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Textbook revisionists plan to diversify
Geography next subject after few schools adopt contentious spin on history
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
The Japan Times: Sept. 3, 2005
Despite the marginal adoption of its contentious history textbook, which critics say whitewashes Japan's wartime aggression, the group that compiled the book said Friday it now plans to pen a junior high school geography textbook.
The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform also said it will consider editing other new textbooks on subjects that include home economics and Japanese for use in junior high schools.
The group was founded in 1997 by scholars and others who saw history textbooks then in use as self-denigrating. Tokyo-based Fusosha Publishing Inc. prints the revisionist history and civics studies textbooks written by members of the group.
"Since we made our history and civics studies textbooks, descriptions in other textbooks by other publishers have improved," Hidetsugu Yagi, chairman of the society, told a news conference. "We'd like to influence textbooks on other subjects by making new textbooks," he said without elaborating.
Yagi, who is also an assistant professor at Takasaki City University of Economics, said Fusosha has agreed to publish the group's new geography textbook in 2009, the next time textbooks for junior high school students will undergo government screening.
All textbooks must be screened and authorized every four years by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Last April, Fusosha's textbooks compiled by the society gained approval along with those issued by other publishers.
The selection period for textbooks to be used in junior high schools for the next four years ended Wednesday in 583 educational districts across the country that are comprised of either a single board of education or several boards that jointly decide on texts for most public schools.
According to a Kyodo News tally, an estimated 16,300 students at 77 junior high schools, or 0.44 percent of the student population, will be using the revisionist history textbook from next April.
Although the figure surged tenfold from the 0.047 percent in 2001, when the society's history textbook was first authorized, it is far below its self-set goal of 10 percent.
Yagi reckoned the increase was a big step forward, noting he believes many education boards hesitated to select the Fusosha textbooks because the governments of South Korea and China -- as well as some Japanese critics -- waged campaigns against them.
"People don't want to pick chestnuts out of the fire," he said.
The society's textbook has come under fire ever since it was first approved, with critics saying it justifies Japan's prewar occupation of other parts of Asia.
But the contentious history text had a ripple effect on other publishers, which altered some descriptions of Japan's wartime aggression in their books, including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and "comfort women" -- mostly Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery at frontline brothels for Imperial Japanese forces.
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