Hashimoto looks to deflect sex slave blame

Besieged mayor blasts press, says other armies also abused females


Staff Writer

Japan’s wartime “comfort women” military brothel system can never be “condoned” or “justified” but the world should also address similar human rights violations against females in other conflict zones, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto argued Monday in front of foreign reporters.

Hashimoto, co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), held the press conference to salvage his and his party’s fortunes amid the firestorm he sparked with his earlier remarks that the comfort women system was “necessary” during the war, using the Japanese euphemism for the system of sexual servitude involving women and girls forced to work in military brothels.

“I never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity of the human rights of women,” Hashimoto said in a marathon speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Hashimoto blamed the media for using only excerpts of his remarks at a daily press briefing earlier this month and taking his words out of context when they issued reports worldwide that “resulted in misunderstanding of the remarks,” something he called “extremely regrettable.”

Facing a 300-plus-strong foreign, domestic and freelance journalist contingent, Hashimoto did not apologize for his earlier remarks that the “comfort women (system) was necessary in order to provide relaxation for those brave soldiers who had been in the line of fire.”

He insisted he didn’t mean to say that he considered it necessary for the armed forces to use women, but that the forces believed this was necessary.

Hashimoto meanwhile admitted the Imperial Japanese Army and administrative authorities had a “certain involvement” in running the wartime “comfort stations” in the 1930s and ’40s.

He also said the army and government should be held responsible for the misery suffered by the females forced to provide sex at the brothels.

Given the harsh conditions there and lack of freedom, media and scholars have described the victims as sex slaves.

Hashimoto argued the world should not single out just Japan or associate only this country with the simple shorthand that it exploited “sex slaves.”

Females were sexually violated during World War II by U.S., British, French, German and Soviet soldiers, including women serving in “private-sector brothels,” where many females were presumably abductees or human trafficking victims, Hashimoto argued.

Hashimoto appeared to be trying to deflect the harsh global spotlight cast on Japan’s comfort women system by insisting the forces of other parts of the world also engaged in sex-related crimes and used brothels.

Scholars say, for example, that Nazi Germany had a similar brothel system during the war, and many U.S. soldiers used brothels prepared by the Japanese government specifically for the Allied Occupation forces.

“Japan’s system was bad. But use of private (brothels) was similarly bad, because in such private-sector facilities, too, human trafficking (was) taking place,” Hashimoto claimed.

Many right-leaning Japanese politicians and scholars often try to play down the culpability of the Imperial army and the government in running the comfort stations, arguing that private brokers were the ones who “recruited” the females via various ways, including human trafficking and possibly kidnapping.

But Hashimoto, apparently trying to distance himself from them, repeatedly argued Japan should issue a straightforward apology for the misery of the comfort women now, saying the Japanese army and government “did (get) involved” in running and managing brothels.

Hashimoto also retracted and apologized for his earlier recommendation that U.S. service members in Okinawa make use of sex establishments to prevent sexual crimes in the prefecture.

“I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate,” he said. Whether Monday’s briefing helps reboot the popularity of Hashimoto and his party remains uncertain.

  • Andreas K

    Agreed, let’s start with the white elephant in the room: America. US politicians like to scream at people like Hashimoto, but strangely they are very ignorant when it comes to the behavior of US troops after the war.

    As a matter of fact, American and Australian soldiers raped hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanese women right after the occupation of Japan began. Please note that the behavior of Allied military personnel towards enemy civilians during the war years was by far not as terrible, their treatment was, in most cases, absolutely correct. It all changed with the end of the war.

    There’s a report of US Marines raping a woman and her daughter at gunpoint three and a half hours into the occupation. The case happened on August 30th, at 01:00 P.M. Two Marines entered a house in Yokosuka and raped mother and daughter at gunpoint. The Marines had arrived on the Japanese mainland 3.5 hours prior to this incident. There were four rape cases reported in Yokosuka alone on that day.

    On September 1st 11 rape cases were reported in Yokosuka and Yokohama. In one of the cases, a woman was raped by 27 US soldiers and nearly died. After this, the amount of cases spiraled upward.

    There are nearly 1,400 reported cases (1,336 to be precise) of US soldiers raping Japanese women over a period of ten days (August 30th to September 10th 1945) in the Kanagawa prefecture alone. Now count this up on all of Japan. If we assume that there were 500-1,000 rape cases per prefecture, the resulting number is horrible. Even if we assume that there were “just” 100 cases per prefecture, we still come to more than 4,000. The reports usually went to the local Japanese police, which had no jurisdiction over US soldiers, of course, and thus could not do anything about it (in fact, Japanese police officers were often mocked by Allied soldiers and could do nothing against it).

