Episode 403 – Yet Shall He Find a Thousand Troubles

This week, we’re discussing Japan’s reckoning with its wartime past through the lens of the nation’s self-appointed conscience: the historian Ienaga Saburo, who spent 30 years locked in legal battles with the government over what could and could not be included in history textbooks.


Ienaga, Saburo. The Pacific War, 1931-1945.

Ienaga, Saburo. Japan’s Past, Japan’s Future: One Historian’s Odyssey.

Nozaki, Yoshiko and Hiromitsu Inokuchi. “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga Saburo’s Court Challenges.” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 30, No 2 (1998).

Caiger, John. “Ienaga Saburo and the First Postwar Japanese History Textbook.” Modern Asian Studies 3, No 1 (1969).

Niven, Bill. “Remembering Nazi Anti-Semitism in the GDR” in Memorialization in Germany Since 1945.

Huntsberry, Randy. “‘Suffering History’: The Textbook Trial of Ienaga Saburo.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 44, No 2 (June, 1976).

New York Times archival coverage of the first ruling in Ienaga’s third case (c. 1989).

New York Times obituary for Ienaga Saburo.


Ienaga Saburo speaking to the press after an early ruling in his first case (this one is from 1970, during the fight over discovery processes with the Ministry of Education).
Ienaga Saburo on the occasion of his 1997 Supreme court victory in his third case.
Ienaga Saburo.


3 thoughts on “Episode 403 – Yet Shall He Find a Thousand Troubles”

  1. Hi Isaac!
    You compare Japanese evasion of war guilt with attitudes in Germany, West and East, but an equally interesting comparison might have been made with Austria which, far from facing up to its complicity in Nazi crimes, appears to have successfully convinced itself that it was actually a victim rather than a perpetrator.

    1. That is a good point! Honestly, I’m just not as familiar with the Austrian example because I happen to have some German family but no Austrian ones.

    2. Having gone through austrian public education I must say that every teacher emphasized that it was a narrow legal ruling that the country was treated as victim. It was highlighted that it was a legal distinction not an ethical one. Visits to Mauthausen (austrian concentration camp) and actively used structures built using forced labor were shown to us. We have been made aware that our grandparents and grand-grandparents participated in all of it and we are still profiting from infrastructure built during that period. That being said: I am sure that more can and should be done in this regard, particularly by public figures (politicians).

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