Hashimoto sued over scrubbed trip

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Six members of a local citizens’ watchdog group have filed a civil suit against the city of Osaka, demanding that Mayor Toru Hashimoto repay the nearly ¥700,000 bill the city footed after he canceled a trip to the U.S. last June.

Hashimoto scrapped the visit to San Francisco and New York following an international uproar in May when he said that Japan’s wartime “comfort women” system had been necessary at the time, and suggested that U.S. Marines in Okinawa could curb sexual violence by making use of “fuzoku” establishments, a euphemism for paid sex clubs.

Hashimoto’s remarks were condemned by the U.S. State Department and the San Francisco City Council, while the city’s mayor said he was disappointed in Hashimoto’s remarks. Nobel laureates and human rights’ groups in Japan and South Korea also criticized him.

But Hashimoto refused to apologize, and spent several weeks attempting to deal with the backlash, which finally damaged him and his party in the July Upper House election.

In October, members of Mihariban, a local watchdog group, asked city auditors to probe if Hashimoto’s comments violated local laws and whether he should be forced to repay a ¥690,000 cancellation fee for the U.S. trip that had been drawn from city coffers.

The auditors turned down the request to investigate, saying Hashimoto’s comments could not be said to be illegal. But they added the mayor needed to sufficiently recognize his responsibility for the cancellation. Nevertheless, Hashimoto did not repay the money, prompting Mihariban to file the lawsuit on Tuesday.

“If you continue to cause trouble by making crude statements like advising U.S. forces in Japan to use (paid sex) establishments, you can foresee they’ll invite a strong reaction from the U.S. It’s clear that, with his comments, the city was forced to pay damages in the form of a cancellation fee, and that this was illegal,” the lawsuit charges.

For his part, Hashimoto vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying that he did everything by the book and that free speech is being threatened.

The U.S. trip in mid-June was intended to celebrate Osaka’s sister-city relationship with San Francisco, and to discuss administrative reforms with New York officials.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ Andrew Sheldon

    Recognising that he could be construed as placating a nationalist constituency, and given the propensity for corporations to cover the follies of their bosses, its safe to say, he will not have to pay for his mistake. You’d think you could lose an election over such an issue, but then, moral relativism tends to give him the benefit over alternatives. Will they be any better?

  • kikyo129

    I will tell you the background that this article does not describe.

    Initially, Hashimoto just wanted to help the stressful life of US soldiers in Okinawa, Japan. It was right after the Headquarters limited all their men to only one beer at a restaurant to show an “apology to Okinawa residents for a minor accident by one drunken male soldier “. The drunken soldier was half dreaming, walked into a civilian family’s apartment room on 3F at night ( “I thought I came back home in my dream” he explained later ). He beat the son of the family since he thought there was a stranger in “his bed”. The 13-year old boy screamed, the soldier tried to get out the room, fell down from a balcony of 3F and badly injured himself. Actually, the family did not blame him to my knowledge. Everybody knows that soldiers of any country miss home a lot. There are some complaints about drink & drive cases etc. by US soldiers, but most Japanese citizens show their appreciation for the US military in protecting Japan.

    The US Headquarters has decided giving a little bit more freedom to their men since 6/1/2013; two beers allowed at a restaurant outside of their camps, only 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm., drinking at a bar is not allowed.

    I checked around the Japanese web sites. Most Japanese citizens feel the regulation is too strict. Hashimoto just suggested that the Headquarters give more freedom (Karaoke bar with girls with sexy dresses etc.) to the soldiers instead of pushing them down with strict regulations.

    The adult entertainment business is casually accepted in Japan, but intercourse is illegal. There are a lot of joke-like light adult entertainment shops, but often no body touching is allowed. There are even joke cafes that male waiters serve desserts and treat female customers like princesses. These are all called “fuzoku”, too. That’s it. What is the fuss over?

    After the media attacked Hashimoto, he brought up a story of brothels in Europe and Asia in the past as an example of male soldiers’ mental health solution on a twitter. It is just a discussion and brainstorming with Japanese citizens, but the Japanese media tends to pick up just a small part of it and report it sensationally. It spreads to the media in other countries and creates a weird rumor. I guess that there are political enemies against Hashimoto and these people might support this kind of articles in Japan ( There are many Korean and Chinese residents in Osaka, too ), but I do not want the San Francisco residents overreact to it.

    I’m a Japanese woman who is married to an American man, living in the US. My father-in law served in WWII and my brother-in law spent years at a camp even without hot food in Afghanistan. I do not want the US media to forget that the UN military or the US military used to have the Rest & Recreations overseas to prevent soldiers’ crimes against local civilians including a rape. It was commonly accepted at that time. I am afraid that bashing Japan for this issues might come back to the US military someday.