The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education voted Tuesday to use a controversial history textbook at three public schools for disabled children.

It is the first time the book, written by a group of nationalist authors and opposed by China and South Korea on grounds it glosses over Japan’s wartime atrocities, has been approved for public schools.

The schools are to begin using it at the start of the next academic year in April.

The book’s authors claim texts now in use are “self-denigrating” in their portrayals of Japan as an aggressor nation.

The decision came as some 200 protesters turned out at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward.

During a closed meeting, the six-member board of education headed by Tokyo Kasei University President Tsukasa Shimizu voted 4-2 in favor of using the Fuso Publishing Co. history textbook at two junior high schools for physically weak students and one for children with psychiatric disorders. The schools have 70 students.

Also approved were social studies textbooks by the same publisher.

“The board decided to adopt Fuso’s history book because it is most true to the education ministry’s teaching guidelines, which emphasize love for the country’s history,” said Yokichi Yokoyama, head of the metropolitan government’s education bureau. “For instance, it introduces many historical figures and literary works.”

The board, however, opted not to use the Fuso textbooks in junior high schools for hearing impaired and otherwise physically disabled students as well as those for mentally disabled, saying the content of the books is too difficult for these children.

The board chose other texts for use at schools for blind students because Fuso does not market a Braille version of its textbooks.

While the textbooks to be used at municipal schools are decided by their respective ward, town and city authorities, the metropolitan board of education is responsible for choosing textbooks for 45 schools for physically and mentally impaired children.

Education boards nationwide must choose books for the next academic year by Aug. 15.

The history text, compiled by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and approved by an education ministry screening panel in April, has sparked outrage in South Korea and China as well as controversy at home.

Since the Tokyo board’s tentative decision to adopt the Fuso textbooks was reported by the media last month, critics have been making public appeals against the adoption. The metropolitan government said it received some 6,100 faxes and e-mail messages, of which more than 5,900 opposed the education board’s plan to adopt Fuso’s textbooks.

Teachers unions at schools for the disabled, for example, charged that the Tokyo board intentionally targeted disabled children to pave the way for other local authorities to adopt the book.

“We are choked up with rage because the board adopted the history textbook that almost justifies (Japan’s action in) the Pacific War, during which human rights of the disabled were violated,” Hiroshi Fujitani, chairman of the teachers union at schools for the disabled in Tokyo, told a news conference Tuesday.

Critics have cited the influence of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who has supported the textbook authors’ group since it was established in 1997. At least three of the six members on the education board are either his close aides or former university classmates.

Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of a citizens’ group opposing the text, criticized the board: “The decision is a result of the initiative of Gov. Ishihara, who is a strong proponent of the textbook.”

Tawara accused the board of adopting the text simply to put on record that it is used in public schools. , even though it will only be used on a limited basis in schools for mentally disabled students.

He lashed out at the decision as lacking a “sense of human rights” and “destroying democracy and education.”

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