Private Project

Education and Nationalism

In 2017, the bread industry in Japan was hit with a heavy blow. The bakery in an elementary school Ethics textbook was replaced by a Japanese confectionary because that scene was deemed “inappropriate in terms of showing love for the country.” Ethics originally had been taken out of textbooks after deeply reflecting on how one set of values was pushed onto children, namely the loyalty and nationalism that Japanese imperialism was criticized for. However, it was brought back during the second Abe administration for the first time in 73 years.
Japan’s textbook examination system is meant to allow non-government entities to freely create textbooks in alignment with the country’s criteria, but there is actually a lack of freedom. Some invisible pressure is applied through the government’s authority, forcing textbook production to follow their wishes.
In 1997, military comfort women were written about in all middle school history textbooks, but right-wing politicians heavily rallied against this. One long-established publisher was attacked, and it eventually went bankrupt for writing about the lawsuit of a former Korean comfort woman named Hak-sun Kim and explaining the damages inflicted by the Japanese army in detail. A former editor says that it has caused the textbook publishing companies to wither.
In 2016, when textbooks would describe the comfort women issue as a historical fact, middle schools that used these textbooks would receive a flood of postcards that say in protest, “Don’t use anti-Japanese textbooks.”
As political pressure grows, there are even plans to rewrite the terminology of history based on the Japanese government’s point of view. Political interference in textbooks is growing. This film documents how the government’s destruction of Japanese textbooks, academics, and education has progressed, based on testimonies by politicians, textbook writers, textbook company employees, teachers, and other involved parties.

  • Hisayo Saika
  • Ryuzo Sawada
  • Nobuyuki Okuda
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    History, War, Education, Social Issue, Discrimination, Politics, Freedom of Speech
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 47 minutes 15 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 13, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Japan, Korea, Republic of, Switzerland
  • Language:
    English, Japanese, Korean
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Buenos Aires
    April 25, 2023
    International Premiere
Distribution Information
  • Impronta Films
    Country: United Kingdom
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Hisayo Saika

Director for Mainichi Broadcasting System, born in 1965. After graduating from Waseda University, she joined Mainichi Broadcasting System in 1987. After working in the Secretary Department for the President, she became a news reporter in 1989, covering education on-location while being part of the press club for the police and administration of justice. In 1995, when her home was hit by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, she lost all of her essential utilities, and yet she continued reporting for the Kobe bureau office. Since 2015, she has been working solely as a documentary director and released three documentaries a year for a total of 18 works. (Her Eizou series is a local documentary program started in 1980 that broadcasts late at night once a month. The program captures various social problems on camera and has broadcast over 500 works that reflect the times.)
Saika has individually won the Broadcast Woman Award in 2018. She also wrote Education and Nationalism: Who Suffocates the Classroom? (Iwanami Shoten) and What Kills Reporters: From the Filming Site of the Documentary in Osaka (Shueisha Shinsho).

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Director Statement

On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine. On the same day when the world saw innocent citizens dying in this war of conquest, the public release of the film “Education and Nationalism” was released on the news. This overlap was unbelievably shocking to me. And I felt that there was some deep meaning behind this coincidence.
History textbooks that cover victims and aggressors in World War II are shown numerous times in this film. There is the Nanking Massacre, the Japanese troops’ comfort women issue, and the mass suicide at the Battle of Okinawa. Passages regarding these wartime offenses were attacked by the right wing, bankrupting one textbook company with a former editor who states, “If we don't write about the damage that Japan inflicted and only write about the damage received, then students wouldn't be learning about the war properly.” However, textbooks have been changing due to the power of politics since the 2000s. For whom are textbooks written? That is one major theme in this film.
In Japan, where freedom of expression is guaranteed, a lack of freedom is encroaching on textbooks, the main educational material used by children. It was extremely difficult to film interviews with people involved with textbook production. Many of our interview requests were denied, but that shows the gravity of the problem covered in this film. The textbook editors have said that if they take part in an interview, “My political neutrality will be called into question,” and “I don’t want the government to take notice of me.” As pressure from the government grows stronger, people are being forced into silence. Perhaps we are moving away from a democratic society.
In February 2012, Shinzo Abe, who had retired from public office, and Ichiro Matsui, the Governor of Osaka who would soon become the head of the Japan Innovation Party, were on stage for a non-government symposium on educational revitalization. They shook hands, saying they would change education with the power of politics. Afterwards, initiatives taken by politicians in Osaka City and Osaka Prefecture were passed one after another, making public education more uniform and putting a damper on teachers’ efforts to teach students. One educational goal that was given is “to cultivate talent that can come out on top in a global society.”
The Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, who wrote the textbook recommended by former Prime Minister Abe, shared that his duty is “to make proper Japanese people.” The textbook states that Emperor Meiji’s Imperial Rescript on Education before the war is the foundation of Japanese morals. When the professor was asked, “What does ‘proper’ mean?” his answer was unexpected. The divisive words he laid down could be related to global affairs.
Just as government authorities scream out “Nationalism,” that nationalism becomes intertwined with exclusionism that rejects other countries. Misinformation regarding neighboring countries grows rampant, and the hate business market expands, overflowing with baseless slanders like “anti-Japanese teachers” and “anti-Japanese scholars”. Calling something “anti-Japanese” and rejecting has grown. Self-regulation has grown in a society where political aggression and intimidation are becoming commonplace, and textbooks are being rewritten due to heavy pressure that continues to grow.
The Russian government continues to claim that the war is “a special military operation,” and the Japanese government rewords “forced recruitment” to “drafting” and “mobilization.” What is the difference? The universal value of education has nothing to do with ideology. What kind of society will be passed down to our future children? Where is this country headed? This film was produced with hopes of peace for all Asian countries and a sense of impending danger.