Japan Defends Textbook Revisions

Japan finds itself on the defensive diplomatically as a result of revisions made to two little-used middle school textbooks this week. Both South Korea and China are angry over the books, which they say plays down Japan's militaristic past.

The South Koreans and Chinese say the revisions to a history and a civics textbook whitewash Japan's brutal occupation of their countries and are meant to fuel Japanese nationalism. Both countries have long complained that Tokyo has never fully admitted, or apologized for, its militaristic expansion in the first half of the 20th century.

The two books were written by nationalist scholars and issued by a conservative publisher. Only a few schools in the country use them.

Nonetheless, there has been a strong reaction in China and South Korea. There have been calls for boycotts of Japanese products in China, and some Japanese businesses in the country have been attacked. In South Korea, the government and media have reacted vociferously, especially to references concerning a group of small islands in the Sea of Japan controlled by South Korea, which Japan also claims.

Lee Kyu-hyung, is a spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Lee says his government regrets seeing that Japan has approved a textbook with what Seoul considers historical distortions.

Japanese Education Ministry officials say the textbooks' mention of the disputed islands is nothing new.

Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary, Seiken Sugiura, is calling for calm on the issue in both South Korea and Japan.

Mr. Sugiura says Tokyo wants to pursue forward-looking friendly relations with its neighbors, especially South Korea.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also is urging South Korea to look at the big picture.

The prime minister says it would be a shame to see expanding exchanges in various fields shut down just because of the dispute over the islands.

The revisions also come as China and Japan have been exchanging angry words over the exploration for natural gas beneath the sea in an area both claim.

Some Japanese say the new textbooks are actually toned down from earlier editions. They note that the new text omits the tale of the mythical son of a legendary ancient Japanese emperor, which was in an earlier edition. The revised books also reduce or eliminate coverage of a number of topics that were seen as glorifying Japan's military ambitions during its imperial era.

The textbooks are getting mixed reviews even in Japan.

The country's largest newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri, says the publisher compromised in emotional meetings with Education Ministry bureaucrats.

The left-leaning Asahi newspaper, however, says the new texts are not appropriate for Japan's children. It notes the new editions retain justifications for Japan's early 20th Century behavior, portraying the country as liberating Asians from the grips of Western imperialists

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs