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Curriculum guidelines to specify Japan’s ‘inherent territory’

The education ministry is planning to clearly state for the first time that the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are an “inherent part of the territory of Japan” in the revised curriculum guidelines for social studies at the elementary and junior high school levels.


Currently, these islands are already described as part of Japanese territory in all social studies textbooks used at these levels. Including the description in the new curriculum guidelines would make it legally binding. By so doing, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is aiming to ensure education on Japanese territory is carried out thoroughly.


The curriculum guidelines carry significant weight in school education as they are standards set by the education ministry to give guidance to elementary, junior high and high schools on what and how to teach. They also serve as guiding principles for compiling textbooks, and are revised every 10 years or so.


A handbook to supplement the curriculum guidelines already instructs junior high schools to treat the Takeshima islands and Senkaku Islands as an “inherent part of the territory of Japan” in social studies. However, the schools were not bound by law on this point.


The new guidelines will be officially announced in spring after hearing public comments. The new guidelines will be applied to elementary schools starting in the 2020 academic year and to junior high schools in 2021.


The new guidelines will clearly state that the northern territories, Takeshima islands and Senkaku Islands should be mentioned during classes and in social studies textbooks for fifth graders and referred to as “inherent parts of the territory of Japan.”


For geography at the junior high school level, in addition to the northern territories, which are already a part of current guidelines, the Takeshima islands and Senkaku Islands will also be specified as inherent parts of Japanese territory. With regard to the Senkaku Islands, the new guidelines will stipulate that there is no territorial dispute over these islands. For civics, the guidelines will stipulate that the Japanese government is striving to reach a peaceful resolution over the northern territories and Takeshima islands.


With regard to curriculum guidelines, the supplementary handbook for junior high school social studies referred to the Takeshima islands for the first time in 2008. This move sparked strong opposition from South Korea, which temporarily withdrew its ambassador to Japan.

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