Concerning Japan's history, Chinese textbooks focus on
pre WW2 events and rarely mention contemporary Japan.
Teachers also mention they do not have time to teach
contemporary Japan society to their students. One has to
bear this in mind when one textbook among others
mentions China, in a way the Chinese leadership does not
really enjoy the content...
A nationalist textbook newly approved by the Tokyo
government is driving the deepest wedge in Japan-China
relations in decades, but few of the country's students
have ever read it.
Though given away for free, the book titled "New History
Textbook" is used by only 18 of 11,102 junior high
schools in Japan, reflecting many teachers' concerns
over its content. It has been denounced by the leading
teachers' union, and is well to the right wing of
mainstream public opinion.
Outside of Japan's classrooms, however, the textbook is
anything but obscure.
Since it was first approved by a government screening
panel four years ago, the textbook has been singled out
by Japan's neighbors as evidence the country is trying
to whitewash its militarist past.
And its unrepentant tone and omission of Japan's wartime
atrocities â€” including germ warfare and the forcing of
tens if not hundreds of thousands of women into
prostitution â€” have outraged many Japanese educators and
It is now at the center of yet another regional rift.
The approval of the book's newest edition this month
fueled street protests in several Chinese cities,
threats of a boycott of Japanese products and violence
against at least two Japanese students, plunging
relations between the two Asian giants to their lowest
level in years.
Even North Korea has piped up, saying the Education
Ministry's approval of the text demonstrates the
nation's leaders are "political dwarfs."
The book's publishers claim surprise at the outcry.
"We only hope more schools choose our book," said
Fusosha spokeswoman Yoko Ishimaru, acknowledging the
textbook could have been more popular.
Only 10 public and eight private junior high schools use
the textbook, meaning it reaches just 0.1 percent of the
1.2 million seventh graders.
Teachers' concerns over the content have limited use of
the textbook, which covers all of Japan's history. The
current edition has 236 pages, only about 20 of which
deal with the 1920-1945 period, the height of Japanese
But those 20 pages are highly inflammatory, with
passages defending Japan's militarism as an attempt to
liberate Asia from western colonialism and claiming that
resource-poor Japan was pushed into a corner and used
aggression as a last resort. Similar logic was used by
Japan's wartime leaders.
Critics say the text underscores a disturbing, broader
"All history textbooks are shifting their focus away
from Japan's wartime atrocities," said Mikio Someya, a
spokesman for the liberal Japan Teachers' Association,
the country's leading teachers' union.
For example, he said, none of the textbooks approved
this month mentions Japan's official role in
establishing front-line brothels during the war.
Historians say as many as 200,000 women from Korea,
China, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Netherlands were
forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers.
Japan's military also seized up to 800,000 men from
China, Korea and other Asian countries in the early
1900s and shipped them to Japan to work in coal mines
and ports under brutal conditions.
Tokyo has acknowledged its wartime offenses, but refuses
to compensate victims directly or apologize, saying all
government-level compensation was settled by postwar
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has also
angered many Chinese and Koreans by repeatedly paying
his respects at a Shinto shrine honoring Japan's war
dead, including several war criminals.
Officials say the criticism of its textbook screening
process â€” and decision to approve the book in question â€”
They claim screening is intended only to ensure that
textbooks do not contain factual errors or express
interpretations of history that go beyond what most
scholars would consider defensible. It does not mean the
government agrees with everything on every page, they
Critics, however, argue the process bolsters the
government's own right-leaning bias.
"They are approved because their contents reflect the
views of the government and conservative ruling party
members," said Yoshifumi Tawara, who heads Children and
Textbooks Japan Network 21, a liberal activist group. AP
end of quotes