Narrative Strategies Regarding Japanese Ethnic Origins and Cultural Identities in Japanese Middle-School History Textbooks

in Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society
Author: Ryôta Nishino
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This article examines how middle school history textbooks published between 1951 and 1995 explain the origins of the Japanese as an ethnic group (minzoku). The analysis shows that despite the relatively long period from which the sample of textbooks was taken, these texts continue to emphasize two categories of Japanese identity: a biologically heterogeneous people through prehistoric immigration and a unified language. Building on the latter theme, the textbooks continued to treat the innovation of the kana as a quintessential development underlying the Japanese cultural achievement. The analysis reveals that the narrative tone shifted from being emotive in the early 1950s texts to somewhat muted in later decades.