    Interestingly, according to official US documents only 247 GIs were prosecuted for rape by the US military in the later half of 1945, this number includes cases from Europe, and is, frankly, as ridiculous and untrustworthy as the new death toll of the Dresden Massacre (RAF/USAAF air raid on the city). A possible explanation for this extremely low and quite unrealistic count can be found at the end of the next quote.

    There are also reports of Australian soldiers behaving in an extremely violent way towards Japanese women with many gang rapes in areas where Australian soldiers where stationed. At times, young women were abducted from the streets, gang raped and left where the crime was committed. There are testimonies of members of the BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Forces) that further strengthen this fact. One Aussie MP officer, Allan Clifton, wrote:
    “I stood beside a bed in hospital. On it lay a girl, unconscious, her long, black hair in a wild tumult on the pillow. A doctor and two nurses were working to revive her. An hour before she had been raped by twenty soldiers. We found her where they had left her, on a piece of waste land. The girl was Japanese. The soldiers were Australians.

    The moaning and wailing had ceased and she was quiet now. The tortured tension on her face had slipped away, and the soft brown skin was smooth and unwrinkled, stained with tears like the face of a child that has cried itself to sleep.

    Staying indoors was not sufficient to give women protection. One evening a young married woman was reading a book in bed in a hotel. Her husband was absent for the night on business. In the next room, separated only by the paper sliding partitions, a party of Japanese men were playing cards. It was a hot night and she fell asleep in the middle of her reading, with the light still burning. She awoke a little later to find a huge Australian soldier kneeling beside her, and another swaying in the doorway, his drunken leer telling more clearly than any speech or gesture what was to follow…

    The men in the next room heard and watched; saw all and did not intervene. To call them cowards would be to presume the obvious and improbable. The reason lay elsewhere: in their blind unquestioning acceptance of instructions from the government that placed the Shinchugun (occupation forces) beyond criticism and Japanese justice…

    Instead the Japanese went and told the police. The police, having no power, could do no more then inform us, when it was too late…

    At the court martial that followed, the accused was found guilty and sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude. In accordance with army law the court’s decision was forwarded to Australia for confirmation. Some time later the documents were returned marked “Conviction quashed because of insufficient evidence”.”

    (A. Clifton “Time of Fallen Blossoms” (Cassell, 1955), in particular pp. 141-148, 174-182.)

    A Japanese prostitute wrote:
    “Most of the people in Kure stayed inside their houses, and pretended they knew nothing about the rape by occupation forces. The Australian soldiers were the worst. They dragged young women into their jeeps, took them to the mountain, and then raped them. I heard them screaming for help nearly every night. A policeman from the Hiroshima police station came to me, and asked me to work as a prostitute for the Australians –he wanted me and other prostitutes to act as a sort of “firebreak”, so that young women wouldn’t get raped. We agreed to this, and contributed greatly.”

    After September 19th 1945, the number of reported rapes declined. I would say that this decline appeared, most likely, due to the fact that it was pointless to report a rape to the local police, seeing that it had absolutely no power over the Allied soldiers (this doesn’t just include arresting Allied soldiers; it also includes merely investigating crimes with Allied involvement). Another point could be a sudden change in the behavior of Allied soldiers, but such a sudden change of behavior on such a large scale -several thousands of soldiers- is hard to believe. Additionally, I would say you can find a behavior among these Japanese rape victims similar to victims of modern day rape. Not every rape victim -even today, even in the west- reports it to the police. And, given the education of the war generation in Japan, it’s unlikely that the majority actually reported such a crime. Compare this with the thousands of Korean or Chinese comfort women who remained silent after the war, and the many who still remain silent, even today.

    As a reaction to this, the Americans, with the help of the Japanese government, came up with the idea of the RAA (Recreation and Amusement Association). It was dissolved again on March 27th 1946, simply because of the massive spread of venereal diseases through the US forces. Private brothels, of course, remained in business after this (with Allied MP often demanding “special” favors).

    Another reason for the RAA to operate was that STDs were ravaging the American ranks.

    Great liberators indeed.

    Though, it should be noted that it wasn’t the combat units that behaved like this. It was usually rear echelon units that were bored and similar who behaved like savages.

    • Christopher-trier

      Douglas MacArthur insisted that the majority of US troops that were to occupy Japan be fresh from the US, not veterans of the Pacific battles. In the instances that this wasn’t the case there were major atrocities committed in Japan by US forces. In Germany Americans were also hardly the snow-white liberators they like to make themselves out to be. The British were broadly decent to those Germans under their control. The French were horrible and sadistic only being somewhat constrained by Charles de Gaulle’s severe penalties, the Soviets were brutal. The Americans were so utterly paranoid that they left much to be desired.

