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Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

Suginami adopts contentious history text


Staff writer

The Suginami Ward board of education adopted a history textbook Friday that critics say distorts history and gives light treatment of Japan's wartime atrocities.

Suginami Ward is the third municipality this year, after Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, and Tokyo, to adopt the contentious junior high text, which was compiled by members of the nationalist Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and published by Fuso Publishing Inc.

The adoption paves the way for the textbook to be used by the roughly 6,400 students who will attend the ward's 23 junior high schools for the next four years, starting in April, the ward said.

Three of the five members of the education board voted to support the contentious textbook Friday morning.

"The textbook of Fuso Publishing Inc. faithfully follows the education ministry's curriculum guidelines, which stipulate (the importance of) fostering love for the country and ancestors," said board member Kimio Miyasaka, who manages a kindergarten in Suginami.

But Yumi Yasumoto, another board member and a former president of a council of parent-teacher associations for public elementary schools in the ward, opposed using the text.

While the textbook emphasizes that Japanese soldiers fought well in the war, the text refers little to the suffering of the general public, including the loss of family members, she said.

The voting on the textbooks was supposed to have taken place Aug. 4, but it was postponed after debate on the history texts, especially the disputed one, became unmanageable.

The discussion by the board led more than 500 people against the textbook to come to Suginami City Hall Friday and protest.

Meanwhile, some 300 people who support the contentious textbook also gathered there.

Local residents, including parents of the children who will be using the textbook, expressed concern about the decision, arguing the history text gives a distorted version of history and will accelerate friction between Japan and its Asian neighbors.

"The text reflects the feeling of people in the past who made a mistake" of starting the war, said Yukiji Suzuki, a Suginami resident whose daughter will enter a junior high school next April.

Hiroto Nishikawa, another resident, criticized the textbook for teaching that Japan's "advance" into other Asian countries helped liberate them from European colonial powers.

"The adoption will lead to worsening relations between Japan and China and Japan and South Korea," he said.

Web site gives history

The Foreign Ministry posted information Friday on its Web site about Japan's position on the history of its relations with other parts of Asia in the 1930s and 1940s, including World War II compensation.

The ministry said it posted the information -- already made public -- to deepen international understanding of Japan's perception of history in this 60th year since the end of the war.



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