Cultural Identity and Textbooks in Japan: Japanese Ethnic and Cultural Nationalism in Middle-School History Textbooks

  • Ryota NishinoEmail author
Reference work entry


This chapter analyzes the descriptions of antiquity in middle-school (Chūgakkō) Japanese History textbooks to probe the nature of popular perceptions amongst the Japanese: the Japanese are biologically and culturally homogenous. This perception persists despite the empirical and logical flaws of the claim of homogeneity. A total of 20 textbooks, approved and published in two periods, between 1951 and 1993, and 2015–16, presume the Jōmon era (ca. 10,000–2400 BP) to be the foundational period of the Japanese race, culture, and state under the unquestioned premise of Japan as the overarching framework. The textbooks repeat the idea that racial and cultural hybridization during the Jōmon era led to a homogenous Japanese people. What varied was the intensity of the language that lauded the Jōmon era as the source of Japanese uniqueness and superiority. The celebration of Japanese homogeneity and uniqueness is a salient feature of Nihonjin-ron: the popular discourse on Japanese cultural identity. This chapter considers the textbook as a medium conveying Nihonjin-ron through the bureaucratic processes it has to fulfil before approval and the potential influence that the textbook version of history can have on students. The analysis here places textbooks on the spectrum of hard and soft Nihonjin-ron. While hard Nihonjin-ron openly celebrates Japanese uniqueness, soft Nihonjin-ron is subtle. This chapter demonstrates the most recent textbooks are polarized between soft and hard Nihonjin-ron. What remains in common, however, is that the textbooks discuss the Jōmon era without posing questions of what being Japanese means.


History textbooks Japan Nihonjin-ron The Jōmon period Cultural nationalism 



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Group 1 Textbooks, 1951–1995

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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the South PacificSuvaFiji
  2. 2.International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken)KyotoJapan

Section editors and affiliations

  • Radomir Compel

There are no affiliations available

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