War victims to speak out against contentious history text

by Maya Kaneko

About 40 people, including war victims, from several parts of Asia will speak against a recently approved Japanese history textbook at a two-day meeting in Tokyo starting Sunday.

The “International Asian Solidarity Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan — Prohibit Use of Distorted History Textbook” is aimed at expressing the opinions of Asian people in an attempt to stop the adoption of the controversial textbook by local education boards for classroom use, organizers said.

Participants are expected to come from South and North Korea, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan. They will include two South Korean women and a Filipino woman who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army and a Malaysian survivor of a wartime massacre.

They will protest the textbook in meetings with government officials and Diet members on the second day and also form a human chain around the education ministry as a demonstration.

In April, the government approved the junior high school history textbook — compiled by a group of nationalist historians — for classroom use beginning next April, after a number of revisions were made to it.

Local education boards across Japan are to decide by Aug. 15 whether to choose the textbook from among several government-authorized books for use in local public schools.

South Korea and China have demanded further revisions to the textbook, claiming it tries to justify Japanese military aggression before and during World War II, but the Japanese government has ruled out such revisions.

Yayori Matsui, leader of Violence Against Women in War Network Japan, one of the groups organizing the meeting, said the conference is intended to raise awareness in Japan by exposing the public to the views of people from across Asia, not just from South Korea and China.

She also said another purpose of the meeting is to work out a long-term plan for collaboration among Asian people on the history issue, including joint historical interpretation.

Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of another organizer, Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, which opposes use of the contentious textbook, brushed aside claims by the authors that Asian countries’ demands for revisions constitute interference in domestic affairs.

“The Japanese government has internationally pledged to hand down the memory of the war of aggression. It should keep that promise,” Tawara said.

The government has expressed in various official statements regret and an apology for Japan’s wartime aggression.

An article requiring necessary consideration for Asian neighbors in the government’s textbook screening process was also established in 1982 after China and South Korea protested Japanese textbooks’ descriptions of Japanese military invasions as “advances.”