The memory of Yayori Matsui, a journalist and women’s rights activist who passed away at the end of 2002, will live on in a collection of her papers being established by the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center in Tokyo.
Matsui, a reporter at the Asahi Shimbun for many years, died of liver cancer at age 68 in December 2002.
She was known for her coverage of women’s issues, human rights and the environment, and was a tireless campaigner for women’s rights in Asia.
She entrusted a huge collection of books, documents, notes and other items from her journalist days to the resource center, which is a nongovernmental organization.
It has decided to keep some of the materials and donate others to academic institutions and the Women’s Museum for War and Peace, which is to be established in a few years in Tokyo, said Junko Arimura, who is organizing a fundraising campaign to build the museum.
The museum is expected not only to maintain Matsui’s papers but to collect and exhibit documents about women in conflict areas, the campaign organizers said.
After Matsui retired in 1994, she and other women’s activists set up a support group in 1998 for women in the Asia-Pacific region who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
Historians estimate there were as many as 200,000 “comfort women,” as they are euphemistically called in Japan.
Matsui and her fellow activists organized a mock trial called the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo in December 2000 to clarify that the comfort-women system constituted a crime against humanity and to pressure the Japanese government to take legal responsibility.
The tribunal found the late Emperor Showa guilty of approving the policy of allowing institutionalized sexual slavery.
The government was invited to defend itself but declined.
Matsui told one of her friends the event was “the pride of my life.”
“Ms. Matsui was just like a canary in a gold mine of this society,” Arimura said. “She emphasized the necessity for the Japanese people to be aware of their responsibility as wartime aggressors, while expressing a sense of crisis over the rise of nationalism before such moves became obvious in Japan.”
Matsui wanted military atrocities against women recorded and remembered. This is why her fellow activists are working hard to raise money to build the museum. They hope to collect 100 million yen.
“During the preparation process for the international tribunal, we collected a large number of documents, including records of testimony by former comfort women, and we have compiled Ms. Matsui’s stories from the newspaper, magazines and bulletins, all for public browsing,” Arimura said.
She got to know Matsui at the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Together they worked to establish the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center in 1997 to seek solidarity with other Asian women.
The museum will also make public the videotaped testimony of women who were forced into sexual slavery or suffered other forms of sexual violence at the hands of Japanese soldiers during the war.
It will use the Internet to post and exchange information about nongovernmental organizations, antiwar activities and peace education.
The campaign organizers, the Women’s Fund for Peace and Human Rights, are asking people who experienced the war to lend or donate war-related materials, photographs, diaries and other documents to the museum.