Here’s this week’s Media Mix about junior high schools that received protesting postcards because of a history textbook they chose to use. The media that covered this story stated that the book published by Manabisha is the only one written for junior high schools that mentions the comfort women issue. Sankei Shimbun, in the article cited, says that about 5,700 copies of the textbook are now being “used” throughout Japan, and someone in the textbook publishing industry estimates that this number represents a 0.5 percent share, which, apparently, is a relatively high number for a textbook from a “new company” like Manabisha. In the Mainichi article, one official of a school that uses the Manabisha text said they chose it not so much because of the content but rather the style: His school felt it was easier to read and thus easier to understand for junior high school students. The reason seems to be Manabisha’s writers. Almost all the people who contributed to the textbook are current or former history teachers, not professional historians or researchers. As one Nada Junior High School teacher put it, the writing is in a narrative style, like a story, and the explanations are full of detail. The idea is not just to impart facts and dates, but to stimulate thought and discussion, and while none of the media that covered the Manabisha story elaborated on this point, what it means to me is that the topics will be discussed more in class. It is perhaps this aspect of the issue that most troubles the steadfastly conservative Sankei Shimbun, which seems almost admiring of Manabisha for its conscientious approach to scholarly edification. The Manabisha passages about the comfort women do not explain what they actually did–i.e., sexually service Japanese soldiers–so if the students are as sufficiently stimulated by the text as some teachers and, apparently, Sankei think they will be, then it naturally follows that the students will demand more information about the subject from their teachers.
This is the subtext that undergirds Sankei’s disapproving tone, and the article goes on to say that Manabisha would not tell the newspaper anything about the “network of writers” who produced the text, saying it was a matter of privacy, but apparently Sankei learned that “among these writers” there were former teachers who belong to a group called the Rekishi Kyoiku Kyogikai (History Education Council), which at one time issued a statement condemning the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. Manabisha says the purpose of the text is to promote curiosity in students, while Sankei implies that it’s to subvert them somehow.