Looking at “Tsukuru-kai”

It looks like Japan-China tensions just might become a dominant theme of 2005. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse after Foreign Minister Machimura returned to Japan empty-handed, a Tokyo court rejected claims for compensation of Chinese victims of Japan’s chemical warfare in WW2. Although China has offered to pay for damage to the Japanese embassy caused by hands-off approach to security, it has no plans to let up pressure on Japan to give as-yet unspecified concessions. While there was a message on Chinese TV calling on Chinese not to take part in “illegal” demonstrations, there’s no guarantee that China won’t authorize a new round of legal protests.

On the Japanese side, Machimura’s visit has been described as Japan’s “last card” and the government wants the textbook issue to be seen as a domestic problem, off limits to negotiation. Here’s how I see it: China and Japan are not foolish enough to let this affect their economic relationship, let alone place sanctions each other or God forbid fire on each other (Of course I could be wrong, the CCP is unpredictable and I know very little about it — comments welcome). China simply sees the run-up to the September vote on UNSC expansion as perhaps the weakest point in postwar Japanese diplomatic history. Japan will likely the support of 90 Why miss the opportunity to shake a few concessions out of Japan while you’ve got them by the balls? And of course it is very much in Japan’s interest to make a compromise because a permanent UNSC seat will give Japan a much stronger diplomatic position in the future. (Although with the new developments it looks like many nations want to stall for time, citing contempt for “artificial deadlines”).

But enough about that — I’m here to talk about the current sticking point in Japan-China relations, the 新しい歴史教科書を作る会 (the “Make new history textbooks association”, or “Tsukurukai” for short). These are the people making the offending textbooks (Published by Fusosha) that have caused thousands in China to protest and some people in Korea to cut their fingers off. Their tenets:

1. Assert — renew Japan’s history textbook to give an appreciation for Japan’s traditions and history to the children.

2. Fight “masochism” — Don’t let outside countries influence our textbook inspection system (citing the first instance of such, in 1986 as being the result of “misreporting”), get rid of “foreign pressure” and make textbooks for JAPAN, not other countries.

3. Action — call for public support to “fix” an unjust history such as the uncritical acceptance of the idea that the comfort women were forced into service. On a side note, much of action they take to gain support is actually pressure on those who disagree with them. The recent lawsuit against a Chiba library that refused to accept the textbooks brought by the Tsukurukai is just one example of this. Another is the pulling of a manga depicting the Nanjing Massacre.

4. Passing inspection — Making the necessary changes to get the textbooks approved for use in classrooms. The site, from 2001, says that it will make the necessary changes to help “achieve a balance in the quality of Japan’s self-image”. Again, the Tsukurukai places a huge amount of pressure on the inspectors, which I cannot document presently but would like to.

5. Implementation — Get the textbooks used. It’s been noted that they haven’t been too successful in this regard, but as other have commented it has had an effect as well.

6.Agreement — This is, I believe, the main goal of this Association. That is, make enough noise to create a “fair and balanced” textbook industry. No textbooks refer to a Nanjing “Massacre” but instead a Nanjing “Incident”, which is a pretty clear-cut win for Tsukurukai.

A lot of people (especially the protesters in China and Korea) are saying: why the hell doesn’t Japan change its textbooks? Japan’s government does guarantee free speech, so it is somewhat defensible for them to avoid stepping in themselves. However, there is a recent precedent for holding people accountable for causing “meiwaku” (a nuisance) to the Japanese government because of stupid things they were doing — the Iraqi hostages. There was even talk by one government official (Koizumi, I think) of making them pay for their own ride home, a sentiment shared by probably a majority of people.

But where is the popular movement condemning the bothersome actions of Tsukurukai? Aside from the obvious bullying and pressure that would come from reproaching the rightists, one of the reasons I don’t expect to see many cries of ‘meiwaku’ is the way the issue is being formed as a ‘domestic’ issue that Japan should be defensive about. Japan is asking CHINA to apologize (although Koizumi said he’d stop that at the summit next week) not the publishers.

I hate to say it, but the fact that the govt and media are giving the rightists a free pass on this one might have something to do with the fact that their ideas resonate with a large part of the government and the people themselves. Criticism by the Chinese only seems to back up
the validity of the textbooks’ claims. And as much sense as it makes to compare this to the Iraq hostage situation, sentiments like that are strictly a one way street — when some leftist wackos embarrass the govt (Iraq) they are stupid, when some rightist wackos stand up for Japan, they’re all but heroes.