May 13, 2013 – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto Defends Forced Prostitution During WWII

On this day in history, the mayor of the Japanese city of Osaka found himself in hot water after opining that the forcing of women into wartime brothels for the Japanese Army during World War II was “necessary” to help alleviate stress for soldiers at war.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto

While acknowledging that some 200,000 women, rounded up from across Asia, had been acting “against their will,” he brought up the hazardous circumstances soldiers face, saying “If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that.”

…Except maybe the women….

Most of the so-called comfort women were Koreans who were taken from the Korean Peninsula during Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. Other comfort women included Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipinos, Indonesians and Dutch. A majority of them were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers at front-line brothels across Asia.

A former South Korean comfort woman reacts with other victims near the statue symbolizing a wartime sex slave during their 1,000th weekly rally to demand an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Dec. 14, 2011. (AP file photo)

A former South Korean comfort woman reacts with other victims near the statue symbolizing a wartime sex slave during their 1,000th weekly rally to demand an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Dec. 14, 2011. (AP file photo)

Hashimoto, a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, exacerbated the controversy by adding that he had suggested to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa earlier in that same month that U.S. servicemen should use legal services in Japan’s sex industry to release their sexual energy.

On May 14, 2013, responding to criticism, Hashimoto dug himself in deeper, issuing tweets that said (a) it has not been proven the women were “forced” into prostitution, and (b) managing soldiers’ sex drive is a “high-priority issue of the military of any country in any age.”

Hashimoto spoke before press at the Osaka city hall i on May 24, 2013, allowing that “My choice of words was inappropriate."

Hashimoto spoke before press at the Osaka city hall i on May 24, 2013, allowing that “My choice of words was inappropriate.”

However, Hashimoto is wrong that there is no proof (not even counting the testimony of survivors). A number of regulations have been found written by the Imperial Japanese Army pertaining to the comfort women system. According to Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Professor of Japanese History, official military documents exist substantiating the creation and regulation of comfort stations. Rules promulgated by the Imperial Japanese Army denied the women the freedom to leave the stations. Moreover, if they refused to have sex with troops, the soldiers or brothel operators could employ violence against them.

As The New York Times reported in its story on Yoshimi’s work:

John W. Dower, a historian of Japan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Mr. Yoshimi’s “extremely impressive” work has “clarified the historical record in ways that people like Prime Minister Abe and those who support him refuse to acknowledge.”

The current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is one of those who keeps asserting “there was no evidence showing the military’s role in forcing women into sexual slavery.” In October, 2016 Abe confirmed that “the government ‘is not at all considering’ issuing apology letters to Korean women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military, citing the deal cut between Tokyo and Seoul late last year aimed at irrevocably settling the issue.” Nevertheless, as agreed in that deal, South Korea set up a foundation, into which Japan has deposited ¥1 billion, to care for the surviving “comfort women” and their families. One imagines Abe got no disapproval from President Trump on his stance.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Oct 2016

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