Tokyo teacher embattled over war history
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 appears 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 say.
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