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Editorial: Textbook screening should lead to deeper understanding with sights on national defense

The results of the screening of high school textbooks have been released. Based on the new official guidelines for school teaching released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, geography and other textbooks are required to clearly state that the Northern Territories, Takeshima, and Senkaku Islands are Japan’s “inherent territories.” The fact that this has not been done until now is actually the problem. We want the new textbooks to lead to students’ deeper understanding of Japan’s land and history.


This time, the screening focused on textbooks to be used primarily by second-year high school students from next spring. In addition to the new subject “Advanced Geography,” textbooks for “Politics and Economy” and other textbooks clearly state that the Northern Territories and other areas are [Japan’s] “inherent territories.”


We cannot celebrate the fact that more accurate language is now used to describe the territories, however. Although the term “inherent territory” has gradually come to be employed in elementary, junior high, and high school textbooks, the Japanese government has long been reluctant to do so, fearing a backlash from Russia, South Korea, and China. It is a matter of course, however, for a nation to teach accurate information about its own territory. There is absolutely no need to worry about displeasing other countries.


Only a few textbooks clearly state that the Northern Territories and Takeshima are illegally occupied. We want school teachers to instruct students about Japan’s territory in an easy-to-understand manner, including the fact that these islands have been consistently considered Japan’s territory throughout history.


In history textbooks, inappropriate terms such as “kyosei renko” in Japanese [forcibly brought (to Japan)] was used to describe the mobilization of laborers from the Korean Peninsula. This was corrected in the latest screening in response to a Cabinet decision made last year, but there remains some problematic language, such as the use of the word “forced.”


The terms “jugun ianfu” in Japanese [military comfort women] and “Nippon-gun ianfu” [Japanese military comfort women] were also revised in light of the Cabinet decision. However, these terms remain in textbooks in the form of a quotation from the 1993 statement by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei. We want to call again for the removal of the Kono Statement, which ignores historical facts and leaves a lasting problem in education.


The textbook screening also corrected an unsubstantiated statement that there were “more than 300,000” victims in the Nanjing Incident. We must not fall for Chinese propaganda. We would like to point out once again that textbooks are not a tool for authors to present their own self-serving theories.


Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not included in the new editions of the textbooks, it will be included in the future and covered in the classroom.


Many Japanese teachers were brought up during the self-deprecating postwar education system and are ill-informed about the land and history that our predecessors have built and protected. How can they teach about the current situation in Ukraine, where people are risking their lives to protect their country? We want teachers to learn themselves first.

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