Japanese Students Carefully Taught Who Owns Those Islands

Any day now teachers in middle and high schools all over Japan will be getting new guidelines on how to inculcate a basic, deep understanding of the territorial limits of Japanese power. The education ministry has drafted the guidelines and is about to distribute them nationwide amid an outcry from the countries geographically closest to Japan, China, South and North Korea and Russia.

Lest impressionable young minds grow up unaware of what’s rightly Japanese, they’re going to learn with extra clarity that Japan is the legitimate ruler not only of the SenkakuIslands in the East China Sea but also of Takeshima in the Sea of Japan as well as the Northern Territories off the large “mainland” Japanese island, Hokkaido.

The Liancourt Rocks, known as Dokdo (or Tokto,...

What’s Dokdo to Korea is Takeshima to Japan (Wikipedia)

Whether they’ll be told that the Chinese refer to the Senkakus as Diaoyu and the Koreans say Takeshima is really Dokdo and the sea around it is the East Sea, not the Sea of Japan, is not clear. And while the Kurils may be the proper name for the islands just above Hokkaido, students will be taught to refer to them as “the northern territories.”

As far as the Japanese are concerned, all these island groupings, whoever really controls them, are just as Japanese as, well, the rest of Japan. More importantly, they symbolize the historic and current struggle for control of Northeast Asia. That’s why the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thinks it’s a good idea that young Japanese grasp their real significance.

As tensions rise around the region, however, the youngsters will probably not learn, at least from classroom exercises and schoolbooks, why all the regional powers near Japan make such a fuss about a directive reinforcing well known Japanese claims.

From a Japanese perspective, an experienced teacher remarked that the new guidelines did not seem all that important or newsworthy. Yes, the teacher was well aware of how the leaders of China, South Korea and Russia got needlessly excited over such trivial matters as textbooks. They were forever criticizing, said the teacher, the Japanese version of World War II when their own accounts were far more biased.

As far as the teacher was concerned, Japanese agree the disputed islands belong to Japan even if South Korea now hold Takeshima and the Russians do not seem likely to loosen the grip they’ve had on the Kurils since entering the war against Japan one week before Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945.

The teacher might not recognize that issuance of strong new guidelines as another milestone in a campaign to make sure of the common purpose and national unity that’s building in Japan. China might call the guidelines “fact-twisting manuals,” and the Chinese and Koreans might lodge protests, but the teacher doubted if Japanese were concerned about such nonsense. Of course, young faculty members might not like being ordered how and what to teach, but the teacher was confident that students would be able to keep open minds and “judge for themselves.”

Differences in attitudes and responses on the latest guidelines from Japan’s powerful education ministry rank among the bitterest of all the controversies that have been roiling Japan’s relations with China, Korea and Russia over the years. While China wages a campaign of rhetoric and intimidation over the Senkakus, South Korea demands that Japan “apologize” for forcing “comfort women” to serve Japanese soldiers in World War II and makes Dokdo a reminder of colonial rule over Korea up to the Japanese surrender.

Headquarters of the LDP in Tokyo.

Headquarters of the LDP in Tokyo. (Wikipedia)

Within Japan, it’s as though the Abe government were preparing Japanese for much more stringent controls than now exercised over a society that remains essentially homogeneous and inward-looking despite seemingly wide political differences. Whether Abe is as rightist as some of his critics believe, he is a conservative nationalist at the head of the Liberal-Democratic Party, the conservative grouping that regained power in 2012 after the failure of the slightly liberal Democratic Party of Japan to force removal of American bases from Okinawa as promised after taking over from the LDP in 2009.

The guidelines from the education ministry are part of a continuum that also includes passage by the parliament of a new law that would crack down on anyone leaking classified information.  The law seems to have been in response to the implications not only of domestic criticism but also of leakage of official secrets that might not really be classified as secret in other countries.

Again, the idea is to make sure that Japanese are unified in their response to China’s strident campaign for the Senkakus, including the alarming claim that China owns the air space over and around the islands. How can you fight the Chinese, some Japanese are asking, if anyone can blurt out what we’re doing?

Tough though such measures might appear, though, Abe may not be as tough as his words imply. He doesn’t seem much inclined actually to go to war – even though he might like to do away with article nine of Japan’s post-war constitution banning Japanese from sending forces overseas.

If nothing else, however, Japan is laying the groundwork for change. The confrontation with China is deepening while Japanese say the Chinese are vastly increasing their military strength and Japan must do the same. Future generations of Japanese, educated to believe in the need to hold and defend Japan’s island frontiers, may want to wage more than a war of words.

Source Article from http://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldkirk/2014/01/31/japanese-students-must-be-carefully-taught-who-owns-all-those-islands/
Japanese Students Carefully Taught Who Owns Those Islands
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Education – Yahoo News Search Results

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