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Hashimoto sticks to guns on sex slaves

Wartime forced prostitution was necessary at the time, he says

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto refused Wednesday to back down from his comments about the necessity of the “comfort woman” system during the war or the desirability of legal brothels in Okinawa for U.S. military personnel.

Hashimoto’s views, originally aired Monday, have created a firestorm in and out of Japan, with ruling and opposition party politicians rushing to distance themselves from him and concern within Nippon Ishin that the controversy will spark a backlash in this summer’s Upper House election, assuming the party is still intact when it takes place.

Speaking to reporters in Osaka shortly after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an Upper House committee that Hashimoto’s position on the issue of wartime sex slaves is different from that of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Osaka mayor said the comfort women issue was settled in a 1965 treaty with South Korea.

He repeated earlier statements in which he said the women underwent much pain and suffering and that Japan needed to reflect on what it did. But he said his comment that the system was necessary needs to be understood within the context of the times.

“I did not say that the comfort women system was necessary today. If the Second World War were to occur now, (a similar system) probably wouldn’t be enacted, and nobody would approve of the kind of comfort women system Japan had back then,” he said.

Hashimoto added that because other countries have also provided prostitutes to soldiers during wartime, he can’t understand why the world is singling out Japan, while also maintaining that he isn’t saying the comfort woman system was a good thing.

“During the Korean and Vietnam wars, local women were recruited by the U.S. as prostitutes for the military, although official U.S. policy was that the women and men were acting on their own,” Hashimoto said.

On his advice to American officials in Okinawa earlier this month that U.S. military personnel should make more use of sex establishments as a way of controlling their sexual urges, Hashimoto said he did not tell the U.S. that it should use such facilities, or to build such facilities, noting it was only a suggestion.

He added that if such facilities were built and the U.S. agreed to use them, the current Status of Forces of Agreement would have to be revised so Okinawa police would have more authority to detain U.S. personnel suspected of crimes in such establishments.

Hashimoto plans to visit San Francisco and New York next month, although given the controversy his remarks have generated in the U.S., he joked that he might not be allowed to pass through immigration.

“As long as my visa request isn’t denied, I plan to go to America,” he said.

Hashimoto also explained his stance in a meeting with Junko Tsuji, the Osaka Municipal Assembly head. Tsuji warned him that as a politician he is free to say what he wants, but as mayor of Osaka his remarks were widely reported.

  • frankyburns

    Maybe the US visa people can find a reason to deny or at least delay his visa. Maybe put it on the wrong stack for awhile, long enough for him to miss his trip next month. Plenty of people wait more than a month for visas — why not this jerk?

    • Bradley Fried

      No no, let him come. He will receive a “warm” welcome by protestors wherever he goes.

      • $35222035

        Agreed. He should be allowed to visit the U.S., where he will hopefully be given the opportunity to resign his position in the same manner that Nagasaki Mayor Ito did…

    • Ron NJ

      Japan is a member of the visa waiver program, to say nothing of the fact that if the US just starts randomly denying or “losing” applications for visas for political dissidents or those with unfavorable views… do I really need to go down that road and draw parallels with certain Eastern Bloc governments?

      Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right held by all people – not just citizens. He is neither communicating threats, inciting people to violence, nor espousing dangerous action, so let him be along on his way, despicable though he is.

    • http://twitter.com/midnightbrewer Cailean Babcock

      Japanese don’t need visas to visit the US.

  • leaf

    “If the Second World War were to occur now [...] nobody would approve of the kind of comfort women system Japan had back then” and yet he “suggested” that U.S. military take advantage of prostitutes not 60 years ago but earlier this month…

    • martaz

      Not to defend his vile defense of the obvious war crime of enslaving Chinese and Korean women into vicious sexual slavery, but what he was endorsing legal prostitution –not sex slavery– in present day Japan. If he does not resign on his own, I would hope the Japanese people would vote him out of office. he is espousing dangerous nationalistic views. What other things issues does this sick man support. Is he another Yukio Mishima, but with less artistic talent?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.oharrow.7 Stephen O’Harrow

    I hope the US denies this clown a visa.

