Based on new government guidelines, Japan’s high school textbooks for fiscal 2017 will have 60 percent more descriptions about its disputed territories, including the Senkaku and Takeshima islands, the education ministry said Friday.
The textbooks, to be used mainly by first- and second-year students, have cleared the ministry’s screening panel.
New screening standards that call for using descriptions based on government positions and Supreme Court rulings, are being applied for the first time.
This is the second round of screenings since the government ended its yutori (relaxed) education policy. A review by private-sector publishers takes place every four years.
According to the results of the latest screenings, the average number of pages edged up, and 259 textbooks, including 242 on such common subjects as English, passed the government review.
All textbooks mentioned the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which caused extensive damage in parts of the Tohoku region, and the subsequent core meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. They also described the ongoing rebuilding efforts in the disaster zone and other pending problems.
Many textbooks took up the issue of constitutional amendments and national security.
In January 2014, the ministry revised its manual for curriculum guidelines and instructed schools to teach territorial disputes, such as about Takeshima, a tiny outcropping claimed by Japan but controlled by South Korea, and four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Japan calls the Northern Territories — in geography, Japanese history, politics and economics textbooks.
Teachers were also instructed to explain the government’s efforts on the territorial issues, the history of the problems and the legitimacy of Japan’s sovereignty claims.
Based on the revised guidelines, many textbooks described the Senkaku Islands, Takeshima and the Northern Territories as inherent parts of Japan.
The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are under Japanese administration but are also claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
Takeshima, in the Sea of Japan, is controlled by South Korea, which calls it Dokdo.
The Northern Territories were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II. The territories were also referred to in some maps and world history textbooks. As a result, descriptions related to the territories grew 60 percent from those in the existing textbooks.
About 30 cases of descriptions of the territories were revised after demands from the ministry panel.
Regarding a description of the Senkaku Islands, the panel said students could misunderstand that Japan has a territorial dispute with China. Japan’s official position is that no territorial dispute exists over the islands.
The panel demanded changes in five cases, including descriptions on the 1937 Nanking Massacre and postwar compensation, and the publishers complied.
Outside the new standards, publishers met the panel’s requests and revised textbook descriptions on such issues as national security, energy and the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea, in order to better reflect the government’s positions.