The New History of Japan (textbook)

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Date: 1993

Region: Asia

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Professor Saburo Ienega

Confronting Bodies: Ministry of Education

Dates of Action: March 16, 1993

Location: Japan

Description of Artwork: Professor Saburo Ienega 's The New History of Japan, a textbook commissioned for Japanese high schools, which included information on Japan's World War II atrocities including"...the rape of Nanking, germ warfare experiments on prisoners of war and the conscription of Korean and Chinese women "as comfort girls". (see Greenfield, The Nation, 'War and Amnesia,' December 16, 1991)

The Incident: "Ienega's textbook, The New History of Japan, was originally commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Upon review of the completed manuscript however, the ministry demanded that Ienega delete all sections on wartime atrocities. Ienaga refused and filed suit, claiming that the ministry's review procedure violated his constitutional right to freedom of expression and denied students freedom of education. As the case wended its way through Japan's Byzantine court system over the next twenty-eight years, the central question evolved from whether it is proper to to teach Japanese children about what happened during WWII whether the Education Ministry can legally censor textbooks."

Results of Incident: On March 16, 1992 Japan's Supreme Court ruled to uphold the censorship decision, furthermore the court maintained that "the government has the right to to decide educational content." "Since Japanese high-schools all use the same textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education, the Supreme Court's ruling insures that the 'official censored version is the only one students will study in school.'"

Source: Karl Taro Greenfield, The Nation, "Erasing History", 4/19/93, Pg. 508-509