The Problem of the new textbook for Japanese history prepared by gthe Societyh


This is an explanation prepared mainly for the people of Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore on the issue of publication of the new textbook for Japanese history (hereafter referred to as gthe Textbookh).  It was written by and under the direction of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho wo Tsukurukai, hereafter referred to as gthe Societyh).  Although we are aware of the fact that Korean people and Chinese people have suffered greatly because of the Japanese invasion, this explanation focuses on Southeast Asian countries that suffered greatly under the Japanese occupation during the World War II.


(Note: gSee page ch shows the relative page in the English translation of the Textbook which is obtainable from the Web site: of the Society.)


As its conclusion, the Textbook makes an argument as if the gPacific Warh or the gAsia Pacific Warh was waged as the war of survival and of self-defense for Japan and also as the war of the liberation for Southeast Asian nations by the Japanese people, who are also of the yellow race, from the colonial control of the white race.  The Textbook ignores or underestimates the damages on Southeast Asian peoples who had suffered under the Japanese occupation.



The reasons for the above conclusion are as follows:


(1)   The Textbook calls the war with US and Britain beginning in the year 1941 as the gGreater East Asian Warh whereas, other textbooks call this war as gthe Pacific Warh or gthe Asia Pacific Warh.


The Textbook states gJapan declared war on the U.S. and Great Britain, maintaining that this war was a war of survival and self-defense, and naming it the Greater East Asian Warh (See page 52).


After the assault on Pearl Harbor without the declaration of war on December 8, 1941, this war was named as the gGreater East Asian Warh on December 12, 1941 at the Japanese Cabinet meeting.  The Japanese government insisted that they were aiming to establish the gGreater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphereh in order to liberate Southeast Asian countries from the colonial control by European and American white races.


This gsuperficialh insistence is easily proven false by merely considering the fact that the Japanese government had not mentioned the issue of Korea gaining independence (Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910).  This is why the other seven textbooks do not use this particular propaganda name.


In this regard, the gFUMIh report published in July 2004 by authors of the Textbook states gThe Greater East Asian War had a clear causal relation to have promoted the independence of such countries as Indonesia, Burma (Note: they use the old name of Myanmar), India, Malaysia and other nations.  Our textbook is the first of its kind to fairly depict this fact among all textbooks published after the Warh.

It seems that the authors of the Textbook still believe in the insistent objective of the Japanese government from those days.


Along the same lines, although the Textbook emphasizes the Japanese declaration of war, the Textbook does not clearly explain that Japan assaulted without the declaration of war and merely sates gThe U. S. government told the American people that the assault on Pearl Harbor was a cowardly act, calling it a esneak attackf because it had occurred before the note indicating that Japan-U.S. talks were handed over.h (See page 53. Italicized by us.)  In Japanese Textbook, the word gpropagandizeh is used instead of the word gtoldh.  Perhaps, this is conscious retranslation.  We consider the phrase gbefore the noteh is inappropriate.  We feel that phrases such as gbefore the ultimatumh or gwithout the declaration of warh should be used instead.


The Textbook states gJapanfs initial victories encouraged the peoples of Southeast Asia and India, and instilled in them the hope that they too might achieve independence.h  (See page 53.)


The gpresent guidebookh for teachers prepared by gthe Societyh for the gpresent Textbookh (actually being used now in several junior high schools) states to instruct students to gWrite the purpose (of this war) in your notebook, with the correct answer to be gSelf-defense; to liberalize Asia from Europe and US and to establish Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphereh.  This guidebook also states to instruct students to gWrite two notable services by Japan for the liberation of Asia in your notebook, with the right answer as g(1) proved that the colored races may win against the white races and (2) taught East Asian peoples how to wage warh.



(2)   The Textbook deliberately explains the Assembly of Great East-Asiatic Nations which was an assembly by puppet governments and was held only for propaganda purposes.


In order to demonstrate as if the above gsuperficialh objective was being supported by Southeast Asian nations, the Japanese government gathered the assembly of puppet governments of the occupied countries called gthe Assembly of Greater East-Asiatic Nationsh in 1943 as propaganda.  The Textbook states gIn November 1943, Japan sponsored the Assembly of Greater East-Asiatic Nations.  The purpose of the assembly, held in Tokyo, was to seek the cooperation of the nations of Asia in the war effort, and to demonstrate solidarity with other East Asian nations.  At the assembly, a joint declaration (Joint Declaration of the Assembly of Greater East-Asiatic Nations) was issued in response to the Atlantic Charter.  It spoke of the autonomy and independence of all nations, economic progress achieved through cooperation, and the eradication of racial discrimination.  Following the assembly, Japan issued clearer explanations of its reason for waging war: the building of a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, from which the Western powers would be excluded.h  (See page 53-54.)


