On October 8-9, 2007, scholars from East Asia and the U.S. participated in a conference concerning the multinational East Asia History middle school textbook, “History that Opens the Future” published in 2005. The conference, sponsored by the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Northeast Asian History Foundation, the Center for Japanese Studies, the Center for Chinese Studies, the Center for Korean Studies, and the East-West Center, brought together over 60 participants from East Asia and the U.S. to discuss the textbook. Conference activities included panel discussions on issues confronted during the writing process, reception of the textbook in East Asia, and future plans for the textbook.
Professor Sumio Obinata of Waseda University, Japan, opened the first panel with a background on the textbook’s objective to create a common history teaching resource among Japan, South Korea, and China and provided a historical perspective promoting international cooperation and peace.
The second panel featured Professors Dayong Niu of Beijing University, China, and Shinichi Arai of Ibaraki University, Japan, who spoke on specific responses to the textbook by their respective countries. Dr. Liu reported that in China, the textbook sold more than 140,000 volumes and printed its 4th edition. In 2007, the book received the National Library’s Wenjin Award. Dr. Arai reported that in Japan 70,000 copies of the first edition were sold to the public followed by the release of a 2nd edition.
On the second day of the conference, speakers discussed the textbook’s impact on its middle school readers, successes and shortcomings, and planned re-visions. Future plans for the text-book discussed during the final panel included a possible English version edition.
“I was able to gain a much more nuanced understanding of the emotional dimension of the controversy in particular. [The conference] demonstrated that, although there is still quite a ways to go, it should be possible, with continued effort, to map out a common historical understanding of the past that will help these countries get beyond the differences that divide them.” — Lonny Carlile,,UH Professor, Japanese Studies.
“The Western world needs to understand the tensions that divide and still divide the three countries. The conference made a good stab at understanding the complexity of the issues and the difficulty in resolving them.” — Edward Shultz, Dean, SPAS.
“To build a shared community of peace in Asia, a shared understanding of historical awareness becomes a pre-requisite. We can position History to Open the Future as an attempt to relativize one’s national history and to overcome self-centeredness in historical awareness through a platform called East Asia.” — Julie Fujimoto, Special Projects Coordinator for the School of Pacific and Asian Studies.
“Through the conference and personal conversation with the participants, I learned the enormous challenge of the authors’ tasks and how deeply issues of national identity were embedded in the relationships of the three countries.” — Shunichi Takekawa, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Graduate Assistant for CJS.