Curriculum innovation is challenging and, as several commentators have reported, moves to introduce communicative language teaching in many contexts internationally have resulted in mixed outcomes, or even failure. In an effort to shed some light on this complex problem, this article focuses on curriculum change through the introduction of new communicative textbooks in an engineering college (kosen) in Japan. First, three key factors that inhibit change are considered and then other factors that specifically hindered change in the kosen environment are identified. A study investigating the attitudes and classroom practices of four Japanese teachers of English highlighted a culture of pedagogical uncertainty and lack of professional support. Suggestions for supporting teachers to implement curriculum change more effectively, both in Japan and elsewhere, are drawn out.