Other textbooks either do not make any mention of this event or even if do cite it, the event is noted from a critical point of view.  This is because this assembly was merely held as propaganda and, therefore, it is generally regarded to be insignificant and not influential within the context of the Japanese history.



(3)   The Textbook does not explain enough about the sufferings of Southeast Asian peoples from the occupation by Japan.


Even though the gplain cover draft editionh of the Textbook submitted for the textbook approval process had not alluded to any references, by the guidance of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology the following sentences were inserted into the Textbook:

gThe war inflicted a huge amount of devastation and suffering on the peoples of Asia, where it was fought.  The casualties (both military and civilian) attributable to Japanese invasions were particularly high in China.h  (See page 54.)


However, following these sentences, the Textbook sates gEach time the Japanese occupied a Southeast Asian nation, they set up a military administration.  Leaders of local independence movements cooperated with those military administrations so that they could liberate their countries from the yoke of the Western powers.h  (See page 54.)


We do not believe that the leaders of local independence movement cooperated with the military administrations, even though there might have been several exceptions.  It will be more exact that these leaders were taken advantage of in their movements by either being forced to cooperate or by being made to appear cooperative on its surface.  We wonder how the authors of the Textbook consider the yoke of occupation by Japan?


On the other hand, even the Textbook could not avoid stating the following facts: gBut when the Japanese insisted that local populations learn the Japanese language and worship at Shinto shrines, they met with resistance.  Anti-Japanese elements who aligned themselves with the Allies engaged in guerrilla warfare, which Japanese troops dealt with severely.  Many people, civilians included, were killed during these confrontations.  When the fortunes of war turned against Japan and food supplies ran short, the Japanese often forced the local population to do back-breaking work.  After the war was over, Japan paid reparations to those nations.  Then Japan was accused of promoting the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere philosophy to justify the war and occupation of Asia.h  (See page 54.  Italicized by us.  Actually, the italicized portion is written as gNoteh apart from the text using smaller sized characters.)


At first glance, the Textbook may seem to explain to some degree the sufferings of Southeast Asian peoples and to admit that the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere philosophy was wrong.  However, we feel that the above explanation, especially the phrase gJapan was accused of promoting the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere philosophy to justify the war and occupation of Asiah, should have been stated just below the declaration of war on page 52.  Moreover, the phrase git became clear that it was a shamh should have been used rather than gwas accused ofh.  Explaining in a mere gNoteh, using smaller sized characters, is simply a superficial excuse especially when compared to the length of explanation about the gAssembly of Great East-Asiatic Nationsh.


Furthermore, on page 54, under the above explanation, the Textbook states gLater, after Japan was defeated and Japanese troops had withdrawn from Asia, all these former colonies achieved independence through their own efforts during the next dozen years.  Some Japanese soldiers remained in Asia and participated in the various struggles for independenceh (See page 54).  Immediately after the above explanation, the gplain cover draft editionh of the Textbook submitted for the approval had stated gThe initial goal of Japanfs southward advance was for gsurvival and self-defenseh, it produced the result to speed up the watch to the independence of Asian nations.h  Since this explanation was deemed too inappropriate at the time of the approval, this expression was altered to gThe initial goal of Japanfs southward advance was to obtain resources, but it also served to spur on nascent independence movements in Asia.h (See page 54.)



The words gsouthward advanceh were retained.  The authors did not accept to use the correct words ginvasionh or gaggressionh.  We believe that by the Japanese occupation, the peoples of Asian countries understood the need for independence far more strongly than under the European colonial control.  Therefore, we believe that Japan does not have any right to argue that Japan had promoted the independence of Asian countries.


The authorsf thinking is clearly shown in the following section:

gLetfs give it a try!h (Suggestions for student activities.  The following is written on Page 207 of the Japanese Textbook, but it is not translated into English.) states gSelect one country which took part in the Assembly of Greater East-Asiatic Nations and survey the relation between their independent movement and the Japanese military action  (Please note that the word goccupationh was not used !).



(4)   The Textbook pretends as if the peoples of Southeast Asian nations accepted the occupation by Japan.


The Textbook states gJapanfs initial victories encouraged the peoples of Southeast Asia and India, and instilled in them the hope that they too might achieve independence.  Sweeping Japanese military success in Southeast Asia could not have been accomplished without local assistance.h  gArmies were formed in Indonesia and Burma as well, under Japanese guidance.h (See page 53).  The Textbook explains as if Japan formed Indonesian or Burmese (now Myanmar) armies for Indonesia or Myanmar and not for Japan.