    Toru Hashimoto is an embarrassment to all our good Japanese friends and he certainly does not represent Japan in a decent light. Given the tensions in East Asia today, an area where a thoughtful Japanese foreign policy is crucial to international peace, statements like these from major politicians can only turn Japan’s neighbors against her when she needs them the most. I hope the Japanese voting public will totally reject what this man has said. That will be necessary to assuage feelings in countries like Korea that suffered greatly and to re-assure those of us in America who greatly value the continued friendship of Japan as our closest ally in Asia.

    Stephen O’Harrow, Director,
    Center for Southeast Asian Studies,
    University of Hawaii,
    Honolulu, HAWAII

    • Christopher-trier

      Deny him a US visa? For what? Japanese citizens do not need a visa to visit the USA. He also has not been convicted of any crime so there is no ground to deny him a visa even if he did need to apply for one. After all, the USA has granted visas to far more reprehensible politicians including Robert Mugabe AFTER it became clear that he was responsible for war crimes and other crimes against humanity. The USA also has no room to criticise the actions of a local Japanese politician considering the lunacy of American politics and politicians. Hashimoto is without a doubt a cretin and a fool, but neither one is a crime against anything but good taste.

      • JR

        There are laws against promoting history which is patently false. To deny the massacres at Nanking and the injustices inflicted on sex slaves SHOULD be criminal if it isn’t already. Then we can bring up cannibalism of prisoners of war, which I’m sure he would deny also. Hashimoto should restudy his WWII history and this time, don’t just stick to what is taught in Japanese public schools.
        He is saying they were prostitutes. That implies they were paid what they asked for, and that they did it willingly. These are both FALSE. They were forced. They were not paid. And far too many Japanese dismiss this out of hand, which is a shame. He is spouting revisionist lies which would be illegal in several countries.

      • Ron NJ

        “There are laws against promoting history which is patently false.”

        Not in the USA, and it’s not as if US law applies to people/statements made in Japan by Japanese politicians anyways. If he were saying “the Holocaust didn’t happen” and were in France when he made that statement, then yes.

        If there were laws against promoting history which is patently false, then creationism wouldn’t even be a thing, and it surely wouldn’t be being taught in American public schools alongside evolution.

      • Christopher-trier

        Whether it should or should not be illegal is a matter of opinion. Hashimoto has been convicted of no crime and has never faced any court. He is, by all means and purposes, no criminal. If he were to be a convicted criminal it would be another matter, but it is not up for you to decide what should or should not constitute a crime. There are proper channels for passing laws and there are proper channels for enforcing them. Unless you wish to live in a totalitarian state run by the iron will of a single ruler you need to learn to accept the rule of law.

      • http://durf.org/ Peter Durfee

        “There are laws against promoting history which is patently false.”

        There are? In the United States? In Japan? What are you talking about?

    • DA

      But at least he admits that there was such a system, as opposed to a certain prime minister…

  • trueamerican2012

    Once again, another big name Japanese politician manages to cram his foot into his mouth on the global stage. And he was supposed to be the hope of Japanese politics? Surely he will fade into the shadows soon….

  • Guest

    I regard his remark as really shameful as Japanese.

  • Amanda Feijoo

    I’m starting to think he legitimately doesn’t get it. He makes it seem like sexual slavery was a bad thing and no woman wanted to do it but it was necessary, like the soldiers didnt want to go to war but had to. It’s unfortunate this kind of thinking is effecting the laws regarding womens health and rights.

    • Robert Fuller

      I’m not understanding your statement “He makes it seem like sexual slavery was a bad thing and no woman wanted to do it but it was necessary, like the soldiers didnt want to go to war but had to” Are you questioning whether sex slavery was necessary? (I don’t believe it was/ is. just trying to understand your statement)

      • Amanda Feijoo

        I was trying to say that its very much like the Japanese expression “Shou ga nai”. Theres nothing we can do about it, we just have to accept it. Like its a womans place to sometimes be a sex object if the occasion calls for it. In this way he can distance himself from seeing it as a crime.

  • http://naruhodo.jp.net/ Leong Shen Lim

    I can’t understand why he would make such remarks. He is ruining his reputation himself. What a shame.

