Junior High School History Textbooks: 
Whither "Comfort Women" and the "Nanking Massacre"?
TAWARA Yoshifumi, Secretary General, The National Network of Concerned Citizens on Textbooks and Children.
    Uploaded on 1 March 2001.

[Editor's Note]

School textbooks in Japan require the approval of the Ministry of Education to be used in public schools. This approval can only be gained by publishers submitting the text for screening by an anonymous panel appointed by the Ministry every four years. Without this approval, textbooks will not be adopted by both public and private schools, with devastating consequences for the financial health of the publishing company. Over the years, the Ministry has been accused of censoring the texts, especially in terms of the content related to Japan's war of aggression in Asia. This article illustrates the way the Ministry is playing a part in whitewhashing Japanese history in regard to the so-called 'comfort women' ('sex slaves') used by the Japanese military, the Nanking massacre, and other issues of particular concern to Japan's neighbors.

This time, a draft of the junior high history textbook was submitted by a right-wing nationalist group of historians (Association for Creating New Textbooks), with a view to defending Japan's aggression and colonial domination committed in the first half of the twentieth century. On February 21, 2001, the Asahi Shimbun reported that the Japanese government would not exert influence over the screening panel to disapprove the text, and this caused strong negative reactions at home and abroad, especially in the two Koreas and China. 



Currently, the Ministry of Education is carrying out the screening of junior high school history textbooks to be used in the new curriculum starting in April 2002. During the screening process, ministry officials notify the publishers of points of concern, and the publishers then carry out modification of the text based on these comments. The second screening results (pass/fail) will be revealed to the publishers between February and March of 2001. Reportedly, while the number of publishers producing junior high school history textbooks has increased to eight due to the entry of the right-wing The Association for Creating New History Textbooks ("Tsukuru Kai") into the industry, many out of the seven present history textbook publishers which have submitted the manuscripts to the ministry's screening panel have cut back considerably in terms of the content on modern history.


The Deletion of References to "Comfort Women"

Here are some specific examples of particular importance in regard to what was deleted and modified in the submitted manuscripts. It is illustrative of how the screening process works.

 (1) Statements on the "comfort women" have been reduced from 7 to 3 publishers. (If the textbook produced by the new "Tsukuru Kai" is included , 3 out of 8 publishers have not taken up "comfort women" issues.) Moreover, even amongst those publishers that have kept the "comfort women" issue, only two have duly dealt with it in the section on the Sino-Japanese War since 1931 and the Asia-Pacific War; the other publisher has dealt with it only as a footnote on war reparations.

Publisher A stands out as an exception as it has replaced the statement in the present textbook that the Japanese government "forced women into the military as comfort women and treated them terribly" with a new passage that "In Korea and elsewhere in Asia, young women were forcefully rounded up, and were sent to the battle field as comfort women for Japanese soldiers". Further, in the section dealing with the postwar settlement, it has added the statement, "Former comfort women and victims of the Nanking Incident, pressing the Japanese government for apology and compensation, are filing suits one after another," Such a statement makes this company the only publisher with improvement in its textbook.

Publisher B includes the statement, "In the inhumane 'comfort facilities, not only Japanese women, but also Korean and Taiwanese women, were present"; publisher C states, "Reparation issues of those people who were sent to the comfort facilities during the war have been brought before the court." Publisher A is the only publisher that used the term "comfort women"; the others have put "comfort facilities." Publishers B and C, though they have kept the statements on the issue in their textbooks, have skirted it in terms of content. Incidentally, the four publishers that have deleted the issue together hold over an 80% share in the textbook market.

(2) Major problems can be seen in the statements relating to the Nanking Massacre as well. First of all, two out of four publishers that had used the title "Nanking Massacre" have changed it to "Nanking Incident." Three publishers had used the term "massacre", but all have been changed to "murder" or "killed." Further, six publishers stated in the present textbooks that the number of victims was, "approximately 200,000 including women and children." One publisher added the statement, "The number of victims is asserted in China as over 300,000." Only two publishers, however, have kept the specific numbers; others have modified them to such terms as "massively" or "in great numbers." Publisher D has not only changed "some hundred thousand" to "many," but also went out of the way to place a footnote which states, "There is no proven number of victims." In the case of publisher B, which has kept the number of victims, the description has been modified to one that sounds ambiguous: "The number of deaths has been estimated as some ten thousand, hundred-some thousand, or even over 300,000." Publisher A is the only publisher that has moved the number of victims from the footnote to the actual passage, stating properly, "prisoners and civilians that are said to be 200,000 in number were murdered, and there was endless physical abuse and rape."

(3) Until this screening, five publishers had included statements on the triple operation of " burn down, exterminate , and strip the land"--the triple scorched-earth policy that was carried out by the Japanese military against the anti-Japanese stronghold in China; however, Publisher A remains the only one that has kept the statement. Further, one publisher (Publisher E) that had mentioned Unit 731, the unit of the Japanese military involved in carrying out medical experiments on live prisoners in China, has deleted the passage this time around.

(4) The statement on the battle of Okinawa has been toned down as well. Publisher F, which had included a 10 line passage with the theme of "Okinawa as a battlefield," now deals with it in two and a half lines under the theme "Japanese surrender." Therefore, the passages on the number of Okinawan casualties and on the slaughter of Okinawans by the Japanese military, for the alleged fear that Okinawans who had been discriminated against by the mainland Japanese would collaborate with the enemy, mentioned in the current textbook, have been deleted. Further, there are four publishers that have reduced the number of passages from 2 pages to 1 page, 7 lines to 5 lines, 7 lines to 4 lines, etc. Among them, there is one other publisher (Publisher D) that has deleted the statements on the slaughter of Okinawans by the Japanese military and the coercion of the people into mass suicide.

(5) The term "invasion" or "aggression" committed by Japan has been intentionally changed to "advancement" and other such terms. Publisher G has first of all done away with the term "invasion" in all of the titles, such as those in chapter headings. For instance, "The World of the Imperialist Powers and the Japanese Invasion of Asia," has been changed to "Sino-Japanese , Russo-Japanese Wars and the Situation in Asia"; "The Imperialists' Invasion of China," to "The Partition of China by the Imperialist Powers"; "The Full-Scale Invasion of China and Wartime System, " to "The Expansion of Sino-Japanese War and the Life of Japanese People"; and "Japan's Invasion of Southeast Asia and the Pacific War" to "The War in Asia and the Pacific." As can be seen from the deletion of the sentence "Japan intensified its invasion of Korea," or the modification of the phrase "invasion of China" to "advance into China," the term "invasion" has either been virtually deleted or replaced with a different word, even in the actual passages. Modifications such as these are common among a few other publishers. The reality of colonial rule is portrayed ambiguously and statements regarding the damages inflicted in Asia have been deleted.