Hashimoto to retract sex suggestion for U.S. military

But embattled mayor sticking to justification of wartime sex slavery


Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Saturday he will retract his remark that U.S. servicemen in Okinawa should use the prefecture’s adult entertainment industry to avoid committing sex offenses against local residents, and will apologize to the American people and military.

“My choice of words was inappropriate,” Hashimoto, who coheads Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, said on a TV political talk show.

He said he would like to make the apology at a news conference scheduled for Monday in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

On Friday, Hashimoto told reporters that he wanted to apologize to Americans and the U.S. military for the remark, admitting it was improper. He reiterated his excuse that it had been his intention to urge the U.S. military to “get serious about holding down the number of sexual offenses” against residents of Okinawa Prefecture and women in the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, he did not retract his remark that the system to recruit women into sexual servitude “was necessary” to maintain discipline in the Imperial Japanese military during the war.

“I was aware that I would be criticized not only from Japan but from countries across the world if I said anything about the issue of comfort women,” he acknowledged.

Such women, who provided sex at wartime brothels, are euphemistically referred to as “comfort women” in Japan.

On Friday, two South Korean former comfort women visiting Japan canceled a planned meeting with Hashimoto, saying through a representative they did not want to become his political pawns. Hashimoto had maintained he would meet with the women despite the uproar over his comments.

Hashimoto reiterated his argument Saturday, saying, “It is necessary for each country to review its past, in which it used such women in the battlefield, and not just accuse Japan.”

On May 13, Hashimoto said anyone can understand that such women were necessary for brave soldiers who had been at the frontlines. He also said that when he visited Okinawa to inspect the U.S. Futenma air base in late April he asked a senior military officer to let American marines use local adult entertainment services.

Hashimoto’s remarks have drawn criticism in and outside Japan, including from the U.S. State Department.

He subsequently said that his remark about U.S. servicemen lacked “international awareness” and that he lacked knowledge about American public morals and culture. He noted that he did not intend to encourage prostitution, but refused to retract his comment at that time.

  • smedlybop

    I am not sure if Hashimoto-san is aware that almost all pay for sexual services places in Japan are not available to foreigners. Older Japanese men will not pay to be intimate with women who have been with foreigners; therefore foreigners are usually prohibited by the places from going. This is in addition to any prohibition which may be issued by the US military itself.

    • Masa Chekov

      This is a bit of a myth. It’s certainly possible for foreigners to visit such places but places were foreigners might be found in large concentrations (Naha, Kabukicho, etc) there may be more likely to be a prohibition on entry.

      But it’s not really generally true.

  • Adam

    Does anyone else notice that there are still comfort women all across Japan?

  • Spudator

    I can’t help but view this retraction and apology with great cynicism.

    It seems to me that Hashimoto’s admission that he was wrong in advising U.S. servicemen in Okinawa to patronise the local sex industry is simply a ploy to kid us all that he’s a reasonable man who’ll accept criticism and reverse his position when appropriate. Having thereby demonstrated that he’s so reasonable, he can make his stance on the issue of World War II sex slaves, which he hasn’t backtracked on, look even more like a rational, carefully considered—and, therefore, valid—assessment of the issue. If his claims weren’t the truth then, being such an undeniably reasonable man, he’d have retracted them, right?

    The guy really is a piece of work.

  • This whole episode is just too absurd. So Mr. Hashimoto, who has a penchant for flame-baiting, wants to make the case that wartime sex abuse was a bad thing but a reality, and everyone was doing it. So what? That doesn’t excuse the Japanese policy during the war. All he’s doing is giving China and Korea more ammunition to play the victim card in their dealings with Japan, as they’re already wont to do, and distracting from his civic responsibilities to the City of Osaka (though I have no illusions about him caring more about Issin no Kai and national politics).

    There’s nothing positive that can come from this conversation. I dream of the day when everyone can just say “That whole WWII thing? That really sucked, let’s just close the book and move on.”