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Educators Say Lawmakers Hiding Japan’s Wartime Past

October 5, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ A story that refers to cruel conduct by a Japanese soldier during World War II was pulled from a high school textbook and replaced with an excerpt from ″My Fair Lady″ after politicians protested to the publisher.

Sanseido Co., the publisher of the English textbook, decided to replace the story after members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party complained that it was inappropriate.

But the change has led to renewed charges that political and government influence is being used to gloss over textbook accounts of Japanese atrocities during World War II.

The five-page lesson titled ″War″ in Sanseido’s ″First English Series II″ begins with a conversation among Southeast Asians.

‴Which nation is the most cruel?′ ‘The Germans.’ ’No. No. The Japanese,‴ the lesson says.

The lesson then tells a story about a Japanese soldier in Malaysia who grabbed a baby from its mother and ″threw the baby up into the air and ran his sword through it. The baby died on the spot.″

The lesson goes on to say, ″War makes people cruel. So we cannot say one nation is more cruel than another.″

It also mentions the case of Siamese twins from Vietnam, Duc and Viet, whose deformity may have been caused by the defoliant Agent Orange used by the U.S. military in Vietnam.

″These stories are sad, but sometimes we have to face uncomfortable things to make our life better,″ the lesson said.

Fukuo Ishinabe, director of Sanseido’s school textbook department, said the story was aimed at promoting understanding for international peace.

But he said the company agreed to replace the story with an excerpt from ″My Fair Lady,″ the popular musical, because ″any material that causes misunderstanding is not good.″

Liberal Democratic Party politicians claimed the story exaggerated Japanese soldiers’ cruelty during World War II and lacked historic and scientific background.

″We thought no teacher should use such a textbook as this,″ said Iwao Kudo of the Education Division of the party’s Policy Research Council.

The 120-page textbook was approved by Education Ministry examiners in July. All textbooks used in Japanese schools must be approved by the ministry, which often demands changes.

Other Asian nations have in recent years protested many of those changes, including changing Japan’s ″invasion″ of mainland Asia to ″advance″ and the toned-down description of the Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese soldiers killed or raped up to 300,000 Chinese.

History texts also fail to mention Japan’s biological experiments on war prisoners in Manchuria. Next year for the first time, one of the 18 approved high school history texts will include Japan’s chemical warfare activities during the war, the ministry’s textbook division said.

Publishers cannot be forced to make changes once a textbook is approved, except to correct errors, but Sanseido agreed to replace its war story, said Hiroyasu Hasegawa of the ministry’s textbook division.

Shoju Oba, an official of the Japan Teacher’s Union, criticized the deletion.

″Authors should be able to publish textbooks with their own choice of materials free of government inspection in the first place,″ he said. ″In this respect, the LDP’s claim and the decision of the ministry and the publisher could lead to something very dangerous.″

Mitsu Kaneko, a Japan Socialist Party member of parliament, called on the Education Ministry to restore the story to the text.

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