Colonial Education in Taiwan (2) Taiwan Kyōiku journal

The main ‘research’ part of my paper looked at 12 issues of the journal 台湾教育 (Taiwan Kyōiku), published in 1940. The year 1940 was chosen out of a mere technical problem of accessibility to the materials – the Library of Congress only holds thirteen issues; one from 1928 and twelve from 1940. I wanted to explore the mentality of teachers, especially Taiwanese teachers, in Japanese schools, because Chen Peifeng argues that Taiwanese people engaged in ‘resistance’ through ‘acceptance’ of Japan’s modernity and education– i.e. selective assimilation. If Chen’s argument is right, teachers must have been in a very important position to decide what to accept and what to reject. I have a mixed opinion about this thesis and wanted to find teachers’ direct accounts. However, because of the limited access to primary sources while in the US, I could only find the official publication of the Taiwan Education Association (台湾教育会).

Analysis of the 1940 issues of Taiwan Kyōiku (台湾教育) Journal

Taiwan Kyōiku was an official publication of the Taiwan Education Association (台湾教育会), and reported and discussed events, educational news, pedagogy, teachers’ experiences, speeches by presidents of the association and sometimes Governors-General of Taiwan between 1912 and 1943. The year 1940 was not a big turning point in colonial policy, but was in the middle of the kōminka movement, and was the year when the Japanese literacy rate among the Taiwanese exceeded 50% for the first time. The year before, leftist activists of the Romanization movement and the Esperanto movement, and other scholars were arrested for propagating a proletarian ideology in Japan. In October 1940, the Taisei Yokusan kai (大政翼賛会), a league of political parties, was formed for total war mobilization, consolidating the fascist character of the Japanese imperial government. In this political and social atmosphere, how did the authors in the journal understand the specific role of teachers and education in Taiwan? How did they perceive the essence of the kokugo education within kōminka?

The 1940 issues of Taiwan Kyōiku start with a celebration of the anniversary of two thousand and six hundred Imperial Years (皇紀二千六百年), emphasizing the long history of the Japanese nation that proved its ‘superiority’ over others. The authors of celebratory articles emphasize the importance of education within total mobilization for further military advance (or ‘crusade’ 聖戦). Throughout the year, a number of memorial events took place, which Taiwan Kyōiku frequently advertised enthusiastically.

Kokugo (Japanese Language) and Japanese Spirituality
It is not surprising, in this context, that most of the contributors to the journal drew upon a connection between imperial spirit (皇国精神) and the kokugo education in all the twelve issues. Some of them emphasized the practical necessity to mobilize Taiwanese human resources. For example, at the annual Kokugo Convention (国語演習会), the Governor-General Kobayashi Seizō mentioned in his speech:

Today the empire is, under the chaotic international situation, mobilizing its total power to settle the incident [Japan’s aggression in China starting in 1937], and to realize the sacred project to revitalize Asia. Taiwan, as the basis for the southern advancement plan, bears a crucial mission, and the duty and responsibility of Taiwanese people are further increasing. In order to accomplish this grave mission, it is necessary to spread kokugo, and to improve their quality as imperial citizens. ((Taiwan Kyōiku, January 1940. p. 125))

Many other articles stress how kokugo embodies imperial spirituality. In an article that discusses the problems of the compulsory education, the author argues, “kokugo is a product of two thousand years of development of our Yamato race, and is the maternal incarnation (母體) of the Japanese spirit. It is most effective and relatively easy to instill national ideology if we let children directly experience national inspiration through kokugo.” ((Morita Shunsuke, “Taiwan niokeru Gimukyōiku Seido no Shōrai (The Future of Compulsory Education in Taiwan)” Taiwan Kyōiku, June 1940. p.11)) A most meticulous investigation of the Japanese spirit expressed in kokugo was offered in the May issue, by an author called Nishioka Hideo. He first defines that the essence of the Japanese spirit is “an ideology that places the Emperor at the center and evolves based on the united ethnic consciousness,” which cherishes “the natural and beautiful development of various phenomena.” ((Nishioka Hideo, “Saikin no Kokugo Mondai ni Tsuite (On the Recent Debates on Kokugo)” Taiwan Kyōiku, May 1940. p.16)) He continues by arguing that Japan, embracing this national spirit that developed through more than two thousand years of history, is unique in the world, and thus the language they speak possesses distinctive beauty. He provides a linguistic argument on the frequency of vowel usage and the absence of strong consonants that make the language sound bright, light and elegant. In addition to that, the rich variety of honorific forms, the flexibility of the sentence structure, and the power to absorb foreign vocabulary, he argues, all reveal the superior characteristics of the Japanese spirit. Nishioka insists that it is only the kokugo education that would make it possible to spiritually convert the Taiwanese in the kōminka movement. ((ibid., pp. 16-24))

