On the surface, the debate over education in Japan since 1967 has been about immediate concerns: the university protests of the late 1960s, the school violence of the 1980s and the growing need for a ‘flexible’ education system to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. As with most political debates, however, recent arguments over education reform cannot be explained merely in terms of the latest problems. To many of those involved, the new issues are almost irrelevant. Conditioned by years of hard-fought ideological combat, these actors show few signs of noticing the shift in subject-matter-preferring to fight from the safety of trenches dug and fortified long ago. The modern debate, therefore, is very much a reflection of the long-running battle which has divided the education world since the war-a battle which in turn is rooted in the broader history of education politics in Japan.