Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Teaching about Japan

Teaching about Japan This essay gives ideas for teaching about Japan in American classrooms. This includes ideas for history instruction.

From the site:

Present a historical perspective whenever possible. This notion is very closely tied to the idea of multiple cultural perspectives. Both Japan and the U.S. have a national historical consciousness of past events, and these often differ markedly. Furthermore, these historical perspectives often influence contemporary concerns such as trade and diplomatic relations. For example, U.S. textbooks inevitably herald the coming of Perry to Japan. The good Commodore is credited with the "opening of Japan." Most textbooks then go on to extol the virtues of increased trade. Japanese textbooks, however, stress that raw silk production at that time could not match market demands. Domestic shortages and rice hoarding ensued. Soon traders cornered the market and prices rose dramatically. Domestic economic chaos resulted. Two very different history lessons are taught here.

Similarly, Japanese textbooks characterize the United States after World War II as a "taikoku" or "huge country." Profitable trade, burgeoning industry, and a high GNP are stressed. This image of the U.S. continues today. Is it any wonder that Japanese trade negotiators seem surprised that a nation like the U.S. feels economically threatened by Japan? These images die hard, but they can be used to help enhance historical and cultural understanding.

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