A history textbook that has outraged many Asians who say it whitewashes Japanese atrocities of the early 20th century hit bookstores Monday.
The publisher said it had decided to release the book to the public now in an effort to ease criticism by letting people read it for themselves.
"We decided it would be best to release the book and let readers decide. We feel we've been criticized unfairly," said Toshiaki Shirasawa of Fusosha, which published "New History Textbook."
Written by a group of Japanese nationalists, the book is among eight approved by the Ministry of Education for use in junior high schools during the academic year that begins next April.
South Korea, China and other Asian countries have sharply criticized the Japanese government for approving the book, which critics say distorts history and glosses over atrocities committed by the Japanese military.
Last month, South Korea demanded 25 specific revisions in the book, along with 10 changes to the seven other approved texts. Beijing also called for changes. Japan says it has no plans to alter the books unless factual errors are found.
Only one of the eight books mentions the Japanese army's enslavement of tens of thousands of Asian women in soldiers' brothels. None mentions the scale of the Nanjing massacre. Historians generally agree that the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians during the 1937-38 occupation of the Chinese city then known as Nanking.