  • Francis McInerney

    Hashimoto’s valuation of women is an outrage. He says that net-net, the
    value of my mother, wife, daughter, sisters, aunts, friends, and
    colleagues is their usefulness as comfort women.

    Starting
    with his wife, this is the time for the women of Osaka, indeed all of Japan, to demand
    Hashimoto’s immediate resignation. There is no place in a democracy for
    an elected representative who so publicly values women the way
    Hashimoto does. Imagine New York’s Mike Bloomberg standing at the podium with all
    the men and women in his administration arrayed behind him, saying what Hashimoto said.
    He would not have survived more than another hour in office.

    The saddest of all outcomes would be if the women of Japan do NOT demand Hashimoto’s immediate resignation.

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      I guess instead of indoors writhing naked on her back, you’d prefer her outdoors writhing in uniform on her stomach.

      Or is it only men who have the privilege of dying in war? Men knew their role, and they continue to be expected to die in the name of protecting women. Meanwhile, what’s a woman’s role? If they aren’t comforting men in this context, what are they good for? If they can’t step up in some way, what are men supposed to be dying for anyway?

      If you want to make the argument that neither sex should be confined to “roles” in that kind of situation, fine, do it. But all I hear is one side being advocated for, one side commanding all the “outrage”: the same old same old “protect women narrative”, while no one brings up that a man’s end of the bargain was (and would be) much much worse.

      • Francis McInerney

        Are you denying my mother’s campaign medals? She would have something to say about that. Most men when they see her medals step back. And she’s almost 90. Think about this.

        And this weekend I will see my business partner’s daughter graduate from West Point for a future in combat.

        From my mother in the Royal Navy to this young woman, there is no question of women’s roles.

        And what do you think Rommel’s Afrika Corps would have done with my mother had Auchinleck collapsed?

      • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

        Are you denying that men are historically 99% of war dead? Exceptions are exceptions for a reason.

  • Universal Declaration

    So, if one used identical reasoning to that used by japanese mayor Toru Hashimoto then it would be perfectly acceptable that The People’s Republic of China if and when they retake Okinawa as per their historically justified May 2013 sovereignty claim, used Japanese women there as ‘comfort women’ in order to “maintain discipline in the ranks and provide rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle”.

    Now extrapolate that to all the so called japanese islands which China will eventually retake.

    • http://twitter.com/midnightbrewer Cailean Babcock

      China took the Senkakus pretty bloodlessly. Why will they need soldiers for any of the other islands? And they’ll only take those if there’s oil at stake.

      • Vivo Viva

        It’s not about oil. Please refer to “Senkaku Retto” written by Kiyoshi Inoue for clarification. It’s same with US won’t give any island out just because there is no oil arround.

  • JR

    Well…he continues to expose himself as:
    -A callous person
    -An badly misinformed and maleducated person
    -A racist
    -closed minded, over proud, arrogant….what else…?
    If the Japanese continue to vote for him, it’s no wonder they are losing respect in Asia and further afield.

  • Michael Mancuso

    So, to those suggestion the denial of a visa thing, I have a counter-point, well, actually two.

    Firstly, the general rule of thumb with countries with moderate-to-good relations is that a valid passport is all that is needed to come into a country. A visa is only required for stays longer than 90 days or stays with a purpose otherwise restricted to only US citizens, asylees/refugees, and permanent residents.

    (for instance, if they wanted to go to a college and get a degree, they would need to get one of the following visas: M-1, J-1, F-1. Long-term (>3 months) “diplomatic personal” would need to get an A visa. Tourists would require )

    The only real conceivable way to deny Hashimoto legal entry into the US based solely on his presumably valid Japanese passport would be for the US to declare him persona non grata (or something of similar effect), which it will not do to a major political figure of one of our few close allies on the basis of him having a stupid, sexist opinion.

    Which is an awkward segue into the second, more conceptual, counterpoint. Bluntly put, to deny Hashimoto entry into the US based on his beliefs, regardless of what they are, runs counter to the founding principal of the American belief system. That humans are free to believe what they wish without fear of violent or governmental retribution.

    His opinion is stupid, that “times were different, so forced prostitution was needed.”, but it is his opinion, that he is free to have under both US and Japanese law. Any DHS agent that would move to stop the entry of anyone into the US on that basis betrays their country, their government, and the rule of law.

