1989: trends in Peace Education for adults in Japan
written by Koichi Sasagawa, Hosei University, Tokyo
Japanese Tradition of Peace Education for Adults
Peace education for adults in Japan started after the World War 2 on national scale. Before that peace education had been suppressed by Japanese imperialism. It was between 1920-35 when peace learning movement rose among Japanese people. Some workers learned about Japanese social structure, colonial rule over Korea and invasion upon China. They opposed invasion and demanded independence of Korea from their
government. They demanded the distribution of land to farmers, better income, comfortable shelter, and shortening of their working hours. At that time, "peace" meant "absence of war" and "peace" was tied with improvement on standard of living, freedom of expression and publication, equality between men and women, rich and poor, and independence of Korea and reversion of Formosa to China from Japanese Imperialism.
Those were very important experiences on peace education in our country.
But Emperor's government, of course, didn't welcome this advance in peace education. They thought that as the peace learning movement would gain momentum which would result in collapse of "The Great Japanese Empire". So the Emperor Hirohito and his government suppressed this movement completely. Many of the active members of peace education had to lose their jobs, some of them were arrested and killed. Of course, some of the members continued activity in secret. As the result of the dwindling peace movement, most of the Japanese supported
the invasion by the Japanese on China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries. And as the Japanese Empire came to an end on 15/8/1945, a new era in peace education started in Japan.
Starting of Peace Learning Movement on the National Scale
After the war peace education gained momentum. In many villages and towns, farms, factories and offices, ordinary people began to talk about "peace". Indeed it was an important turning point. Many people said that "I don't want war any more because war is so miserable and cruel for us, for example lack of food, shortage of agricultural resources, death of husband or lover, air bombing and A-bombing, etc.".
It was significant that ordinary people openly began to express their feelings about war, "I hate war". And till today peace movement and learning movement on peace, at least anti-war, anti-A&H-bombs movement has been very strong in our country. As one of the Japanese I'm very proud of this learning movement on peace in my country.
Our Weak Points - Concerning Other Asian Nations
But our education movement has some weak points to be overcome.
One of them is the damage caused to other Asian nations in the war.
From 1931 to 1945 Japanese army and navy killed over 20 million Asian people. On the other hand, during the same time only 3-5 million Japanese were killed. Of course 3 million is a big number, but 20 million is 6-7 times that. Nevertheless, our peace movement talked about "our damage" only. "We were miserable during the war" and "we want such experiences no more". We talked very little about the "miserable experiences of the war" of the Koreans, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Philippinos, the Indonesians, the Malaysians, and so on. In fact, many Japanese soldiers were ordered to go to the war fronts, they did not
have the freedom to refuse to go and many of them died in the battles. So Japanese soldiers were also kind of victims. But they did invade foreign countries with arms to rule over and kill other Asian people. Many Japanese women lost their husbands, lovers, sons. They really suffered a lot from the war, but much greater was the suffering of the other Asian women. They also lost their husbands, lovers, sons, daughters, and their own lives. And Japanese women did support Japanese soldiers in terms of not only material aspect but also spiritual aspect. We Japanese have to know about the whole damage done to Asian people including the Japanese during the war, and have to talk about the responsibility of the Japanese both of leader of the war and ordi-
nary people, our fathers and mothers.
And it is indispensable for us to realize the former Emperor Hirohi-
to's responsibility for this war, so that there will be no more inva-
sion from our side in the future.
Narrow Definition of Concept of Peace
The other weak point of our peace learning movement concerns the concept of "peace". In our country many of our people say that "peace" means absence of war and "peace education" means disarmament education.
Of course there are many learning movements on the problems of living, human rights, environment and so on. As well as peace education, such learning movements have come up on the national scale after the World War 2. In 1945-50 there were powerful learning movements on social reform, new constitution, new civil code, land reform, rights of the workers etc.
In 1950's farmers, workers, women, and parents learned how to increase agricultural productivity, how to realize women's rights, how to promote education of children and youth from elementary to secondary school.
In 1960-70s, facing serious environmental pollution - air, water,
etc. - many citizens and fishermen investigated the real situation and required national and local governments to control companies that caused pollution and required the companies to pay compensation.
In 1980s learning movement on international understanding and co-operation has increased. Many young Japanese have been interested in the situation in the developing countries. Some of them go to other countries to understand and to help them, as well as in 1910-20s many Japanese young students went to people in rural and urban areas where poor people lived. Some networks have been formed not only between rural and urban areas in Japan, but also between Japanese and foreign people
in Japan and other other Asian countries, for example the Philippines or Thailand, the Republic of Korea. In short, many people-to-people networks between Japanese and other Asian nations have been formed in 1980s, and they are increasing.
But currently many active members of "peace education" in our country believe that "peace education" is "war and peace education". But this is "negative peace" education. Both negative "peace education" and other learning movement on human rights, environment, and international understanding and cooperation will have to be grasped as integrated peace education.
New Trend in Peace Education in Japan
In the latter half of 1980s a change has come about. In 1983 ICAE recommended to the Japan Society of Adult Education to join the organisation, and in 1984 Professor Hideo Fujita, one of the active members of a study group on peace education in Japan participated in the 16th "Meeting in Finland Seminar". At the seminar Fujita was very enlightened on peace education in world perspective above all on the concepts of "negative and positive peace". After the seminar he informed some of his friends in Japan including me about his experiences. Two years later, Fujita and I participated in the 18th Finland seminar. I have been also stimulated by the seminar, so from that year we have begun to make efforts to promote "peace education" based on the wide concept of peace. We translated articles written by Mrs. Helena Kekkonen and Johan Galtung, and made contacts to NGOs concerning international understanding and cooperation including support of foreign workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, ecological movement - protecting tropical forests etc. - promote study to to the Philippines, Korea, and New Zealand.
Of course we did discuss many problems of Japanese society, disarmament, crisis in agriculture, traditional local industries, unemployment, and underemployment, pollution of air and water, "famous examination hell" (Galtung), welfare problems, increasing suicide and nervous depression. All of these have become items of peace education for us now.
One of decisive impacts has been a lecture by Mrs. Kekkonen at Tokyo University titled "Peace Education and Lifelong Learning" last year. To listen to her lecture, some executives of the Japanese society for Study of Education, that has over 3,000 members, began to discuss to establish working group on widely defined peace education. And last autumn executive committee decided to do so, general assembly recognised the decision.
Now we Japanese are facing various problems in the state of "Rim-Pacific Economic Area Plan" that has been promoted by big Japanese Corporations and the government in my country. And then we are required to carry out new tasks of peace education for adult. Of course we will promote disarmament education above all nuclear disarmament. But we wish to promote peace education based on the concept of "negative and positive peace" including disarmament education.
At the International Year of Literacy we want to carry out three
tasks. First is to support literacy projects in other Asian countries.
Second is to promote literacy service to immigrants and foreign workers who are presumed over 200,000 in our country. And last one is literacy problems of the Japanese - 1) illiteracy of Japanese children in "examination hell" , cruel competition system to enter high school and college; 2) eradication of ignorance about neighboring countries and our globe; 3) learning languages of neighbors for mutual understanding. These are indeed our own tasks of peace education in 1990s.