Miyako Masuda is a 23-year veteran of public schools here. Like
many Japanese history teachers of her generation, she dislikes new
textbooks that frame Japan as the victim in World War II. It bothers
her that books claiming America caused the war are now adopted by an
entire city ward. In fact, Masuda disapproves of the whole
nationalist direction of Tokyo public schools.
Yet until last year, Masuda, who calls herself "pretty ordinary,"
rarely went out of her way to disagree. Few teachers do.
But when a Tokyo city councilman in an official meeting said
"Japan never invaded Korea," her history class sent an apology to
Korean President Roh Moo-hyan - an action that sparked her removal
from her classroom.
The war history dispute in Asia is now so front-and-center that
it was cited by South Korea as a reason to avoid an upcoming
December visit to Japan by Mr. Roh. Alongside the diplomatic row,
the Masuda case shows how nationalist policies are creeping into the
minutiae of daily life in Japan's capital city.
Masuda, who says her two sons have Korean friends, got censured
after her class did a study group on Japan's occupation of Korea.
Her social studies class wrote a letter of apology to Roh, and sent
it to the Korean Embassy in Toyko. In a cover letter, Masuda said
that councilman Koga Toshiaki's remarks were "a disgrace" by
objective historical standards, but "regrettably [they] can be
presented proudly as a triumph in the assembly of Tokyo, the capital
of this country."
The class never heard from the Korean consul. But Masuda did hear
from the Tokyo Board of Education. Her letter was discovered by a
Yasukuni shrine support group and they complained to city officials.
Masuda was told that while Mr. Koga did speak in public, it was
"inappropriate" for Masuda to repeat his name in a letter that was
not private, and a violation of city employee codes.
Masuda is now ordered to spend her days in a small room studying
public servant regulations, a serious humiliation she says. She in
turn is trying to fight in court.
Masuda's experience shows the growing power of Japanese
nationalists, and their grass-roots influence in Tokyo, analysts
For example, last month Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi
positioned his ultranationalist protege Shinzo Abe to be his
successor, after Mr. Koizumi steps down in September. Mr. Abe, like
Tokyo's hugely popular Mayor Ishihara, is a fan of the Tsukuru-Kai
history textbooks that seek to restore a proud Japan by rewriting
the past. Mr. Ishihara, for his part, directly appoints all six
Tokyo school board members.
Tokyo schools reflect nationalist views: children pledging
allegiance to the emperor as in the 1930s, school board members
supporting Yasakuni shrine visits, and curriculums failing to
mention Japan's invasion of Korea or China.
Masuda, for her part, insists it is wrong to teach untruths to
students, for any reason.
"I feel it is my job to tell the truth, it is what I spend my
life doing," she told the Monitor. …