OSAKA – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Thursday that he has sent a letter to the board of supervisors of sister-city San Francisco to request that it retract a resolution condemning his remarks seeking to justify Japan’s wartime system of military brothels.
Hashimoto, who doubles as co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), drew international scorn over remarks he made in May that the wartime brothels, and their “comfort women,” were “necessary” for Japanese soldiers.
The board unanimously adopted the resolution on June 18, stating it “strongly condemns the attitude and statements” of Hashimoto “justifying the state-sponsored ‘comfort women’ system, which forced hundreds of thousands of Asian women into sexual servitude for the Japanese military.”
In the letter dated Aug. 13, Hashimoto said the resolution is based on “misunderstandings,” as he has “never legitimized or defended the institution of the comfort women,” using Japan’s euphemism for the wartime sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese forces.
“My statements on (the) comfort women have always been consistent with my concern for the protection and enhancement of women’s dignity and human rights,” he claimed.
The mayor said “the recent tendency of exaggeration” of the comfort women issue lies behind “misunderstandings” of the San Francisco board.
Hashimoto said the condemnation of Japan over the issue “often contains rootless and exaggerated claims. It is “simply a baseless statement” that all or most comfort women were abducted systematically by Japanese authorities, he added.
Although many nations have been involved in wartime violations of the dignity of women by their soldiers, “there has been a worldwide disseminated view” that Japan’s use of comfort women is peculiar, or even unique, in the history of mankind, he argued.
Hashimoto aired concerns over “the increasing movement to erect monuments in the U.S. dedicated to the comfort women, saying the “anti-Japan movements” reportedly backed by Korean-Americans will “only degrade the honor of Japan and its people” and could harm Japanese-U.S. as well as Japanese-South Korean relations.
Hashimoto said he has “no intention to trivialize” the comfort women’s ordeal, but said “attempts to single out and to criticize only Japan will make us blind to other past atrocities and also to contemporary problems of the same kind.”
He urged each nation to “address this unacceptable problem as a common issue for human beings” and suggested Osaka and San Francisco cooperate in joint research on the issue of sex on the battlefield.
Hashimoto was scheduled to visit San Francisco and New York from June 10 and had hoped to meet both cities’ mayors, but canceled the plan after he received a letter from a senior San Francisco official in late May that urged him not to visit amid the furor caused by his remarks.