Internet at http://www.frpac.or.jp/eng/e_prf/profile06.html (my emphasis).

[45] See Siddle (1996:51), who writes of “the tendency of late nineteenth century Japanese to refer unambiguously to ‘colonisation’ (takushoku).” For the Colonial Bank, see Siddle (1996:59).

[46] In his “Japanese Colonisation,” Asiatic ReviewVol. XVI (Jan. 1920): 113-121, at 114.

[47] Later (133), he writes: “It is understandable that textbook authors might write history in such a way that students can feel good about themselves by feeling good about the past. Feeling good is a human need, but it imposes a burden that history cannot bear without becoming simple-minded.”

[48] As an example of how this may be done, see Peter Cave (2013), who charts the changes taking place between 1992 and 2010 in the JJHSHT’s treatments of Japan’s “colonialism and aggression in Asia… cover[ing] the 1895-1945 period.” NB Cave’s article (2013:547ff) has the additional merit of providing data on the market share that each of the JJHSHT occupy, thereby helping us to gauge the extent of their respective influence on Japanese junior high school students.

About the Author

Nicholas Henck moved to Japan from the U.K. soon after gaining his PhD from The Queen’s College (Oxford University). After working from 2002-2005 at Niigata National University as a Visiting Associate Professor, he moved to Keio University (Tokyo), first as an Invited Visiting Associate professor (2005-2009) and subsequently as a tenured Associate Professor (2009~). He has also taught part-time at Tokyo University and Waseda University. His previous research focused on two distinct fields, Late Roman History and the life of contemporary Mexican guerrilla leader Subcomandante Marcos, and resulted in the publication of a book and numerous articles which have appeared in British, U.S., Japanese and Korean academic journals. This paper represents his first foray into research focusing on Japan, his finally having found the confidence to undertake such a project after having spent nearly 14 years living and working in the country, learning its language and culture (very much an ongoing process).

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