    In the end, it isn’t government’s job because it’s the job of the public. He should be protested, he should be eviscerated on the various facets of the Internet media machine, and he should probably be ousted in the next election.

    He will certainly not be received well in San Fran, and as a New Yorker myself, I can say that he won’t find much love in NYC as well, and that’s probably the way it should be; the court of public opinion is a stronger than the courts of laws in stuff like this anyways.

    • Christopher-trier

      You are precisely correct. There is such a thing called the rule of law. It was designed with the intention of freeing people from the tyranny of the rule of the mob and the whims of rulers. By all means, if he wishes to go to the USA or any other country let him — but let him also face the consequences of his actions. Freedom of speech works in both directions.

      The UK, Republic of Ireland, and the Schegen countries, by the way, give Japanese citizens 180 days per annum and we also receive the same at our request. There are more countries than the USA and more places in the USA than San Francisco and New York.

    • http://twitter.com/midnightbrewer Cailean Babcock

      Your second, conceptual point is nice, and in this case valid, but US laws and the constitution only apply to its citizens, not foreigners, which is how we justify Guantanamo Bay. Oh, and the handful of US citizens being indefinitely detained because they might pose a threat.

      Perhaps WWII was a different time. Americans thought rounding up Japanese Americans was a good idea because they might be spies, so we created concentration camps for them. We don’t spend a lot of time apologizing or reflecting on that.

      And now we have the Gitmo thing. Different justification, same problem.

      No matter how great the country, there are always blind spots that people will mentally paper over with justification. I’m sure Hashimoto won’t be branded persona non grata anytime soon, but mostly because the US doesn’t want to risk upsetting Japan over something so relatively innocuous.

      • Michael Mancuso

        Well in regards to your point of the constitution only applying to American, that is indeed the fact. The first amendment only applies to citizens (and the other permanent resident classes.)

        So Hashimoto would have no protection in American law (Bluman v FEC set the most recent legal precedence on this, though that case had political leanings more than the strait freedom of speech thing.). However, just as a matter of principal and setting a good example, the concepts of the whole “freedom of speech” should be universal.

        “Humans are free to think as they wish…so long as they’re American” isn’t a good viewpoint, after all.

        Also, there likely is some Japanese law akin to the SHIELD act (honestly don’t know) in the US where Hashimoto’s speech would likely be protected against any civil suits.

  • disqus_Jov7DM2Bv0

    Seems like people don’t know his real value. People who just criticize him and hope he’ll resign his position never know how hard he’s been working to change Osaka’s prefecture’s situation.
    He is the one who could make change in japan’s rotten politics.
    I understand people want to criticize him. His remarks are including some inappropriate expression and quite careless, obviously open to criticism.

    But this issue is not that simple enough to consider from only woman’s right perspective.
    People’s disputes below are obviously showing their lack of critical thinking.
    Stop picking up some of his words and criticizing him without any logical explanation.
    Paying attention to the essence of this issue.

    • http://twitter.com/midnightbrewer Cailean Babcock

      As a teacher in Osaka, I can tell you all the terrible things he’s doing to Osaka. He’s gutted the education system, leaving us with too few teachers. He wants to consolidate schools, which means not enough teachers per student. He wants people to send their students to private schools, which have no accountability to national education standards. He believes schools should be like factories, where every student should be able to pass the college entrance exams with the same grade, as if we were manufacturing robots.

      He forced government workers to reveal personal details about themselves (tattoos) or lose their jobs.

      He wants to privatize the city bus and subway system, then divide them and shut down the busses. Rationale: collectively they function well and are in the black. Separately, the busses operate at a loss, offset by the subways. Solution? No busses. How does this help Osaka again?

      He recently shut down the Osaka Maritime Museum. He doesn’t think it’s important enough if it’s not making enough profit.

      He wants to shut down the National Bunraku theater as well, reason unknown.

      He is shutting down city- and prefecturally-funded night schools for adults as part of his war on education.

      He agreed to allow Fukushima to burn highly radioactive garbage in Osaka because they’ll pay Osaka for it, despite it being a public health threat.

      Yeah, great guy.

