- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

TOKYO When Japan approved revisionist history textbooks this year, it enraged China and South Korea, which complained they papered over Tokyo's wartime atrocities. Now it appears the books may never reach classrooms.
A school district in northeastern Japan voted this week to bar the most widely criticized edition, and none of the 100 or so districts to have made their textbook choices for next year have chosen the books.
The trouble the books are having getting into students' hands has infuriated their nationalist authors, who claim they are the victims of a pressure campaign by opponents.
But the results so far have cheered the books' critics.
"Many Japanese citizens, unlike our government, are still conscientious enough to find the book undesirable," said Yoshifumi Tawara, who heads the civic group Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21. "I hope the message reaches our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world."
Most of the controversy in Asia surrounds a book titled "New History Textbook," a junior high book written by a group of nationalist authors who claim students learn too much about Japanese wartime atrocities and not enough about pride in their country.
The text was one of eight history books the government approved earlier this year. Japan's government does not write textbooks, but it screens books for use in public schools.
The "New History Textbook" has angered many Asian countries, particularly China and South Korea, for softening or deleting major events in Tokyo's bloody conquest of much of East and Southeast Asia in the first half of the 20th century.
For example, the book does not mention allegations of germ warfare by Japan in China, there is no section on the 200,000 women forced to work as prostitutes for Imperial troops and no death toll for the 1937 "Rape of Nanking," when Japanese invaders killed at least 100,000 people.
Earlier this month, the authors and the publisher made minor revisions, but the Japanese government has rejected demands for more changes, arguing that it cannot impose changes in historical "interpretation."
That stance has caused the most ruckus in South Korea, where many still harbor bitterness over Japan's 1910-45 colonization. Seoul froze all military exchanges with Japan and canceled plans to further open its market to Japanese music, cartoons and video games.
In Japan, however, the book has been a hit. Attempting to gain public support for the book, publisher Fusosha made the unusual move of marketing it soon after the approval. Fusosha says it has sold 515,000 copies to bookstores since early June.
But as the Aug. 15 book selection deadline for the academic year beginning next April approaches, local school authorities are voicing concerns about the book and its impact on Japan's relations with its neighbors.
The Tochigi Prefecture district education council, north of Tokyo, voted against it Wednesday, reversing an earlier decision to support the text, council official Kunio Arai said.
The official said the earlier approval of the book "faced growing protests from the cities and the villages in the district," which consists of 30 public junior high schools.
About one-quarter of Japan's 542 public school districts have made their picks for the new academic year beginning April, 1, 2002, and none has chosen the book, the text's opponents say.
Fusosha said the prospects for actual use in the classroom were slim.

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