A group of Japanese are taking legal action over a history textbook that whitewashes Japan's wartime aggression and has angered Asian neighbours, demanding yesterday that a local government cancel its adoption of the text.
Japan's Education Ministry approved the new edition of "The New History Textbook," written by reactionary scholars, last April, prompting outrage in China and South Korea, where bitter memories persist of Japan's wartime aggression.
The lawsuit was filed by eight residents of Suginami, a residential district in western Tokyo that attracted media attention last year when it became one of the few school districts to adopt the junior high school textbook.
"As a resident, I can't keep silent over the choice of an unwanted textbook for growing children," Eriko Maruhama, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told a news conference.
Besides a cancellation of the decision to use the text at 23 junior high schools in Suginami starting this April, the plaintiffs want a symbolic 8,000 yen (US$68) in total damage.
A similar textbook lawsuit was filed in December by around 1,000 plaintiffs, including Chinese and South Koreans, against the governor of Ehime in western Japan for adopting the textbook for use at four government-run schools from April.
Plaintiffs in the latest suit say the defendant, the Suginami local government, adopted the textbook even though school teachers gave it low marks compared to other textbooks.
The Suginami school board said it had yet to see the lawsuit but had arrived at its decision appropriately.
"The textbook adoption was conducted properly based on laws and ordinances," the board said in a statement.
The textbook plays down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China and ignores the sexual enslavement of women for Japanese soldiers.
The book's authors and supporters have argued that the text's approach corrected a "masochistic" view of history which they said had deprived Japanese of pride and patriotism.
Fewer than 0.5 per cent of 583 school districts had decided to adopt the text, the daily Mainichi Shimbun said last August. But the number was still up slightly from 2001 when an earlier version of the book was approved by the Education Ministry.