stop whitewashing Japanese war crimes sign now

We petition the Ministry to stop whitewashing Japanese war crimes in its coverage of World War II in its education syllabus.

It has been nearly than 70 years since the Empire of Japan invaded China during the Marco Polo Bridge Incident on July 7, 1937. We bear no grudge against Japan and her citizens solely for what happened in the past, because Japan was under an undemocratic military oligarchy during the Second Sino-Japanese War. But what concerns us is that the war crimes committed during this holocaust that seems to be forgotten in Japan, are not covered in the history textbooks and history syllabuses in the education system of Japan. The Ministry, as we are aware centrally controls the education system, requires that only textbooks it has approved be used, and has rigorous regulation of it. This means that the Ministry has profound influence on any possible education about these issues.

I hope that most in the Ministry are at least familiar with the crimes involved: prominent incidents include the Nanking Massacre, Sook Ching, the medical experiments and of the millions of Chinese civilian lives senselessly lost during the war, and often not merely because of collateral damage. These were not just committed in China, but throughout the occupied territories during World War II, including Singapore, Malaya, Dutch East Indies (now present-day Indonesia) and the Philippines. Most of the people responsible have either been tried or punished for their actions, or are now dead. Now Japan is under a far more democratic government and a modern society which has more rights and liberties than it did before. Yet the government has not offered any form of formal apology, or even recognition for these incidents.
It has however sent monetary compensation for some of these war crimes, but money cannot replace something that is far more important: recognition.

Currently, many Japanese are ignorant of these war crimes because of lack of admission or lack of education surrounding acts committed during occupied territories the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Most textbooks, which as we are aware are regulated by the Ministry, seem to gloss over these acts instead, often which were acts of genocide, democide and ethnic cleansing, as well as a repression of civil liberties. Such a state of affairs should and does outrage the sensibilities of many people, and not merely for the ethnic groups involved. This is perplexing for a highly industrialised, mechanised, and modernised country like Japan.

All of this ignorance is mainly due to the lack of Japanese recognition and admission of the facts and crimes committed during the time in which it occupied territories overseas. Several incidents are brought to mind, one of which is when Japanese exchange students to Singapore only learnt about the incidents during their stay, rather than their home country. They were previously ignorant of it. Such a shock caused them to apologise profusely about learning about the incidents. These young people had no part in the incidents committed, and yet they were willing to apologise for something their government will not even recognise!

We ask that the Ministry do the proper thing and use its ability and role in the Japanese education system to set new standards for syllabuses covering the history of Japan. In its least capacity, it could encourage that the facts be taught in schools and why they should never happen again.

In Germany for instance, its own war crimes committed under the Nazis are covered extensively, and there is a serious backlash against Nazism because of it. The Nazi-instigated Holocaust is recognised by Germany and detested by Germans in every possible way. Most textbooks covering modern history in the United States (which has a slightly more decentralised education system) teaches that its detainment of Japanese in concentration camps was a shameful and horrible episode in its history. Surely, Japan is capable of doing the same.

If teaching requires redesign or addition preparation, as can be understood from the lack of knowledge that has been perpetuated by not recognising these war crimes, then we petition that the Ministry begin plans to implemenent this in its education system.

Doing nothing about this matter will be far worse: it will perpetuate the existing widespread ignorance in Japan, which is supposed to be a modern nation. Already the lack of coverage about this matter in Japan has produced a similar ignorance of it in the Western world. It is a holocaust that should never be forgotten, if it is to never happen again. That is why the Ministry must take action to recognise and educate about the war crimes committed during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.

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Leon BarrettBy:
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the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology


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