Japan should attempt to build new relations with Asian countries with a forthright admission that its colonial rule and wartime aggression inflicted tremendous pain on them, according to Education Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

He said that by talking to some Chinese and Korean people, he could see that “they still hold incurable feelings toward Japan.” Machimura, 52, added that he respects the Textbooks Authorization Research Council’s decision to include the issue of “comfort women” in all junior high school textbooks approved for this year.

“Comfort women” is the Japanese euphemism for women, mostly non-Japanese Asians, who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese armed forces members before and during World War II. Nevertheless, he said in a recent interview that the ministry will not block the counter-movement by scholars, teachers and politicians who oppose what they call “masochistic views” of Japanese history. Such people are writing their own versions of history textbooks that do not refer to “comfort women.”

“There are many ways of looking at history, and theirs is one of them,” he said. “But the ministry will, of course, screen such textbooks as well.” Machimura said that if some duplications in curricula are eliminated, he will welcome the idea of combining junior high and high schools to create a six-year integrated high school system so that students can enjoy more relaxing and fulfilling school years.

“I want to convert (the educational system) to offer students enjoyable elementary, junior high and high school years and studious college days,” Machimura said. Many generally regard elementary, junior high and high schools to be difficult for students, while colleges are viewed as being easy.

The ministry can be more flexible by such means as allowing students to skip not just one, but two years of high school before entering college and by dividing classes according to their academic performance levels, he said. The ministry revised the School Education Law in July to allow students with aptitude in mathematics and physics equivalent to, or higher than, a high school graduate level to skip their last year of high school and enter college at the age of 17.

“As long as a student has enough ability, I think even a junior high first-grader can skip to college,” Machimura said.

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