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Japanese textbooks aimed at raising public awareness of territorial issues

Publication Date : 30-01-2014


It is a common practice for other countries to include all parts of their territories in school textbooks, according to a senior official at the Foreign Ministry. But Japan has not done so.

In 2008, when then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s administration first brought up the Takeshima issue in the education ministry's revised teaching manuals for its course of study, the South Korean government protested strongly, and refused to attend a foreign ministers’ meeting. The country’s ambassador to Japan temporarily returned to South Korea.

When similar manuals for high school teaching were revised under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration in December 2009, the Takeshima issue was not mentioned. Regarding the Senkaku Islands, the government stated that because there was no sovereignty issue that needed resolution, the islands were not mentioned. Some middle school geography textbooks carry maps showing the islands but do not offer further explanation.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the government last year, only 63 per cent of people were aware that the Takeshima islets are illegally occupied by South Korea, and only 66 per cent were aware that the Senkaku Islands belong to Okinawa Prefecture. This may result in part from the fact that territorial issues have not been clearly described in textbooks, which has led to concerns among lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and other parties.

Both South Korea and China have given detailed explanations about their territories in their textbooks. This has apparently prompted the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to decide to revise the teaching manuals.

Referring to Takeshima islets, South Korea’s social studies textbook for third-year middle school students said, “After Japan realised the value of Dokdo [Takeshima islets in Japanese] as a military strategic point at the time of Russo-Japanese War, it unilaterally incorporated the islets as Japanese territory through a proclamation issued by Shimane Prefecture [in 1905].”

In China’s high school geography textbooks, the Chinese Communist Party asserts that the Senkaku Islands belonged to China as far back as the early Ming dynasty. Meanwhile, a social studies textbook for fifth-year primary school students states, “Taiwan Island is the largest island in China. The Taiwan region includes the Diaoyu Islands [the Senkaku Islands] and other islands.”


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