16 MAY 1992, Page 25

Young people today

Sir: Your correspondent Martyn Harris (Arts, 2 May) condemns the 'shocking level of ignorance of young Japanese people' about the activities of the Japanese Army in the second world war. He blames the 'organised mendacity' of the Japanese edu- cational authorities in the presentation in textbooks of their country's recent past.

I was at school in England in the Fifties and Sixties. During my schooldays I was never shown any English textbook that sug- gested the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might be seen as a war crime. It was not suggested that the mass bombing of Dres- den was an atrocity. Moreover, the presen- tation of Britain's imperialist and colonial- ist past was almost entirely in heroic terms. We did not study events such as the Opium Wars. Would Mr Harris also condemn British educational authorities for their 'organised mendacity'?

Japanese textbooks may not be as Mr Harris would like them, but those who work in the education system in Japan do remind schoolchildren frequently of the horrors of modern warfare. In my experience young Japanese people are far more likely to be anti-militarist than their British equiva- lents. This is not something to be despised.

George Hughes

Koto Musashino 103, Nakamachi 3-16-13, Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180