In Japan all schools (from elementary to senior high school) are obliged to use government-approved textbooks as their main teaching materials. Textbooks are compiled by private publishers, which are given considerable latitude in the style of presentation and choice of illustrations, but are also required to conform to government-issued school course guidelines 《→gakushu shido yoryo 学習指導要領 Guidelines for the Course of Study》. Authorization is given only after evaluation of the texts by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology specialists and appointed examiners and a final review by the Textbook Authorization and Research Council, an advisory organ of the ministry. The textbooks used in each public elementary and junior high school district are chosen by the local board of education from among those authorized by the ministry; in the case of private schools the responsibility lies with the school principal. The law requires that once adopted, a textbook must be used for three consecutive years.
A system of free distribution of textbooks for compulsory education was established in 1963. Senior high school students must purchase their own textbooks.