These arguments on the close linkage between kokugo and the Japanese spirituality seem to have adopted the famous theory of Ueda Kazutoshi. Ueda presented his theory that regards kokugo as ‘blood’ and ‘flesh’ of Japanese people, and as the ‘mother body (母體)’ of the Japanese spirit, as early as 1894. The popularity of Ueda’s kokugo theory surged a number of times among Japanese scholars during the prewar era. From Taiwan Kyōiku articles, it is apparent that it was widely accepted among educators in Taiwan around this time.

The influence of the Kokugo Purifying Movement (国語醇正運動) in Japan is also obvious in many of the articles in Taiwan Kyōiku. In comparison to the July 1928 issue (the only other available issue), the most noticeable difference is the kind of advertisements. Advertisements on foreign language learning that took a lot of space in the 1928 issue completely disappeared by 1940. Instead, many were on dictionaries and pedagogical books on “correct Japanese accents.” In the March 1940 issue, in an article that explains pedagogy of each reading in the common school textbook, one of the goals of the kokugo education was to teach “correct and beautiful” pronunciations. The same article exclaims, “Pure kokugo (正純な国語)!!!” at the end of the introductory part. ((Yomikata Kenkyūbu, “Kōgakkōyō Kokugo Dokuhon kan 6 Kyōzai Kenkyū (A Study on Kokugo Reading Textbook vol.6 for Common Schools)” Taiwan Kyōiku, March 1940. p. 25))

Kokugo and Imperial Advancement

Another prevalent characteristic in discussions on the kokugo education in the 1940 issues of Taiwan Kyōiku is the perception of kokugo as a world language. The January 1940 issue announced the establishment of Taiwan Kokugo Research Society (台湾国語研究会). The main purpose was reported as “to respond to the heightening attention to kokugo studies as a result of the advancement of kokugo in the Chinese Mainland.” ((Taiwan Kyōiku, January 1940, p.127.)) The publisher also put a large advertisement in a noticeable place on a book “Kokugo’s Advancement to the World (国語の世界進出)” in the February 1940 issue, which says; “it is a responsibility for kokugo educators and scholars to prepare for the coming age.” ((Taiwan Kyōiku, February 1940. The last page. )) Authors of articles on pedagogical discussions also perceived it as an important new stage for kokugo education; for example, one author argues, “the Japanese language is becoming the world’s Japanese language. Therefore training of living vocabulary has become even more important in the kokugo education.” Kimura Masuo, Kōgohō Shidō niokeru Gengomoji no Kunren 4 (Training of Vocabulary and Conjugations through Colloquial Teaching 4),” Taiwan Kyōiku, December, 1940. p.55))

The above-mentioned Nishioka’s article in the May 1940 issue most explicitly discusses the connection between imperial power and kokugo. He argues:

The languages of prosperous nations follow the development and expansion of power of the nations. It is because Britain owns many colonies in the world and has grasped the hegemonic power over trade and commerce that English became the common language in the world… Thus, the languages of powerful nations expand in the world as well. The Japanese Empire has, after two great victories at the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo- Japanese war, accomplished an unprecedented development in only seventy years since the Meiji Restoration… Now it became a powerful country that controls world affairs. Therefore, the recent advancement of our kokugo abroad has been impressive. Foreigners were amazed at the greatness of Japan, which accomplished such a rapid development. Their fervor in studying the Japanese language demonstrates the advancement of Japan’s power. ((Nishioka Hideo, “Saikin no Kokugo Mondai ni Tsuite (On the Recent Debates on Kokugo)” Taiwan Kyōiku, May 1940. pp. 20-1))

