JAPAN: Textbook approved for use in public schools for disabled


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-28-2001

JAPAN: Promotion of past invasion, imperialism in Asia-Pacific 

Dear Friends, 

Regarding our earlier urgent appeal (14-05-2001) on the Japanese Ministry of Education¡¦s attempt to rewrite history, we are sending you this update to draw your continuous attention and support. 

On 7 August, despite the drawn-out campaign for Japan to revise the textbook (after the Japanese government approved eight middle school textbooks including one written by nationalist scholars), the board of education in Tokyo voted to allow some schools to use the so-called “New History Textbook.” The controversial textbook will be used to teach children in three of the city¡¦s 45 schools for physically and mentally disabled students from next April. The decision marked the first time the textbook has been approved for use in public schools. 

This decision to use the textbook in public schools contrasted strikingly with the determined and yet rare move by some Japanese schools who rebelled over and rejected the textbooks. Recently, the district education board in Tochigi prefecture, some 100km north of Tokyo, has withdrawn its backing for the book. The board did recommend the controversial history textbook earlier in July, but it reversed its decision, as all 10 municipal authorities in the district rejected the recommendation including Fujioka city, one of the first to reject the book. However, the decision by the educational board of Fujioka city not to use the controversial textbook in at least 30 public junior high schools in the district on 16 July was unusual. Several private schools have already said they would use the textbook from the 2002 school year starting in April. 

The decision also came in the midst of continuous and strenuous efforts by Japan¡¦s neighbors, South Korea and China, to have the textbook revised. 

In June, South Korea asked Japan to revise 35 textbook passages that it believes gloss over atrocities committed during Japan¡¦s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945. South Korea was particularly upset by the failure of those textbooks to mention more than 100,000 Korean and other Asian women – so-called “comfort women” – who were forced to serve as sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during the war. On 9 July, Japan responded that it could revise only two of the 35 disputed passages. The Japanese education ministry said in a statement: “Under the current textbook screening system, it is up to the authors to decide what historical facts to include in their books. We cannot force inclusion of certain points.” In protest at Japan¡¦s refusal to make major changes to the textbook, South Korea froze military and cultural exchanges with Japan as retaliatory measures. 

Beijing had asked for eight changes to the books, despite an earlier revision of one book that played down the scale of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which China says as many as 300,000 civilians were killed by Japanese troops. A Chinese foreign ministry statement described Japan¡¦s refusal as “unacceptable” and expressed “regrets and strong outrage.” 

Concerning the recent decision by the board of education in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, Japanese civic groups opposed to the use of the book immediately protested outside the educational board meeting. Even an incendiary device went off in a parking lot next to the central Tokyo building where the historians work, just hours after the city¡¦s board of education voted to allow the use of the book, which is suspected to have been an act of radicals opposed to the textbook. However, Japan has not acceded to the mounting pressure and has rejected all demands for further revisions. The decision by the educational board of Tokyo to allow the controversial textbook to be used in public schools for the first time seems to drive a wedge into the whole controversy. 


We have deep concern and draw your attention to Japan¡¦s persistent backing of its distorted history textbook. We urge you to join the solidarity movement and to support the action by signing the on-line petition at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/japan/appeal.htm 

Also, please note that August 15 marks the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Second World War (also marking Korea’s Independence Day). You may consider organising some kind of action at your Japanese embassy to help the Japanese government remember the history they are trying to deny. 

Thank you. 
Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-28-2001
Countries : Asia,