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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Controversial Japan textbook a best-seller
Japanese soldier in Nanjing
The book claims the Rape of Nanjing was "not a holocaust"
A controversial Japanese school textbook accused of glossing over wartime atrocities has been selling fast since it hit Tokyo bookstores a few days ago.

Man looking at the textbook
Bookstore officials say strong publicity has boosted sales
The book quickly topped the best-seller list at Kinokuniya, a major nationwide bookseller whose 50 stores have sold about 6,000 copies since last week.

At one Tokyo branch alone, some 1,300 copies of the book have been sold. It was written for children aged 13 to 15.

The textbook - which has caused an international row with Japan's neighbours and strained diplomatic ties - was released in Tokyo on Friday and nationwide on Monday.

But the Education Ministry has voiced concern about the strong sales, fearing this could unduly influence many local education boards who have not yet decided which textbooks to use in their schools.

South Koreans protesters burn a Japanese flag
The issue has stirred up bitter memories in South Korea
A ministry official quoted by Reuters news agency said the ministry had asked publishers Fuso-sha to "wait until after 15 August, the final deadline for school boards to make their decision".

The publishers of the New History Textbook said they decided on its release to allow the public to make their own judgements.

"We decided it would be best to release the book and let readers decide. We feel we've been criticized unfairly," said Toshiaki Shirasawa of Fuso-sha.

Protests

Both China and South Korea have made a number of official protests to Japan over the issue in the last two months.

Thorny textbook issues
Dismisses Nanjing massacre as "nothing like a holocaust"
Describes invasion of Korea as an annexation "necessary for Japan's security"
Claims Japanese rule prepared Asian nations for independence from European colonial masters

They have called for revisions to be made to the text, but this has been ruled out by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

A foreign ministry official has said three North Korean officials wanting to join a weekend rally in Tokyo to protest against the book have applied for entry visas.

Four South Korean politicians have also applied to a Tokyo court for an injunction banning the sale and production of the textbooks.

Protesters burn a Japanese flag in South Korea
Protesters burn a Japanese flag
Critics contend the text glorifies Japanese colonial rule in north-east China, glosses over the issue of sex slaves and attacks sentences passed against Japanese war criminals.

The book was written by a group of nationalistic historians who claim that existing texts go too far to accommodate the views of Japan's former adversaries.

They argued that wartime rule from Tokyo benefited south-east Asian countries by preparing them for independence.

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See also:

17 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
China protests over history book
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Court battle over Japan school books
09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan and South Korea's troubled relations
05 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese history gets rewrite
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan stands firm on history book
03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan textbook angers neighbours
31 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Attack on Japan ministry website
29 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan overturns sex slave ruling
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