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Conservative Japanese Textbook Authors Reject Asian Criticism


A Malaysian man walks under a banner referring Japanese invasion
The group responsible for writing a pair of new Japanese textbooks, which were one catalyst for an outbreak of protests in China, says its goal is to portray Japan with dignity and balance. Their comments downplaying what is known as the Nanjing Massacre could further increase tensions between Japan and China.

Declaring that they present "facts as facts," the leaders of a group that produced two controversial Japanese textbooks are defending their works.

Two professors from the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform spoke at a packed news conference Tuesday in Tokyo.

Their two new school texts, which are used in only a handful of schools, have been strongly criticized by many Chinese, Koreans and even some Japanese as glossing over the brutality of Japan's colonial legacy in Asia.

The organization's chairman, Hidetsugu Yagi, called the uproar over the textbooks an over-reaction. The Takasaki City University professor says the texts compensate for what he says is leftist extremism pervasive in Japanese education.

Mr. Yagi says Marxism still has a tremendous influence over teachers' unions in Japan and thus history textbooks tend to depict a class struggle where the government is always bad and the people are always right. He says his group's books are free of what he calls this "defunct historical perspective."

Anger over the society's new textbooks led to massive anti-Japanese demonstrations in China several weeks ago. The protesters attacked Japanese diplomatic facilities and Japanese-owned businesses, prompting Tokyo to demand an apology from China and bringing relations between the two governments to the lowest point in 30 years.

Comments Tuesday by the society's vice chairman Nobukatsu Fujioka may exacerbate tensions.

Mr. Fujioka contends that Japanese troops did not massacre Chinese civilians in Nanjing in December 1937, but acknowledges that about 15,000 Chinese soldiers died in fighting the Japanese there. And, he says, this only occurred because the Nationalist Chinese leadership refused a Japanese offer of a peaceful surrender.

Historians in China and many other countries say as many as 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers died during the assault on Nanjing. Japanese downplaying of the massacre has long angered China.

Both Mr. Yagi and Mr. Fujioka reject being labeled as members of a right-wing fringe, saying they and their supporters represent the contemporary Japanese establishment.

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