Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Ministry of Truth

On June 22, 2007, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously demanded that the Japanese national government retract its recent instruction to “correct” high school textbooks regarding the description of the involvement of the Imperial Japanese Army in the mass civilian suicides during the Battle of Okinawa.

The assembly protested, “It is an undeniable fact that mass suicides could not have occurred without the involvement of the Japanese military,” according to the Japan Times on June 23.

On June 20, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe succeeded in passing three education-related bills. One of the bills, the revised school education law, states that students must be led to a “correct understanding” of the nation’s history.

Taking these reports together, I wonder if the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly can be deemed as violating the new school education law, at least in spirit. The law states that an “attitude of loving the nation” is one of the important education goals, as well as a “correct understanding” of the nation’s history.

By the act of instructing the textbook publishers to “correct” their understandings of the Imperial Japanese Army’s involvement in the mass civilian suicides, the Japanese government claimed, I have to assume, that it holds the authority to decide a “correct understanding” of Japanese history.

One can argue, then, that the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly defied the “correct understanding, ” thus deliberately neglected the “attitude of loving the nation.”

As far as I know, recent comments by the Prime Minster and the Minister of Education were not so apparently oppressive. However, I regard deeds of politicians more important than their words, particularly in Japan, where words are often twisted or empty in politics.

The official English name of the Ministry of Education, Japan is extremely long: the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology. (The government invented a nice-sounding acronym, “MEXT.”)

In one April Fool article on my Japanese homepage some years ago, I once fabricated a false report and stated that due to public complaint that the name was too long to remember, the ministry decided to rename itself The Ministry of Truth.

I hope this April Fool article is still understood as a joke.

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