Cover image for Japan's past, Japan's future : one historian's odyssey
Japan's past, Japan's future : one historian's odyssey
Ienaga, Saburō, 1913-2002.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Ichi rekishi gakusha no ayumi. English
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 203 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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Call Number
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DS834.9.I35 A3 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Win or lose-- What matter? We fight for freedom of spirit." Thus writes Ienaga Saburo, preeminent Japanese historian and courageous plaintiff in three lawsuits (1965-1997) against the government seeking to end Ministry of Education "certification" of textbooks, which even today constrains discussion of Japan's actions in China and elsewhere in the Pacific. The cases arose specifically from government censorship of Ienaga's forthright textbook accounts of the Pacific War and of such controversial events as the Nanjing massacre. The questions he has forced into the public arena are central both to the nature of Japanese democracy and to issues of war and memory. They have shaped Japanese politics and frictions with its Asian neighbors and with the United States for half a century. Spanning Japan's watershed twentieth century, this compelling autobiography traces Ienaga's childhood, education, wartime experience, academic career, and the two major battles that occupied his later years. One was the fight against the relocation of Tokyo University of Education to a new "research city" outside Tokyo; the other was the fight against "certification." Neither battle ended in victory for Ienaga, but as he eloquently expresses in the short poem above, defeat did not make them any less worth fighting. Minear provides a masterly introduction of the man and his times and brings the story to the present with excerpts from Ienaga's court testimony and recent interviews. Illustrated with photos and textbook extracts, this volume brings to life the experience and intellectual odyssey of one of the leading shapers of contemporary Japan. It will be widely read and used by Japan specialists as well as all scholars and general readers concerned with issues of academic freedom and war and peace.

Author Notes

Ienaga Saburo (1913-), now retired, was a professor at Tokyo University of Education from 1944 to 1977 and the author of dozens of books (several translated into English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian) on Buddhist thought, on art, and on social and intellectual history. He remains one of Japan's -- and the world's -- foremost intellectuals. Richard H. Minear is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of Dr. Seuss Goes to War.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Ienaga Saburo is an authentic 20th-century hero, and Minear (history, Univ. of Massachusetts) has done a tremendous service with this translation of Ienaga's memoir. Long before he became famous for his lawsuit against the Ministry of Education, Ienaga had distinguished himself as one of Japan's most exacting and conscientious historians. His iconoclastic writings on Japan's role in the Pacific War already had made him a well-known figure among scholars outside Japan before he accused his own government of deliberately distorting Japan's prewar and wartime history in order to teach Japanese children a more attractive and less embarrassing version of their country's recent past. This memoir, though brief, gives an intimate portrait of Ienaga's life, as both a scholar and a man of conscience. Minear's translation is clear and graceful and brings Ienaga's voice to an infinitely wider audience. Recently Minear joined a large and rapidly growing group of American scholars of Japan in nominating Ienaga for the Nobel Peace Prize, a fitting gesture of acknowledgement for a man who has more than earned the honor through his life, his work, and his courage. A reading of this memoir will help to make it clear that such an award would be appropriate. All collections. C. L. Yates Earlham College