Japan school to use disputed book

TOKYO, Reuters

A Japanese private junior high school has decided to use a controversial history textbook that critics say glosses over Japan’s wartime aggression and has angered its Asian neighbors, Kyodo news agency said on Saturday.

The textbook, which has sparked international controversy, has recently been a source of concern for Japan’s Education Ministry due to its popularity in Tokyo bookstores after publisher Fuso-sha began selling it earlier this month.

Principal Yutaka Teramoto of Tsuda Gakuen Junior High School of Mie prefecture in western Japan said the school decided to start using the textbook next April because it conforms with its policy of letting students pride themselves on being Japanese.

Regarding criticism of the textbook from Asian countries such as mainland China and South Korea, Kyodo quoted Teramoto as saying: “We do not intend to beautify war at all, but education that would make students dislike Japan would not lead to genuine mutual understanding (between Japan and other Asian countries).”

“We had a high opinion of the (history) textbook’s detailed descriptions of historical events and figures,” Teramoto said.

Both mainland China and South Korea have strenuously objected to the textbook — written by nationalist historians and approved for use from next year by schoolchildren aged 13-15 — saying it whitewashes Japanese aggression before and during World War Two.

For example, South Korea is particularly upset about phrasing in the textbook that suggests Korea benefited from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula because it led to the development of railways and manufacturing industries.

The Japanese government has said the book does not represent Japan’s official view of history and has resisted pressure to revise it further, although it did agree to some revisions before the book was approved earlier this year.

Teramoto said the school decided to adopt the textbook at a board meeting last month after studying the authors, the Japanese Society of History Textbook Reform, for several years.

No objections were raised about using the textbook at a parent-teacher association meeting in late May, he said.

Kyodo also quoted Kanji Nishio, head of the textbook reform society as saying several private schools had already decided to use the textbook, and that he expected the number of such schools to increase.

Local education boards across Japan must decide which textbooks they will use in their schools by August 15.

Kyodo said Tsuda Gakuen emphasizes what it calls “spiritual education” incorporating traditional Japanese values based on Buddhism and Confucianism.