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Saturday, August 13, 2005

RedNova News - International - Tokyo district adopts history text in whitewash row

RedNova News - International - Tokyo district adopts history text in whitewash rowTokyo district adopts history text in whitewash row

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Tokyo district adopted on Friday a history textbook that critics say whitewashes Japan's past militarism, a decision that could anger Asian neighbors.

Japan's Education Ministry approved the new edition of "The New History Textbook," written by nationalist scholars, in April, prompting outrage in China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's aggression until 1945 persist.

An official at the education board in Suginami, a mostly residential area of western Tokyo, confirmed that the text had been adopted for use in junior high schools but would give no further details.

The debate on whether to adopt the textbook in Suginami, which is home to some 500,000 people and has 23 junior high schools, was so fiercely politicized that a final decision had been postponed for a week.

In the end, three out of five members of the board voted in favor of the textbook, Kyodo news agency said.

Hisao Ishiyama, head of a group of academics and teachers opposed to the textbook, said he was shocked by the result.

"This will force schools to use the textbook for the next four years, meaning that many people will be exposed to its very warped version of history," he said. "It is an extremely distressing result."

Critics say the book, sponsored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Tsukurukai), plays down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China and ignores the sexual enslavement of women for Japanese soldiers.

In a partial translation provided by the Tsukurukai, the textbook suggests that Japan's military activities helped lead to the liberation of Asian countries from Western colonial rule.

Those in Suginami who voted in favor said children were unable to have hope for their country in the future by reading about only negative images of Japan's past, while opponents said they fear the book encourages warfare as it says Japanese soldiers fought "bravely" in World War Two, Kyodo added.

Authors and supporters of the textbook say it corrects a "masochistic" view of history which they say has deprived Japanese of pride and patriotism.

A previous version of the textbook, approved in 2001, was adopted by fewer than 1 percent of school districts nationwide, but Tsukurukai and its supporters hope to increase that to 10 percent with the new edition.

Late last month, Tokyo's education board adopted the textbook for use at four state-run schools and 22 schools for the blind, the deaf, and the physically and mentally handicapped.

In mid-July, the city of Otawara in Tochigi prefecture, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Tokyo, became the first municipal government to adopt the book. It also adopted a civics textbook, approved by the Tsukurukai, that has upset South Korea as it reiterates Tokyo's claim to two tiny islands disputed by Seoul.

Ishiyama said he did not believe the Suginami decision would have much impact on how many districts adopt the history textbook, since most had already made their decision. "What is different this time is the great amount of activity on the part of politicians, especially among the (ruling)

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