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Groups against revisionist history text call campaign a success
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
The Japan Times: Sept. 2, 2005
Civic groups opposing a contentious revisionist history textbook on Thursday hailed the result of the publisher's recent survey, as well as their own, that less than 1 percent of the nation's junior high schools are likely to use the book from next April.
The groups also said they will continue working to prevent the text by Fusosha Publishing Inc., which they claim glosses over Japan's wartime aggression, from gaining any more recognition by schools and will campaign to improve descriptions in other history textbooks.
"I think our grassroots campaign against the textbook won the result," said Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21.
He noted that the result also showed other Asian people that many Japanese do not support "the distorted version of historical facts" in the textbook and seek friendship with Japan's neighbors.
He also credited civic groups from South Korea for contributing to the victory by requesting local boards of education not to adopt the textbook and putting ads against the text in local and nationwide newspapers in Japan.
The contentious history textbook was compiled by members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and is published by Fusosha. The group was founded in 1997 by scholars and other intellectuals who saw other history textbooks as self-denigrating.
Eight history textbooks for use in junior high schools, including the revisionist version, were approved by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in April. The selection period for textbooks to be used for four years starting April in public junior high schools ended Aug. 31.
More than 40 public junior high schools, including those in Tokyo's Suginami Ward, and Otawara in Tochigi Prefecture, 28 schools for the disabled and about 10 private junior high schools have so far adopted the contentious textbook, according to Fusosha and the textbook network.
The penetration rate of the revisionist textbook would be about 0.5 percent of the roughly 11,000 junior high schools in Japan.
The result was far below the 10 percent target set by the society but above the penetration rate of 0.047 percent recorded in 2001, when the revisionist textbook was first authorized by the education ministry.
Satoshi Uesugi, a literature professor at Kansai University, said he is not worried that the revisionist textbook has spread further as the textbook reform society's campaign for the selection of the text, involving some politicians, seemed unsuccessful.
"The problem is that other history textbooks have reduced descriptions of Japan's wartime aggression" since the launch of the Fusosha text, he said. "We need to continue activities to improve the situation."
However, Tsunemi Koyama, an education history professor at Otsuki City College in Yamanashi Prefecture, reckoned the increase in the penetration rate shows more people have come to support the revisionist textbook.
"I think a majority of Japanese would not see the (revisionist textbook) negatively, but the result should be attributed to interference" by Japanese and South Korean critics of the text, he said.
The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform will hold a news conference Friday afternoon to talk about the result.
The textbook selection process started in April in 583 districts, comprising either a single board of education or several boards that jointly reach a decision on new textbooks.
Since the revisionist history textbook was authorized in April, China, South Korea and some Japanese critics have attacked it, saying the book plays down Japan's wartime aggression, including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, and fails to mention the "comfort women," mostly Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery at warfront brothels for Imperial Japanese forces.
Hankooki.com > The Korea Times > Opinion
Distorted History Textbook
Low Choice Shows Conscience of Japanese Civil Society
It's a relief that only 0.4 percent of Japanese middle schools have chosen a controversial textbook that justifies their country's war of aggression. Most of the credit should go to the conscientious Japanese civic groups that tried hard to prevent the adoption of the distorted schoolbook, and their Korean counterparts, who gave positive them support. Together, they demonstrated the power of a civil alliance for a just cause. Now is the time to move beyond these quadrennial campaigns to a fundamental and lasting solution.
True, the 2005 adoption rate of the history book that whitewashes Japan's wartime atrocities is about 10 times higher than four years ago. Still it is only a fraction of the 10 percent targeted by Fusosha Publishing and its rightwing supporters. The successful blocking of the textbook is all the more meaningful as it comes amid rising nationalism in Japan. Lengthening queues in front of the Yasukuni war shrine and escalating territorial disputes with neighbors are only a few examples.
It must have taken not only good sense but also a great deal of courage for the civic groups to fight against the Fusosha textbook in the face of threats from ultra-rightists. Their Korean colleagues also helped, quietly but effectively, by raising funds, running ads and making joint tours throughout Japan. Their success shows how the conscientious citizens of the two countries can beat even the systematic maneuvers of bureaucrats and politicians. And this success suggests their future course of action in similar cases.
Not to be missed on this occasion is Japan's relative diversity and Korea's uniformity. A historical fact is singular but its interpretation can be plural. Korea, along with China, may be one of the few countries in the world having textbooks with only one version of history. This is not to condone Japan's past wrongdoings or its present denial of them, but to expand our own horizon by overcoming a one-sided sense of victimization. We should remember the past, but not be overly bound by it.
Unless the Japanese nationalists give up, similar things will be repeated in 2009. A much better way is for the three Northeast Asian countries to conduct a joint study of history and to keep expanding the common ground of their historical views. Korea, Japan and China need to learn from the lessons of Germany and France, which opened the way for the creation of the European Union by sharing historical consciousness. Until when should this region remain as a stage of global conflict due to Sino-Japanese hegemonic rivalry?
Learning history enables us not to repeat past mistakes. It is fortunate that most Japanese people, unlike some of their political leaders, appear not ready yet to return to their unfortunate past. The task of civic leaders in this part of the world is to help people's peace-loving spirits win over the politicians' desire for conquest, and not the other way round.