History texts to get official spin

Abe's LDP wants 'self-condemning' views of contentious points revised


The education ministry plans to revise guidelines for textbooks for elementary, junior high and high schools, and introduce requirements reflecting the government’s position on “historical facts,” officials said.

The revision is in line with calls by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to instill a sense of national pride in students and correct what some LDP members call a “self-condemning” view of historical events, including the Nanjing Massacre and wartime sex slaves.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology also wants the textbooks to include more material that would encourage children to be more patriotic and respectful of traditional culture, the officials said Wednesday.

Under the current guidelines for modern society and history, textbooks should not contain categorical statements about historical events that are open to different interpretations.

In the new provisions, the ministry will present “a balanced picture” of a historical event, showing both pro and con views, the officials said.

That particular move is in consideration of the ongoing tensions between Japan and China and South Korea over the number of victims in the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, the Japanese military’s involvement in wartime sexual slavery and territorial rows, a senior education ministry official said.

The issue of how historical events are described in textbooks is a sensitive one for other parts of Asia that suffered during Japan’s wartime aggression, particularly China and what is now South Korea.

Japan is also involved in a row over South Korea-controlled islets, and in a spat with China over Japan-controlled islets.

The LDP pledged during last December’s general election campaign that it would revise the guidelines so students use textbooks that “allow them to be proud of traditional culture.”

The LDP believes the texts on the Nanjing Massacre and wartime sex slaves — known euphemistically as “comfort women” — are biased. Some LDP lawmakers say the current guidelines lead to “self-condemning” views of history in textbooks.

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.”

Even after the 1982 guidelines, 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 text written by a group of nationalists invited strong criticism from the two countries.

The ministry hopes to revise the guidelines for social studies textbooks by January, after approval by the ministry’s textbook screening council, and use the revised guidelines when screening junior high school textbooks next spring, the officials said.

On Monday, a ministry panel recommended that moral education, widely taught as an extracurricular activity, be included in the official curriculum of public elementary and junior high schools.

In February, the government’s education task force, which was set up to respond to Abe’s call for education reform, suggested the inclusion of moral education in the curriculum as an anti-bullying measure.

  • Chris Ore-Sama Mair

    That’s a great way to have them know even less than they already know about their own history. My g/f is Japanese and she knows almost nothing about her own history. This is a good way of having continued disputes between countries. We’ll just brush it under the rug and forget that anything ever happened — That will make the problem go away. Shinzo Abe is the antichrist and I can’t believe that the people of Japan are buying his crap for a second time.

  • OlivierAM71

    So, they definitely take the revisionist path.
    This will not help Japan and its future.

  • David Morss

    What’s the “pro” of the Nanjing Massacre? How ridiculous to be seeking a “balance” between fact and fiction!

    • Was thinking the same thing. Of course there will be perspectives, but which account reconciles with the evidence. I guess the Japanese curriculum will be teaching ‘arrogance’ and ‘nationalism’ rather than ‘objectivity’ and ‘critical thinking’.
      The ‘pro’ is that ‘they get to eat their cake’. Its also noteworthy that most people who are morally or criminally culpable tend to accentuate their sense of victimisation. The reality is that Japan doesn’t need to carry so much guilt given the context in which they are raised; but their own moral apprehensions instead direct them to avoid facts rather than moral agency.
      It must to acknowledged that Japan is being attacked because it ‘won’ in a sense against its Asian neighbours; but Japan considers the US the ‘aggressor’ (as victims do) because it was the winner. Don’t expect any integrity from conservatives & liberals. The way the US, Japan, China, Korean govts conduct themselves today is a testament to the problem of unethical govt; and the fact that we are all mere play things to their prejudicial interests….thanks to the extortive sanction provided by those two politically ‘mainstream’ parties, and those who support them. That’s why we need more libertarian support. The only defenders of rights.

  • Michael Williams

    You have a very solid point, and you state a strong case. My only issue with this is that the Japanese are being put on a whole different pedestal when it pertains to this subject; and, I believe it is important to challenge why Japan’s neighbors and even it’s strongest ally can teach their own view on history that fosters nationalism and at times is a complete rewrite of historical fact (Ahem… China).

    What was I taught in primary and secondary level history? It was mostly twisted facts that revolved around influential people and significant dates. There was never an attempt to promote critical thinking on historical subject matter, which there in lies the problem. I think a major issue is how people teach history.

    Even in America, the subject of history is distorted. Certain subjects are specifically altered to change the facts behind the story, for the purpose of changing the perspective on events that can be considered shameful when gauged against modern standards.

    The vast majority of Americans are unaware that Columbus was the architect of the North American slave trade, yet we celebrate him as a pivotal figure in American history. The genocidal policies that past American governments deployed during the Indian Wars are downplayed until you reach the collegiate level; even though the effects of those policies have continued detrimental effects against the Native American populace today. Because these issues are considered sensitive or shameful, an incomplete story is being taught, or worse yet, it is not being taught at all.

  • martaz

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    ——- George Santayana

  • Manfred Deutschmann

    This will make Japan look even worse, because it will only lead to Japan’s reputation as a first world country suffer even more in the eyes of the Western societies.
    If the Japanese want to believe they did nothing wrong, it can’t be helped, but it will isolate the country even more, and who knows what an increased feeling of isolation and having no friends in the world will lead to in the long term.
    I often hear Japan and Germany are similar, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially not in anything concerning facing history and accepting guilt.
    Self-condemnation is a first step on the learning curve. If Japan never takes this step, it will never be able to climb out of the hole of history.

  • John

    Let it go Abe, and deal with the past truthfully. Everyone suffers in war, especially the ordinary civilian population. Do you believe Germany and their neighbors could have established the European Union if they continued to deny the past with revised history books. The Allied fire bombing of Dresden was certainly a perfect example of dreadful retaliation against civilians after the near destruction of Coventry by the Luftwaffe. The Irish Republic suffered 700 years of brutal colonial rule, however we finally have tried to let it go. Today we deal with the reality of our own self inflicted wounds, and tell better jokes about the English than they tell about us. Japan has many friends because they embraced a peace bound constitution, renounced war, and became a model for good in Asia. I look forward to arriving in Japan next week to enjoy my bi-annual Momiji experience. I will remember all those who have died in all wars while visiting the natural and pure setting of a Kyoto temple garden. Please continue to embrace peace and the past will remain in the past and our future will only be much better. Johnny

  • Kasandra

    Putting a spin on any textbook being taught to the young is a big no-no. It’s brainwashing and others will know. Think China. I once had a China friend who commented that China is a multi-party democractic party. Do you think I bought that? Or others from other countries will buy that? It just shows how China’s youth are brainwashed, and it impedes their thinking in every aspect. I really love Japanese culture, but as I get to know more and more about Japan, there are some aspects of Japanese culture that I am uncomfortable with. Most countries know the atrocities of the sex slavery and other atrocities during the Japanese conquering of Asia in the past, but do not view Japanese in a bad light now, because it’s in the past. But to deny history, I think it is dishonest and causes hurt, and gives other nations a bad impression of Japan. Japan’s power is soft power, not nationalist power. Nobody truly respects power with a nationalist-bend.

    To make Japanese youth love Japan is how they feel about the country now, not brainwashing history in school to make them feel a false history that is hurtful to others. It impedes their critical thinking, and prevents Japan from being a respected power. It will only make Japanese youth disconnected with the world, and I would think a dishonour to all those who suffered during the war which I am sorry for. To put Japan’s history and culture on a pedestal that has no flaws is a mindset that is brainwashing like China, and does Japan no favors in the long run. I feel strongly about this issue. Japan should not be brainwashing students through textbooks. xo