Turning the page on history books

Ministry to discuss revising guideline giving 'special consideration' to invaded Asian neighbors


Publishers of school textbooks may one day no longer have to give so-called special consideration to neighboring parts of Asia when describing historical events.

The education ministry will start discussing revising this guideline, which publishers of textbooks used from elementary to high school must follow, sources close to the ministry said.

Stricter vetting of social studies textbooks began in 1982 after China and South Korea objected strongly to Japanese high school history textbooks the previous year that began referring to Japan’s past “invasions” in Asia as “advancements.”

To counter anticipated criticism of the revision by the two countries, both of which Japan occupied, the scope of “giving consideration” may be expanded from Asian neighbors to the “global community,” according to the sources.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is expected to start a detailed study of the issue, the sources said.

Many Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers believe the current guidelines result in “masochistic” or “self-condemning” views of history in textbooks.

During the campaign for the general election in December, the LDP pledged to revise the guidelines so students can use textbooks that “allow them to be proud of traditional culture.”

Although education minister Hirofumi Shimomura has said it is “not a subject that we should work on immediately,” officials at the ministry say discussions on the possible revision could start soon after the Upper House election in July, in time for the fiscal 2014 textbook screening.

Even after the 1982 guideline, China and South Korea repeatedly criticized the wording of some history textbooks in the screening process, claiming they were glorifying past aggression. In 2001, a junior high school textbook written by a group of Japanese nationalists invited strong criticism from the two countries.

Recently, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have sunk to new lows amid disputes over islets.

All sides have made attempts at mending ties. Last week, Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of LDP coalition partner New Komeito, met with China’s new leader, Xi Jinping. Former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga of the LDP visited incoming South Korean President Park Geun Hye as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy earlier this month.

  • Jerry Stackey

    The more Japan whitewashes history the more the present and future generations of Japanese will have charcoal in their faces.

    • George Polley

      I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Stackey, as denial puts it there and makes things worse.

  • John L. Odom

    Truth is more important than feelings. It is a fact that during the Showa Era Japan treated some of its Asian neighbors very poorly. We cannot change that fact. It should be admitted. BUT Japan still has hundreds of years of culture of which it can be immensely proud. Today’s Japanese are not responsible for the atrocities committed by the forces of The imperial Japanese Army and Navy.

    • C gayle

      No it isn`t, as you say. But denying history is in effect leaving the door open for the same kinds of things to happen again. We should all be weary of what is happening.

      • Albeckles

        They HAVE been doing it, covertly.

  • ray dyers

    Japan should follow what Germany have done. You will be respected by others.

    • Disgusted

      Japan has done exactly the same as Germany, except perhaps for a PM kneeling on the ground and ‘offering a silent apology’ (which was about as sincere as the tearful apologies offered by disgraced politiicians caught with their hand in the cookie jar). The difference is that neither China or Korea has ever accepted any apologies and they never will. Perhaps there is something in the nature of those peoples that do not allow them to forgive or forget and they are unable to put the past behind them and move on; even though as someone pointed out, the present generations of Japanese have exactly nothing to do with the actions of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy prior to and during WWII.

      Since the end of WWII Japan has been one of the most peaceful countries in the world, while Korea fought a civil war, and China has invaded Tibet and fought several wars including a civil war and against the UN in the Korean War. No “whitewashing” of history there I suppose, although the Chinese version of the history of the Korean War differs considerably from the American one–in fact, reading the histories, you might even wonder if they are writing about the same war. Which side is “whitewashing” there?

      There are atrocities in every war, by all sides (including the American, Chinese or Korean side), Unfortunately both China and Korea prefer playing the eternal victims and would rather create a perpetual enemy and have a whipping boy to blame their own shortcomings on rather than put the past behind them, move on and create a better world.

  • Electra CV

    Well, you can’t really think Malta expects the same amount of consideration; the reason why ‘neighbouring countries’ get a special reference is obvious. And I’m not sure about ‘advancements’ either. Next thing you know we’ll be saying Hitler “advanced” into Poland. That said, nobody thinks German people should not be able to enjoy their culture or that they should feel ashamed of their tradition! The way they owned up to past mistakes should be an example for everyone, not just Japan.

  • I am so sick of China’s and Korea’s repetitive criticisms of Japan’s textbooks. Excuse me, China and Korea, you two are not the only nations that suffered the atrocities of WWII Japan. I am from Myanmar, a country occupied by both Imperial Japan and Britain in the past. If revising the textbooks guidelines will benefit the innocent young generations, I don’t really mind. What really disgusts me is Chinese and Korean propagandistic WWII movies. These movies usually feed hate into innocent minds of children and youngsters, instead of showing the “truth”.