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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tokyo school board adopts disputed history text - Boston.com - Asia - News

Tokyo school board adopts disputed history text - Boston.com - Asia - NewsTokyo school board adopts disputed history text

By Masayuki Kitano | July 28, 2005

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 year.

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 patriotism.

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

TEXTBOOK BATTLE

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)

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