As stated in the above (3), by stating gLeaders of local independence movements cooperated with those military administrationsh, the Textbook explains as if Southeast Asian peoples readily accepted and cooperated with the Japanese occupation.


Then, the Textbook has the following two gRelated Informationh which are added to the present Textbook:

(a)     gJapanese Actions inspire the Peoples of Asiah

gJapanese soldiers drove out the forces of Western Europe, which had colonized the nations of Asia for many years.  They surprised us, because we didnft think we could possibly beat the white man, and they inspired us with confidence.  They awakened us from our long slumber, and convinced us to make the nation of our ancestors our own nation once again.


We cheered the Japanese soldiers as they marched through the Malay Peninsula.  When we saw the defeated British troops fleeting, we felt an excitement we had never experienced before.


(Excerpt from the writings of Raja Dato Nong Chik, leader of the Malaysian independence movement and former member of the Malaysian House of Representatives)h  (See page 54)


(b)     gIndonesians Welcomed Japanese Soldiers as a Liberating Armyh

gAn oral tradition had been handed down in Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony for several hundred years: eSoon people of the yellow race will appear from the north to free us from oppressors.  When the corn ripens, they will depart.  Then we will be free.f


Indonesians were aware that the Japanese Navy had overwhelmed the Baltic Fleet in the Russo-Japanese War.  They came to believe that the eyellow racef in the legend referred to must be the Japanese, and waited patiently for the southward Japanese advance.


When Japanese troops occupied in 1942, having defeated Dutch forces, Indonesians lined the roads and cheered.  Japanese forces were a liberating army to rid them of the Dutch.  During the occupation, which lasted three and a half years, the Japanese trained PETA, a military force, opened middle schools, and established a common language.  The many reforms implemented served as a foundation for future independence.


But when war neared its end and food was scarce, Japanese military police sometimes forced locals to do harsh labor, and were cruel to the local people in other ways as well.  The fact that the Indonesian language contains not only Japanese loanwords like seishin (spirit), but also romusha (laborer) and kenpei (military police) reflects the complex situation of the times.h  (See page 55.)  (Under-lined by us.)



We admit that there was a possibility that initially Southeast Asian (including Malaysian and Indonesian) peoples had welcomed Japanese troops.  However, overall, we do not think that at present, the Southeast Asian peoples consider the Japanese occupation was necessary for their independence nor that Japan had prepared the foundation for their independence.  Instead, we believe almost all Southeast Asian peoples are critical of the Japanese occupation.


The Textbook merely admits that the words romusha (laborer) and kenpei (military police) reflect the complex situation during that period.  The Textbook does not admit that the Indonesian peoples suffered until the war neared its end.  Our view is that the Japanese occupation caused huge sufferings on Indonesian peoples throughout most of its occupation.



(5)   The Textbook denies the nature of the gTotalitarianismh in the Japanese government and army


On pages 44-45, the Textbook states the explanation about gCommunismh and gFascismh being as two totalitarian trends.  In this explanation, both gFascist Partyh and gNazi Partyh are treated as Totalitarianism.  However, there is no mention that the Japanese government especially the Japanese army was controlled by the same totalitarian thought.

In a gRelated Storyh on page 60, the Textbook deliberately explains about gWar Crimesh in the old sense (This foreshadows the following (6) Explanation about the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) tediously and explains that gNazi Germanyh and gthe U.S.S.R. headed by Stalinh as two brands of totalitarianism.  The Textbook states gWe must be mindful that the deaths of the innumerable victims of fascism and communism are attributable not to the wars, but to national crimes.h  (See page 61. Italicized by us.)  The Textbook does not mention the Japanese totalitarianism nature at all.  It is essential that the innumerable victims who had suffered under Japanfs totalitarianism be acknowledged.

We are unable to understand why the Textbook does not admit that Japan (especially Japanese army) was controlled by totalitarianism, although we admit that there were no such influential parties called gFascist Partyh or gNazi Partyh in Japan.  However, there were so many other examples, such as the February 26 Incident, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, National Spiritual Mobilization Movement and the General Mobilization Law, etc. that reflect this thinking.  It seems that the authors of the Textbook do not want to admit the totalitarian nature of the Japanese government and army.



(6) The Textbook explains the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Trials) so as to have doubts about its legitimacy


The Textbook shares one page for the column for the Tokyo Trials and explains as follows:

(a)   The Indian judge Pal who was the only one professional for the international law, insisted that all accused persons were not guilty since the tribunal lacked legality under the international law.

(b)   Regarding the Tokyo Trials, there are those who express doubts on its legitimacy under the international law and those who affirm the tribunal as a positive step towards creating an international law for world peace.  Thus, the estimation of the tribunal has yet to be conclusive.


