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Statement against the Advocacy to Change Certain Descriptions in Textbooks in Line with the Government’s Point of View

On April 27th, 2021, the Cabinet presented two statements in response to a Diet member’s query by Cabinet’s decision, which laid out its position as follows; Use of the term ‘military comfort women’ may potentially cause misunderstandings; Using a simpler word ‘comfort women’ is more appropriate; When referring to the people who moved from the Korean Peninsula to Japan, describing them collectively as those ‘who were taken away forcibly,’ ‘taken away by force,’ or ‘taken away,’ is inappropriate; It is appropriate to use the term ‘mobilized’ instead of ‘taken away forcibly’ or ‘taken away.’ Subsequently, regardless of whether or not this perception is correct, in reference to the description such as “military comfort women” and “taken away forcibly” given in schoolbooks, the Government made statements in the Diet deliberation which said that “such expressions will be deemed inappropriate from this point onwards,” and, moreover, suggested a likelihood of its advising textbook publishers to apply for the modification to existing textbooks that have already passed the national textbook examination. Then, in May of the same year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology convened an unscheduled briefing for textbook publishers, in which a detailed timetable to apply for modification was presented, creating circumstances where the publishers inevitably conceived that the Ministry was effectively instructing them to apply for the modifications. Consequently, by October of the same year, seven textbook publishers applied for modification, thereby removing references and modifying expressions to make a total of 41 changes on “military comfort women,” “taken away forcibly,” and so on.

What is believed to have given grounds for this sequence of actions is a provision that was added when the Textbook Examination Standards were amended in April 2014, stating; Where the Government’s uniform point of view has been presented in the form of a Cabinet’s decision or other manners, or a Supreme Court precedent exists, the textbook description shall be in line with such view. In regard to the amendment, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) published an Opinion Paper dated December 19, 2014 (“Opinion Paper Concerning the Revision of Textbook Examination Standards, the Guidelines for the Screening of Textbook Examination Standards, and the Adoption of Textbooks”) calling for the rescission of the amendment, in which it stated; [the amendment] authorizes a current Government to decide description of the content of textbooks in its favor, whereby textbooks will be reduced to something quite similar to de facto national textbooks…[the amendment] may deprive children of opportunities for them to study diverse opinions, see facts from multifaceted perspectives, and develop their own independent judgment, and may potentially pose a danger that children’s growth into a free and independent character may be impeded…[the amendment] constitutes an excessive educational intervention in violation of Article 26 of the Constitution of Japan and cannot be tolerated, since it jeopardizes schoolteachers’ freedom to provide education as well as children’s right to study.

The Cabinet’s decision made at this time and the modification of textbook content implemented by the ensuing series of actions are evidence the original concerns raised by the JFBA in the aforementioned opinion paper have become a reality. If descriptions in textbooks are forced to change because a current Government takes a different view, the situation should be construed as the control of textbook content by a state, which is completely unacceptable from the core principle of the Constitution as outlined above.

The JFBA expresses its grave concern about the series of events from the abovementioned Cabinet decision up through the modification of textbook content and calls to repeal the amended Textbook Examination Standards that have provided grounds for the actions involved.

February 17, 2022
Tadashi Ara
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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