VOX POPULI: Textbooks to Embrace the Nikkei

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By JUN KAWASAKI

A year or so after the Sept. 5, 1951 signing of the so-called San Francisco Peace Treaty, a college professor from Japan, curious about higher education in America, visited the University of Portland, Oregon — drawn by a historical quest to the region by American explorers Lewis and Clark. First, the professor was candidly impressed with the wholly engaging atmosphere of the college student body.

While it was to peruse biographical and historical textbooks, to find chronological particulars regarding Japanese army generals and navy admirals, including Gen. Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912) and Adm. Heihachiro Togo (1847-1934), defied the visiting professor’s belief — as both were regarded Japan’s heroes in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). He was reminded of the turnabout and unilateral erasing of such rightful and historically significant names done to Japan’s textbooks.

Also to be apprised of is Kusunoki Masashige (1294?-1336). Kusunoki’s righteous and unselfish loyalty to Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) made him a legendary figure answering to intimidations of ruthless military powers — overwhelmed after a long struggle to end his life. Eventually, with the imperial restoration of 1868, a splendid statue restoring his distinction astride a horse was erected on the open palace grounds in Tokyo.

With Japan surrendering to the Allied forces in World War II, it was anticipated Gen. MacArthur would get rid of Kusunoki’s statue — alleging it to be a symbol of militarism. The Japanese regaled whereat the general rendered a chivalrous sanction to the statue, acclaiming Kusunoki Masashige a paradigm of devotion and unselfish loyalty.

Of late in 1963, Professor Ienaga Saburo, Tokyo University of Education, who had been writing high school Japanese history textbooks, applied for authorization of an edition that included coverage of the facts of Japan’s war of aggression. For what he had submitted, the Ministry of Education asked Ienaga to revise or delete sections that referred to a “reckless war” and the “miserable aspects of war.” It was in the midst of an ongoing struggle by scholars, teachers and citizens against the government’s insular standing or orders.

He refused and the ministry denied approval. In June 1965, Ienaga sued the Japanese government, propounding that it violated the Fundamental Law of Education’s prohibition on state intervention in the content of education — of freedom of academic pursuit, speech, publication and expression and the children to receive an education, all of which are guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Ienaga textbook cases proved to be a major factor seen progressing in Japanese history textbooks. With an “understanding,” candor on education will assuredly secure an infinite promise of pacifism and democracy.

Instead of pleading, it behooves one to be intuitively grateful of living in accord with the universal guidance of: 1) being charitable, 2) prudence, 3) perseverance, 4) diligence, 5) contemplation, and 6) attaining wisdom — all in accord with the Six Paramita tenets of Buddha-dharma. Anjali.

Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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