Apparently Japanese scholars and educators proudly perceived the kokugo expansion as a manifestation of Japan’s imperial power. At the same time, it raised a number of problems in the kokugo education. It required further standardization and rationalization of the language. The opening message of the February 1940 issue identifies the objectives of establishing the Kokugo Research Society as to study various problems, including the complicated usage of three different characters, the transition from a literary writing style to a colloquial style, the standardization, and the pedagogy of correcting accents specifically for Taiwanese people. ((Taiwan Kyōiku, February 1940. pp.1-2)) Many articles were devoted to discussions of how to standardize kokugo. For example, one article points out the confusing situation of the horizontal writing system because of the co-existence of writings that went ‘from left to right’ and ‘from right to left.’ The author advocates universalizing the horizontal writing system from left to right, and this kind of standardization is required in teaching both children and foreigners. ((Kimura Masuo, “Hidari Yokogaki Ron (Horizontal Writing from the Left)” in Taiwan Kyōiku, March 1940. pp.18-23))

Others emphasized the improvement of the number and quality of teachers to meet the needs of kokugo expansion. Nishioka argues that, rather than simplifying the language, it is most desirable to produce “good quality teachers” in teaching both Japanese children and those from other language groups, including the Taiwanese. ((Nichioka, p. 22)) In fact, the Japanese government decided to newly recruit 2240 students to teacher’s colleges, in face of the decrease in the number of applicants and the rise of demand for them. The editor of Taiwan Kyōiku also calls for a strong determination in the mission of teaching children to support the imperial expansion. ((Taiwan Kyōiku, March 1940. p.5))

The Role of Teachers in Kōminka

As the spiritual assimilation through kokugo became increasingly important an issue, the emphasis on the responsibility of teachers was also strengthened. All the articles implicated a grave responsibility of teachers, and some stated it in a more explicit way; for example, one author argues, “educators occupies an important role in improving the cultural level of the country… if educators neglect this fact, it is considered as discarding the responsibility and quality as educators.” ((Andō Masao, “Kokugo Mondai ni Tsuite (On the Kokugo Problem),” Taiwan Kyōiku, April 1940. p.4))

Matsuzawa Genjirō, a teacher at a common school in Taipei, introduces his successful experiments in teaching kokugo and the national spirit together. He reflects that the life as national subjects (国民生活) for Japanese people starts at the moment of birth in their mothers’ warm embrace, and thus it would not wither away as people leave schools. He argues that teachers should create a similar environment for Taiwanese children;

The kōkugo education is to raise and embrace children who have not experienced the rich national life (国民生活) with the inexhaustible warmth from the kokugo of the teacher itself. Indeed, the teacher’s kokugo needs to be an oasis for children. In other words, kokugo teachers themselves have to be national subjects who have mastered the national life, and understand feelings, customs and manners in the kokugo life. ((Matsuzawa Genjirō, “Kokugo Kyōshitsu wo Kataru (Telling the Kokugo Classroom),” Taiwan Kyōiku, September 1940. pp.30-4))

Zhishanyan (Shizangan; 芝山嚴) as a Symbol

It is noteworthy that, probably for the purpose of enhancing teachers’ morale, Taiwan Kyōiku reminds readers of the Zhishanyan Incident in almost every issue. Zhishanyan was a place where Izawa Shūji built one of the first Japanese schools in Taipei in 1985. In January 1986, while Izawa was visiting Japan, an anti-Japanese militant group attacked the school and killed six Japanese teachers. This became a symbol of nationalistic passion and sacrifice among Japanese educators in Taiwan. After more than forty years, Taiwan Kyōiku continued to regard it as such. Eight out of the twelve issues of Taiwan Kyōiku in 1940 had a drawing of the Zhishanyan Shrine on the front cover, or photos of the enshrined members or ceremonies held there on the first two pages. The rest of the issues also reported information of ceremonies at, and donations to, Zhishanyan Shrine. We cannot tell from the materials available whether Zhishangan had been continuously playing the same symbolic role, or if it revived after Kumamoto’s dōka policy started, or the kōminka movement was launched even later. It seems to indicate, however, that the education policy during kōminka celebrated and embraced Izawa’s ideology, which emphasized the spiritual conversion of Taiwanese people.