  • Max Tandan

    my papa, once told me that he has an auntie who committed suicide after being sexually abused by a Japanese military officer

    • martaz

      “Sexually abused” is not a strong enough statement for the hideous rapes that the women the Japanese took as sex-slaves suffered.

  • Tom Craig

    The conscription of ‘comfort women’ is a sad and egregious concern, but in times of war (a truly horrific condition), is it any worse than the conscription of young men as soldiers to kill or be killed? This has been the nature of war since the beginning of time. Hashimoto’s only error is refusing to sweep the unspeakable under the rug.

    • wangkon936

      Wow… I think you have been in Japan too long sir.

    • GenieX

      Were they not foreign women though? That’s not conscription. That’s taking prisoners and raping them over and over.

  • http://akemi-mokoto.me/ Akemi Mokoto

    That man should resign. He gives Osaka and everybody in Japan a bad name. He is not fit to run Osaka at this point.

    • ewacloser

      Really? One man can do all that?

  • taki sunsun

    There are some misunderstanding.
    He want to insist that:
    Japan has already regretted and apologied to comfort women.
    How about USA? You did same thing together!

  • Ron NJ

    ‘“During the Korean and Vietnam wars, local women were recruited by the
    U.S. as prostitutes for the military, although official U.S. policy was
    that the women and men were acting on their own,” Hashimoto said.’
    To quote WIkipedia:
    Tu quoque (pron.: /tuːˈkwoʊkwiː/),[1] (Latin for “you, too” or “you, also”) or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a logical fallacy
    that attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the
    opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position;
    it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to
    the person making it. This dismisses someone’s point of view based on
    criticism of the person’s inconsistency, and not the position presented,[2] whereas a person’s inconsistency should not discredit their position. Thus, it is a form of the ad hominem argument.[3]
    To clarify, although the person being attacked might indeed be acting
    inconsistently or hypocritically, this does not invalidate their
    argument.

    Bravo, Hashimoto, bravo.

  • martaz

    I hope he IS granted a visa. I want him to face the protests in the US. Specially if he visits Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. Korean and Chinese Americans will NOT be giving him a warm reception. I guarantee it

    • http://www.facebook.com/charles.f.sommers Charles F. Sommers

      If he travels to America as a tourist he can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.

  • Perry Constantine

    Don’t deny him a visa. Instead, anyone he was scheduled to meet with in the United States should cancel the meeting as a consequence of his comments.

  • Thomas

    Hashimoto is an absolute idiot either he is in total denial or he does not seem to understand the difference between prostitutes and sex slaves but maybe in his warped mind there is no difference.

  • Owen

    What Hashimoto is saying repeatedly in his Twitter and elsewhere is, in short, “we were wrong, and we need to apologize, but other countries did the same thing. Why do they accuse only Japan, and overlook what they have done. All countries should look sincerely at what happened no matter WHERE it happened.”
    His comments are largely misunderstood through bad translation.

  • Jiminosaka

    Hashimoto will never resign or be forced to resign; in Japan thats not how things are done. He still has majority support of those who elected him on his nationalistic views and colaboration with Ishihara. His remarks are only damaging to Ishihara/Abe/Taros plan to revise the constitution, roll Japan back 60 years to where all foriegners and some Japanese are excluded because they dont understand or have rebelled against Japanese ways. By July, unless one of the stooges makes another gaffe, this will all be forgotten and its game on to get the constitution changed and then engage in confrontations with multiple neighbors in the region (China, both Koreas, Tawain) The Japan Restoration Party is just that, it wants to restore japan to Ishiharas vision of a Japan with Emperor as head of state and trash anything that resembles a democracy includeing all post war human rights gains made in Japan. All those gains were made by outsiders who dont understand Japan, and all things “gai” must be eliminated or sanitized. Abe is a clever politican, and his recent comments about how he welcomes multinationals to work in an international zone seems promising, so its difficult to pin down if he really aligns himself with the Japan restoration party or is just using them to gain popularity, or perhaps they are a type of uyoku, doing the dirty work for him (creating incidents or antagonizing neighbors) while he remains insulated from it all. For us old hands in Japan,we know that everything in japan isnt what it seems, and play on words/manipulation is always predictable.