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No! To the Distorted History Textbook

A Declaration and Action Plan of the Asian Solidarity
Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan

Nationalism, which attempts to justify past war atrocities and colonialist rule, is on the rise in Japan. The influence aims to make Japan into a nation which can go to war. Those who are deeply concerned about this grave situation as well as concerned about the history and civics textbooks published for this purpose, by the Society for New History Textbook (Tsukurukai), held “The Asian Solidarity Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan.—No! to the Distorted History Textbook.” on June 10th and 11th 2001, in Tokyo. Included were the total of 250 participants from ROK (South Korea), DPRK (North Korea: due to the refusal of entry into Japan, participated by submitting their papers), China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan (including Ainu, Okinawa, and Koreans in Japan).

During the two-day conference, valuable testimonies were shared from the stand point of the “comfort women” who were forced to become sex slaves of the Japanese military, survivors of village massacres who experienced unimaginable suffering during the war with Japan, Ainu people, Okinawan and Koreans in Japan. We exchanged our ideas and opinions on how we can take joint action to prevent the adoption of the Tsukurukai textbooks and to establish new visions of history education for the future. We declare that we strengthen solidarity among Asian people in order to achieve these two aims.

The criticism has been on the rise about the Tsukurukai textbook in Japan and more than 300 nationwide meetings on the textbook issue have been held this year. The Korean and Chinese Governments have already made demands to the Japanese Government to make corrections on the Tsukurukai textbook that passed official screening. In addition a member of the Korean Parliament, and former “comfort women” did a sit-in in front of the Diet building to protest against the Japanese Government. And there have been other protests voiced from various countries around Asia. This simply and clearly implies that how dangerous the Tsukurukai textbooks are for people in Asia.

The first problem with the Tsukurukai history textbook is its attempts to justify Japan’s aggression and invasion as a war of liberation, liberating Asia from Western colonialist rule. It legitimates its own colonialist rule by pointing out that other Asian countries benefited by their rule. Second, it is written by Emperor’s historical view (kokokushikan); instead of pursuing the responsibility of the emperor for the war, it in fact glorifies the emperor. Third, it questions the actuality of the Massacre of Nanjing, and erases from its records any mention of the Japanese military sexual slavery system, which was one of the largest war violence in the 20th century (the Comfort Women System), (the editor stated that writing about the “comfort Women” was like writing about the history of the toilet—adding insult to insult). Fourth, the subject of history is portrayed as the nation-state and the people and minorities are absent and not represented. Fifth, it defends the family system, and emphasizes the “good wife, wise mother” mold of traditional gender role-based division of labor, thereby revealing a discriminatory attitude towards women. In other words, it is a self-race centered, nation state centered, power politics centered, male chauvinistic view of history that pervades its pages.

Such a view of history can also be seen in the Tsukurukai civics textbook. First it unabashedly calls for the need to build a nation that can go to war, by revising the constitution, glorifying the Self-Defense Force, encouraging overseas dispatchment of forces, insisting on the right to “collective self-defense” emphasizing the threat of DPRK (North Korea) and China, teaching respect for the national anthem and flag and national interest and national order, insisting on the obligation to protect one’s own nation from outside aggression, and affirmation of the need for nuclear armament. Second, in order to create a militaristic nation, it plays down the rights and freedoms of individual citizens, lifting up the priorities of public welfare. It sees family unity as more important than the individual. It discriminates and looks down on foreigners and minorities. And it takes a hostile position toward citizen’s movements, placing national interest over human rights. They proclaim a nation centered, anti-foreign, and racist philosophy. Third, there is no sensitivity to the violence done toward women, or honoring human rights and male-female equality education, thereby revealing its discrimination toward women.

These history and civics textbooks need to be understood together. An understanding of history based on the legitimization of past war aggressions in the history textbooks, leads to the affirmation of war in the civic textbooks. These textbooks also are contrary to the spirits of UN Human Rights Law such as UN Covenant on Human Rights and other UN Recommendations. We cannot estimate what could be the impact of these distorted textbooks upon children. 

Therefore, we strongly protest to the Japanese government for allowing the Tsukurukai textbook to pass the screening process. And we hold the Japanese government accountable for passing these textbooks which clearly contradict the recent official Japanese government policies reflected in speech done by Chief Cabinet Secretary, Miyazawa and “the provision concerning neighboring countries” (1982), the 1995 speech by former Prime Minister Murayama, the 1998 Japan-Korea Joint Declaration and the Japan-China Joint Declaration of the same year. And we strongly demand that the Japanese government sincerely consider and comply with the demands for corrections presented by the ROK (South Korea) and China.

Second, we are committed to a joint action in Japan and in other Asian countries, to oppose the adoption of Tsukurukai textbooks by any local Committee of Education for use in the classrooms.

Third, we strongly desire that we work together toward creating an Asia of peace and human rights for all, on the basis of trust and reconciliation. And we commit ourselves to creating the kind of history textbooks that will help to nurture children who will be able to take on such a role in the future. Toward this end we commit ourselves to work together.

For more information, please contact the National Council of Churches - Japan (NCCJ) at: tynccj[at]aol.com