December 2000 Appeal by Japanese Historians and History Educators

We Cannot Entrust History Education
 to a Textbook That Distorts History

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At the present moment, inside and outside Japan, voices are being raised to express misgivings about the content of a history textbook developed by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho o Tsukurukai, hereafter the Society). Many have pointed out that the text gbegins and ends with the logic of the powerfulh and that it gdistorts the history of the past.h If it passes the Japanese governmentfs textbook screening, the text will be one of the social studies history textbooks eligible for adoption by local school systems for use in junior high schools in the 2002 school year.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Society initiated a campaign to criticize current history textbooks as gmasochistic.h The Society announced that its members would develop ghistory textbooks of conscience that will restore the true history of the nation.h In April 2000, a draft textbook it developed was submitted to the Ministry of Education for certification. Since then, even though the draft textbook is still in the certification process,* the authors and the publisher have organized a campaign that includes showing a copy of the draft textbook on TV programs, visiting local schools to press for early decisions to adopt the text, and asking municipal legislative bodies to pass resolutions urging the adoption of its text or the exclusion of other texts.

To be sure, we believe that all of us have the right to publish textbooks if we follow the stated procedure. However, there are some accepted minimal standards for textbooks in any subject, including, of course, history. One of them is that there must be no false representations or fabrications in textbooks.

In the Japan of the years from about 1890 until the defeat in the Asia-Pacific War in 1945, it was impossible freely to discuss, record, or make public matters—even factual matters—involving secrets of the state, the military, and the imperial family. The aim of history education was to produce gimperial subjectsh who would be utterly loyal to the emperor, and textbooks molded schoolchildren into gimperial subjects.h Facts not consistent with these aims were excluded, and sheer fictions constituted the basis of Japanfs history education. In this way, the self-righteous and chauvinistic consciousness was developed that served as the basis upon which Japan and the Japanese carried on war after war, inflicted enormous sufferings on people inside and outside Japan, and, in the end, experienced total, crushing defeat. We cannot forget the significant role played in that process by the wrong kind of history education.

Now again, to our dismay, a history textbook is about to appear that attempts to educate todayfs students by way of sheer fiction. As the media have reported, a number of criticisms have been leveled against the textbook developed by the Society. Here we call attention to just two specific points.

First, the text presents the foundation myths, those compiled in Japanfs earliest chronicles, the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki, as historical fact. For example, it describes the eastward expedition of the Jimmu Emperor as if it were historical fact, by showing a map of gthe route said to be the one the Jimmu Emperor took.h In addition, ignoring all the findings of historical studies on the subject, it states that gthe date of the enthronement of the Jimmu Emperorh is gNational Foundation Day [a current Japanese national holiday], February 11 on the solar calendar.h**

From 1952 to the present, the Japanese Association for History Studies (Nihon Rekishigaku Kyokai), made up of academic societies and individuals from across the nation, has consistently opposed the restoration of this national holiday. This is because Japanese historians and history educators of all ideological persuasions are united in believing that myths must not be represented as historical facts.

Second, the Societyfs textbook not only legitimizes the continuous wars launched by modern Japan, but it also describes gThe Greater East Asian Warh as a war for the liberation of Asia.*** For example, the textbook states that, even though Japan was an ally of Italy and Germany, Japan had a state policy to oppose racism, which distinguished it from both the fascism of Mussolini and the Nazism of Hitler. Moreover, it states that the Greater East Asia Joint Declaration, adopted at the Greater East Asia Conference on January 6, 1943,+ embodied the same spirit as the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1960!

In fact, however, even just before the defeat in 1945, Imperial Japan was still committed to a policy of greserving Korea to Japan,h i.e., retaining Korea as a Japanese colony: these facts are clear from documents made public by the Japanese government. (See the section gTerritory to Be Yieldedh in the document gPolicy on Negotiations with the USSR,h dated May 14, 1945, drawn up by the Supreme War Leadership Council.)++ To ignore these facts and describe Imperial Japan as if it had been a leader in the liberation of the colonies is to distort history, to construct a gmodern myth.h

After the defeat in 1945, historical research and education made a new start by reflecting deeply on its major role in leading the nation into war, and it has produced much fruitful work. The Societyfs textbook is an unscholarly text that not only distorts history but also rejects flatly the academic achievements of postwar history studies and education.

