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Tokyo school board adopts disputed history book

July 28, 2005

By Masayuki Kitano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo’s education board adopted a history
textbook on Thursday 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 approved the new edition of the textbook,
written by nationalist scholars, in April, 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
year.

The board also adopted a civics textbook, produced by the
same group of 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.

Because of a complex administration system, the board has
power to approve textbooks for only a handful of the hundreds
of junior high schools run by public authorities in Tokyo.

Earlier this month, the education board of the city of
Otawara in Tochigi prefecture, 150 km (90 miles) north of
Tokyo, became 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 its supporters hope to increase
that to 10 percent with the new edition.

Opponents of the textbook are worried that given a rise of
nationalism in sections 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
patriotism.

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

TEXTBOOK BATTLE

The Tsukurukai praised the Tokyo board’s decision and said
it hoped other school boards would follow suit.

“We would like education boards that are to decide on
adoption from now on to also deal resolutely with unjust
pressure from within and outside the country … and make
appropriate decisions,” the group said in a statement.

The Tokyo board had adopted an earlier version of the
history textbook for several schools.

The 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 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 said.

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




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