Perhaps I am in a rare position to comment, from almost firsthand experience, on the statements [about the inevitability of wartime prostitution] made by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
In the 1960s I served my country as a fighter pilot and, as such, was often on foreign bases and in the company of pilots and other military personnel from other countries. I especially remember long conversations with my American friends who, at the time, were engaged in the Vietnam War.
Both Hashimoto and Ishihara are correct in stating that where there is a military, there is sex. The fundamental difference is that those “ladies of the night” who provided such “comfort” in recent decades did so willingly. There have been many conflicts since Vietnam, but to my knowledge (which is not so extensive as to be considered “expert”) no woman was ever forced to provide sex for the military. On the whole, these “comfort women” were professionals and, as such, were paid for their services.
The simple point that rightwing extremists like Hashimoto and Ishihara willfully ignore is the fact — and it is a fact — that the Imperial Japanese Army forced women in occupied countries (but interestingly not in homeland Japan) to provide sexual services for the “comfort” of those soldiers fighting for their country.
That, and that alone, is the difference between the activities of the Japanese and other countries. Why is there no outcry from the women of countries occupied or fought over by other armies? Because those women were not forced to provide sex.
I advise the likes of Hashimoto and Ishihara to thoroughly research this matter. Then — if they really wish to wade through this muddy field — their statements might gain more respect, even from those surviving women.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.