Taiwanese Teachers in the System

Since Taiwan Kyōiku is a journal published by the official association of Japanese teachers in Taiwan, it is difficult to see how Taiwanese teachers in common schools perceived their positions and roles in Taiwanese society. If the Taiwanese tried to “selectively assimilate” modernizing elements that the Japanese brought as Chen Peifeng argues, Taiwanese teachers must have been in the key position of absorbing and spreading knowledge and skills that the Taiwanese hoped to learn. However, under the intensification of the Japanization program during the 1930s, the pressure to teach the national spirit increased for both Japanese and Taiwanese teachers. Chen introduces an article from an earlier issue of Taiwan Kyōiku that argues, “Taiwanese teachers tend to use the Taiwanese language after going home, or even at school if the principal is not present. In other words, because their attitude changes according to the external environment, kokugo never becomes their own flesh or blood, [with their own mastery of kokugo] remaining incomplete.” ((Suzuki Toshinobu, “Kokugo Fukyū Mondai (The Problem of Spreading Kokugo),” Taiwan Kyōiku, 1927, May, p.1, in Chen, p.265)) This kind of criticisms towards Taiwanese teachers probably increased over time. In addition, the number of Japanese teachers in common schools tripled between 1931 and 1941, and exceeded that of Taiwanese teachers in 1937. (9E. Patricia Tsurumi in Japanese Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977, p. 112)) It is not difficult to imagine that, under the high pressure both in ideology and in number, Taiwanese teachers lost their control and freedom in classrooms during kōminka. It is also possible that the Japanese colonial government regarded Taiwanese teachers as the object of indoctrination, in addition to their role in the indoctrination of larger populations. Miyazaki Seiko, in her study of young women’s groups, Shojokai (處女会), that were mobilized by the colonial government in Taiwan, argues that the Government-General considered Taiwanese female leaders (usually school teachers) of Shojokai as the object of assimilation, rather than the agent of it. ((Miyazaki Seiko. “Shokuminchiki Taiwan niokeru Josei no Eigenshī ni kansuru ichikosatsu (A Study on Women’s Agency in th Colonial Taiwan.).” Journal of Gender Studies, Tokyo: Ochanomizu University, no. 6 March 2003. pp.85-10Smilie: 8))

Generally speaking, while both Patricia Tsurumi and Chen Peifeng emphasize a degree of autonomy, freedom and control of Taiwanese people over their acceptance of assimilation through education, there is not much study done on situations and identities of Taiwanese teachers of this period. Was there a generational change in their attitude to Japanese colonialism? Why did the number of Taiwanese teachers fluctuate and how did it affect their ideologies and identities? There are many issues that remain to be examined.

Category(s): Academic, History, Research, Taiwan

6 Responses to Colonial Education in Taiwan (2) Taiwan Kyōiku journal

  1. These are very interesting indeed. Thanks very much for posting.

  2. It is not difficult to imagine that, under the high pressure both in ideology and in number, Taiwanese teachers lost their control and freedom in classrooms during kōminka. It is also possible that the Japanese colonial government regarded Taiwanese teachers as the object of indoctrination, in addition to their role in the indoctrination of larger populations.

    Great topic and interesting posts….but as I recall Tsurumi wrote on the extensive parallel system of purely Chinese-language education, in which there were no Japanese teachers, so that this comment on the rising number of teachers from Japan would not apply there. Is my memory going bad in my dotage?

    Also, is there a mistake in the dates here? Shouldn’t it be 1905 or something?

    Zhishanyan was a place where Izawa Shūji built one of the first Japanese schools in Taipei in 1985. In January 1986, while Izawa was visiting Japan, an anti-Japanese militant group attacked the school and killed six Japanese teachers. This became a symbol of nationalistic passion and sacrifice among Japanese educators in Taiwan.


  3. Thanks Michael.

    As for the Chinese-language education, I do not have much information with me now. But if I remember correctly, many schools abandoned Chinese language education in the last decade of Japanese colonialism, and that is partly why the number of Japanese teachers increased.

    The year, 1986, must be correct since Izawa was in Taiwan only around that time.

  4. Thanks for making this work available, good stuff.

    Ueda’s second name is pronounced “Kazutoshi”.

  5. Thanks Andrew. Great catch. Corrected it.

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