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Friday, July 29, 2005

Revisionist school textbooks get metro nod


Staff writer

The Tokyo Metropolitan board of education adopted two contentious social studies textbooks Thursday that critics say distort history and gloss over Japan's wartime atrocities.

The capital is the second city this year, after Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, to choose junior high textbooks -- one for history and one for civics -- compiled by members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and published by Fuso Publishing Inc.

Otawara's board of education issued its approval July 13.

According to the metro government's Office of Education, the history textbook will be used at four junior high schools that are integrated with high schools, and at 21 junior high schools for disabled children.

The civics textbooks will only be used at the latter. Both books will be used for a four-year period beginning in April 2006.

Teachers and South Korean residents of Japan have voiced concern over the decision, maintaining that textbooks compiled by nationalist historians paint a distorted picture of history and could further antagonize Japan's Asian neighbors.

A meeting of the board of education Thursday morning saw all six members vote in favor of using the texts, with no discussion on the matter.

The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform welcomed Thursday's decision. It said it expects other boards of education to make "proper" judgments on text selection.

Critics say the history text plays down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and ignores the sexual enslavement of women by Japanese soldiers. They also say it depicts Japanese wartime actions as aimed at liberating other parts of Asia.

The civics text describes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, called the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese, as well as South Korean-held islets in the Sea of Japan, known as Tok-do in South Korea and as Takeshima in Japan, as traditionally Japanese territories.

Citizens' groups slammed the adoption of the textbooks, criticizing both the texts themselves and the metro government's strategy in endorsing them. "The textbooks distort history and justify (Japan's) invasion (of the rest of Asia)," said Yoshihiro Shirase, who chairs a union of teachers working at schools for disabled children in Tokyo.

Kim Jong Soo, planning division manager of the central head office of the South Korean Youth Association in Japan, voiced anger that the books had been adopted in a year designated by Japan and South Korea as a year for promoting bilateral friendship.

"The adoption shocks South Korean people and destroys the friendship," Kim said.

In 2001, the metro board of education chose Fuso Publishing Inc. textbooks for use in some junior high schools for disabled children.



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