The certification of such a textbook by the Japanese government and its adoption for use in history education will pave the way for the revival of the chauvinistic history education of prewar and wartime Japan. Moreover, not only will it break the international promise Japan made when it modified the textbook screening criteria to require gtaking into account international understanding and international cooperation,h+++ but also it will defy international public opinion—particularly in Asia—that seeks peace and democracy. In short, it represents a dangerous attempt that will lead Japan down the path of international isolation.

As historians and history educators, speaking out of our own consciences, we express here, to those inside and outside Japan, our deepest apprehension about the appearance of this textbook.


December 5, 2000

 (Signatories as of the above date, with names in Japanese name order)++++

Amakasu Ken, Amino Yoshihiko, Aoki Kojiro, Arai Shinfichi, Asao Naohiro, Awaya Kentaro, Eguchi Keiichi, Fujiki Hisashi, Furuyama Tadao, Hamabayashi Masao, Hashimoto Tetsuya, Hayashi Hideo, Hirokawa Tadahide, Ikai Takaaki, Inoue Katsuo, Irumada Nobuo, Ishiodori Tanenaka, Ito Yasuko, Iwai Tadakuma, Kadowaki Teiji, Kano Masanao, Kasahara Tokushi, Kasuya Kenfichi, Kibata Yoichi, Kimijima Kazuhiko, Kimura Motoi, Kimura Shigemitsu, Kobayashi Shoji, Komatsu Hiroshi, Kotani Hiroyuki, Kozawa Hiroshi, Kudo Keiichi, Maruyama Yasunari, Maruyama Yukihiko, Matsuo Takayoshi, Matsushima Eichi, Minegishi Sumio, Miyachi Masato, Miyagi Kimiko, Miyata Setsuko, Murai Shosuke, Nagahara Keiji, Nakatsuka Akira, Nichikawa Masao, Sasaki Junnosuke, Sato Sojun, Suzuki Ryo, Takazawa Yuichi, Taminao Tomoaki, Tozawa Mitsunori, Tsutsumi Keijiro, Yasui Sankichi, Yasumaru Yoshio, Yoshida Akira, Yoshida Nobuyuki, Yoshimi Yoshiaki, Yuge Toru, Wada Haruki, Wakita Haruko, Watanabe Norifumi.


*Although there are no formal legal restrictions on such activity, for years the Ministry of Education has asked textbook publishers not to circulate their draft textbooks.        return

 **National Foundation Day is the restoration of Kigensetsu. Kigensetsu was a national holiday of the prewar and wartime period, whose date the Meiji government decided on in connection with the myth of the enthronement of the Jimmu Emperor. Abolished in 1948, the holiday was restored as National Foundation Day in 1966.        return

 ***Daitoa Senso, gGreater East Asian War,h was the term for the war coined by the Japanese government in December 1941 and used until the Allied forces insisted on Taiheiyo Senso, gPacific War.h        return

 +On November 5-6, 1943, in order to invigorate collaboration in the occupied territories, Japan held a conference in Tokyo and invited representatives from Thailand, Philippines, Burma, gManchukoku,h China (the collaborationist regime based in Nanjing), and India (the provisional government of Free India). The conference adopted a declaration stating that the countries of gGreater East Asiah would cooperate to pursue the war and gliberateh the region from American/British rule. The declaration had no real effect on the war.        return

++The Supreme War Leadership Council was established in August 1944. Its members were the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Army Minister, the Navy Minister, and the Chiefs of the Army and Navy General Staffs. The Showa Emperor also attended the meetings when important matters were discussed. The section gTerritory to Be Yieldedh stated that in order to succeed in its negotiations with the U.S.S.R, Japan would need to begin to prepare to return Southern Sakhalin to the Soviet Union, renounce fishing rights there, re-open the Straits of Tsugaru (between Honshu and Hokkaido), and cede Japanese railroad rights in Northern Manchuria; Japan, however, would retain Korea.        return

+++In 1982, after international censure of its revision of history via the textbook screening process, the Japanese Ministry of Education added a screening criterion requiring that, in writing modern and contemporary history, textbooks take consideration of international friendship and cooperation with Japanfs neighboring Asian countries. The criterion is called gThe Neighboring-Countries Clause."        return

++++As of March 2001, there were 889 signatories.        return

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