July 28, 2005

Tokyo school board adopts disputed history text

By Masayuki Kitano

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo's education board adopted on
Thursday a history textbook that critics say whitewashes past
Japanese militarism for use at 26 junior high schools in the
capital, a decision that could anger China and South Korea.
Japan's Education Ministry in April approved a new edition of
the textbook, written by nationalist scholars, sparking
protests from China and South Korea where bitter memories of
Japan's aggression before and during World War II persist.

The six-member Tokyo education board adopted the textbook
for use at four state-run schools and 22 schools for the blind
and deaf and the physically and mentally handicapped, said an
official at the Tokyo metropolitan government.

"The decision was reached unanimously," he said, adding
that the textbooks would be used for four years starting next

The board also adopted a civics textbook, sponsored by the
same scholars, that has upset South Korea as it reiterates
Tokyo's claim to two tiny islands disputed with Seoul, for use
at the 22 schools for the handicapped.

Earlier this month, the education board of the city of
Otawara in Tochigi prefecture, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north
of Tokyo, had become the first municipal government to adopt
the latest versions of the two disputed textbooks.

Critics say the history textbook, sponsored by the Japanese
Society for History Textbook Reform (Tsukurukai), plays down
the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China, ignores the sexual
enslavement of women for Japanese soldiers and depicts Japanese
wartime actions as aimed at liberating other Asian countries.

A previous version of the history textbook, approved in
2001, was adopted by less than 1 percent of school districts
nationwide, but Tsukurukai and their supporters hope to
increase the share to 10 percent this time.

Opponents of the textbook are worried that given the rise
of what some see as nationalism in certain quarters of Japanese
society, many state schools may adopt the textbook.

The authors and supporters of the textbook argue that the
history text's approach corrects a "masochistic" view of
history which they say has deprived Japanese of pride and

The Japanese government has said the text does not
represent its official view of history.


The Tokyo board of education had already adopted an earlier
version of the history text in several schools.

The Tokyo board has jurisdiction over the four state-run
high schools -- all of which run six-year programs combining
junior and senior high schools -- and a number of schools for
the handicapped, while local school boards will decide what
text to use in districts throughout the capital and elsewhere
in Japan.

A civics group opposed to the history textbook demanded
that the Tokyo education board repeal its decision.

"We strongly and angrily protest against this outrage," the
group, called the Tokyo network to prevent the adoption of
Tsukurukai textbooks, said in a statement.

"The Tokyo education board will likely taste disgrace
internationally as a local municipality that ... adopted a
textbook that distorts the facts of history," the group added.

Japanese school textbooks are approved every four years by
the Education Ministry following screening, and local school
boards then decide during the summer which textbooks to adopt
in their districts. (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg)