The government has relocated the National Museum of Territory and Sovereignty, greatly expanding the content of its displays. It is important to use objective data to demonstrate the rightfulness of what Japan has been asserting.
The new museum, which opened in a private building in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, has an area seven times larger than the previous one. In addition to data on the Takeshima islands of Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, its displays about the northern territories have also been considerably expanded.
Exhibiting furniture and table utensils donated by Japanese former residents of the northern islands, the museum describes how the islanders used to live there. Brand-new video displays make it possible for visitors to look back at the history of Japan-Russia negotiations on the northern territories.
Regarding the Takeshima islands, materials showing facts, including one that Japanese people had hunted sea lions there since the Edo period (1603-1867), are collected.
As for the Senkaku Islands, which Japan has continued to effectively control, there is a letter on display in which China, before World War II, recognized the islands as Japan’s territory.
The Takeshima islands and the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory, historically and under international law. The government should have the museum function as a base to transmit relevant information abroad and to raise public awareness concerning these islands at home.
The museum is staffed with specialists who can explain the materials on display. It is hoped that the museum will be used as a place to visit as part of a school excursion, for instance. For the convenience of foreign visitors, the museum has been equipped with tablets showing relevant information in English. It is desirable that explanations in foreign languages be expanded further.
In a survey conducted last year by the Cabinet Office, the percentage of respondents who were “interested in” the Takeshima islands stood only in the 60 percent range, as did the figure for those “interested in” the Senkaku Islands. However, this was an increase from the 2017 survey.
With nearly 7,000 islands and islets, Japan is one of the leading maritime nations in the world. It is crucial to impart accurate knowledge of the historical circumstances and present state of affairs regarding Japan’s territorial land and waters to as many Japanese people as possible.
The government has to expand education on its territory at schools. Stepping up the sharing of relevant information on the internet is also suggested.
Also needed is cooperating with related local governments to advance research and collection of materials on the local industries and natural resources of these territories.
Symposiums and social gatherings should be held to broaden exchanges with overseas researchers. The translation of academic papers concerning Japan’s islands into foreign languages should also be promoted. By increasing the number of people who are knowledgeable about Japan in other countries, understanding about Japan will be deepened.
South Korea, which asserts sovereignty over the Takeshima islands, has lodged a protest, calling for the museum to be closed.
Japan established sovereignty over the Takeshima islands in the mid-17th century. After the war, South Korea approached the United States to have Japan abandon the islands, but was rejected. Later, the country unilaterally established the Syngman Rhee Line, and has occupied the islands illegally ever since.
It is vital for the Japanese government to make a counterargument every time South Korea makes such an unjustifiable assertion.
— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 22, 2020.