Note: This portion was not translated in their English translation of the Textbook.  We consider that this omission shows their explanation is too inflammatory for the peoples of Southeastern nations to read.



We also do not consider that there were not any problems with the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (hereafter gthe Tribunalh).  For instance, the Tribunal did not judge on the Asian issue, especially on the issue of the colonial control of Asia, and it exempted war criminals of Corps 731 from their responsibility.


However, there were so many positive aspects in the Tribunal.

During war time, the Allies had already made clear that war criminals were to be punished in order to avoid the re-invasion by Fascist countries.  The Allies decided by the agreement (between U. S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union) in London dated August 8, 1945 that gcriminals against peaceh (A Class), which included planning, preparing and starting the invasion war, and gcriminals against humanityh (Class C) were to be punished as criminals under the international law, in addition to the usual war criminals (B Class).  (Please note that the Potsdam Proclamation which Japan unconditionally accepted on August 14, 1945 stated gThere must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.h  gStern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals.h)

In the Tribunal, many facts such as Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre which were suppressed to Japanese nationals during the war time were made clear.  The above mentioned Judge Palfs opinion was merely one opinion and thus a minority.  We believe the majority opinion should be explained in more detail, since the Textbook explained the Tribunal with only four lines compared with the length of the above (a) and (b).


Afterwards, by the Article 11 of Treaty of Peace with Japan signed by the Japanese government in San Francisco in 1951, gJapan accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan.h  This is still the formal opinion of the Japanese government and the Japanese government does not doubt the legitimacy of the International Military Tribunal at all.

The Textbook does not base itself upon such facts and stresses the negative explanation against the Tribunal.



In addition, there are so many problems regarding explanations about Korea and China in the Textbook, we have chosen the following two points as examples:


(1)   Korea: The annexation of Korea

The Textbook explains gIf you look at a map of East Asia, youfll see ...  The Korea peninsula resembles as an arm jutting out of Asia.h  (Sea page 24.    Italicized by us.)  gIf the Korean Peninsula came under the control of Russia, ... it would serve as the base for an attack on Japan.  As an island nation, Japan would have great difficulty defending itself.h  (See page 25.)  We consider that this expression is not proper for the history textbook, since this expression implies the necessity for Japan to govern Korea.  At the time of approval by the Ministry for the present Textbook four years ago, the gplain cover drafth described the Korea Peninsula as a gmurderous weaponh that was continuously being thrust towards Japan and, unsurprisingly, this explanation was deleted.

On the premise of the above view, as for the annexation of Korea, the Textbook simply states gThe Japanese government decided that it was necessary to annex Korea to protect Japanese security and Japanese interests in Manchuria.h  (See page 31.)  There are no considerations about the legitimacy of gInterests in Manchuriah and gAnnexation of Koreah.  Instead, the Textbook states as if Japanfs action was proper by solely explaining gJapan recognized the Western powersf colonies and spheres of influence: India (Great Britain), Indochina (France), the Philippines (the U.S.) and Outer Mongolia (Russia).  In exchange, they accepted Japanese influence in Korea.h  (See page 31.)


(2)   China: Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre

The Textbook uses the phrase gthe Nanking Incidenth although usually this gIncidenth is referred to as a gmassacreh.  In its notes, the Textbook describes the occupation of Nanking in the following manner: gAt this time, many Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded by Japanese troops (the Nanking Incident).  Documentary evidence has raised doubts about the actual number of victims claimed by the incident.  The debate continues even today.h  (See page 49.)   The Textbook insinuates the possibility that the actual number of victims was actually not as many.



In conclusion, we repeat as follows:

The Textbook makes an argument as if the gPacific Warh or the gAsia Pacific Warh was waged as the war of survival and of self-defense for Japan and also as the war of the liberation for Southeast Asian nations by the Japanese people, who are also of the yellow race, from the colonial control of the white race.  The Textbook ignores or underestimates the damages on Southeast Asian peoples who had suffered under the Japanese occupation.


In fact, the present Textbook is still being used but the present Textbook has not been adopted in most junior high schools.  The rate of its usage is only 0.039 % and its influence is considered minimal.

However, the Governors of Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture have promoted this new Textbook in their respective areas.  Last year, the Board of Education in Tokyo Metropolis adopted the Textbook prepared by gthe Societyh for a newly established metropolitan junior high school in Tokyo.  The Governor of Saitama appointed the former Vice Chairman of gthe Societyh as a member of the Education Committee in order to adopt the new Textbook for Saitama Prefecture.

Therefore, it is very important to oppose the adoption of the Textbook at each and every junior high school.




Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21