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Japan's Schools Refuse to Use Controversial Textbook

Apologists for Japan's wartime atrocities failed yesterday in their bid to get the nation's schools to adopt a textbook that seeks to whitewash its aggressive past.


The Japanese newspaper Mainishi Shimbun reported that a mere 48 out of 11,035 schools across the nation had opted to use the controversial publication by yesterday, the deadline for schools to decide on textbooks for the next academic year


Accounting for 0.4 percent of the nation's schools, this falls far short of the 10 percent target set by the textbook's backer, the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform.


China and South Korea, along with many Japanese people, have strongly protested that the textbook glossed over Japan's militarist past and its army's atrocities.


Regarding the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, the book says, "The Japanese forces caused a large number of Chinese military and civilian personnel to die." But it challenged the validity of the number of casualties in the massacre.


The Nanjing Massacre was one of the bloodiest crimes committed by Japanese troops, in which 300,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers were slaughtered.


Officials at the book's publisher, Fusosha, were unavailable to comment, but the head of a civic group opposed to the book said the newspaper report corresponded with its own findings.


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


In mid-July, the city of Otawara in Tochigi Prefecture, 150 kilometers north of Tokyo, became the first municipal government to adopt the book. It also decided to use a civics textbook, sponsored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which has upset South Korea as it reiterates Tokyo's claim to two tiny islands disputed by Seoul.


Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary-general of Children and Textbook Japan Network 21, said the fact that so few districts are likely to have adopted the textbook was a triumph for lobbying by civic groups.


"Given that there was a lot of activity on the part of politicians, especially in the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party, we can take this as a real victory," he said.


The textbook distorts the history, glorifies Japan's aggressive wars in Asia, and justifies its colonial ruling, said the children group.


The group also pointed out that the textbook had not only been strongly protested in Japan, but also criticized by other Asian countries. Therefore, what the education board has done is an atrocious action bearing vicious political intention, rather than for the purpose of education.


(China Daily September 1, 2005)


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