    • Frank Bennett

      We could say that this was “necessary to those at the time”. We might also say that 1,336 is less than 200,000.

      But either of those arguments would reveal us to be morally impoverished monsters, so we won’t use them.

      • Eoghan Hughes

        I’m neutral on whether Andreas K got his facts from reliable sources, but 200,000 is in the high-range estimate for the number of Japanese military comfort women taken over more than a decade across an China, the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines and so on, whereas the 1,336 figure (again, according to Andreas K…) comes from a period of ten days in an area two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. If we were to take your gross comparison and balance it out for time and space equivalence, we might get something more like “[57,963,891] is [much bigger] than 200,000”.

        Of course, this is not at all to defend what the scumbag Hashimoto said. I find it simply appalling. But your distortions are also somewhat disturbing.

      • Eoghan Hughes

        (BTW, “57,963,891” takes the area of the Korean Peninsula over a 13-year period. Not the best methodology in the world, but still.)

    • qwerty

      I haven’t heard any top US, German or Australian politicians trying to make excuses – the opposite in fact

    • Justin Lindsay

      That simply isn’t the point though is it. This is like a rapist saying: “well, I may have raped that person… but other people rape and sometimes get away with it… so I guess it’s okay!”. These are the arguments of children, not thinking adults. Other country’s atrocities will be addressed in time. Today (and it is none too late) it is Japan’s turn to pay the Piper.

      • Eoghan Hughes

        Not really. Hashimoto didn’t actually rape anyone himself, so it’s more like him saying “Sure the Japanese military raped women 70-80 years ago, but the American military have continued raping women to the present day.” Your above post in fact looks like you are accusing Hashimoto himself of raping people.

      • hudsonstewart

        I don’t know what comment you were reading, but Andreas K is not arguing that what Japan did is OK. “These are the arguments of children”–what arguments? I think you need to read the post again. He is simply calling attention to other atrocities that occurred. Why keep silent?

  • hudsonstewart

    “He insisted he didn’t mean to say that he considered it necessary for
    the armed forces to use women, but that the forces believed this was

    It has been clear to me from the beginning that he was attempting to explain the rationale of Japanese wartime commanders in the use of “comfort women”. The media obviously saw him as an easy target and took his words out of context. After all, in his initial statement, he did say Japan was wrong and owed the women an apology. However…

    As mayor of Osaka, I don’t see what part of any of this has anything to do with his job. And the whole affair has certainly interfered with his ability to attend to his work duties. Don’t the people of Osaka feel upset that their tax money is going to pay for a mayor that spends his time making irrelevant claims about the war? The same could be said about Kawamura in Nagoya. Both are focused on cutting excess governmental spending, yet they both waste time and money on controlling the fallout of claims that don’t relate to their duties at all.

    • KenjiAd

      I disagree with your characterization that the media “took his (Hashimoto’s) words out of context.”

      I read his original statement in its entirety in Japanese which Mainichi published. As far as I can tell (my native tongue is Japanese), his original remark was made in the following context. Men’s sexual urge needs to be taken care of or something bad would happen. This notion, he claimed, “everyone understands.” Furthermore, it was in this context that he told the US marine official that they should use more of ‘Fuzoku’ sex services over there.

      The implication of his remark was that, in his view, Japan wasn’t doing anything particularly unordinary at that time. So he didn’t (and doesn’t) understand why only Japan has been criticized. It was indeed hard to misunderstand what he was trying to say – anachronistic view of women’s “role” in taking care of men’s sexual desire and an unmistakable apologist stance on Japan’s war crimes (“apologist” being someone speaking in defense of something, not someone who apologizes).

  • Samdromeda

    The behaviors of armies is in the cross-hairs. The issue will not go away and the propensity of armies and /or the need to fulfill baser instincts when away from wives and sweethearts impunes the character of military establishments and nations that practiced ethnic cleansing. The Japanese army used conquered resources to satisfy their warriors, But I do understand the context of his recommendation for American soldiers to use brothels versus soldiers raping pre -teens from the local communities around their bases in Japan. Even international politics is local. Apologies will not change the behaviors when it comes to militarism. You can only redirect and channel the energies that are within the beast known as the armies of this world. Nothing has changed. But money answers all things when comforting the comfort women who live with the memories and wounds of sexual enslavement.

  • Christopher-trier

    And now it comes out clearly that Hashimoto was quoted out of context and the quotes that were used to make him look bad were poorly translated. I wonder if those who attacked so adamantly went on tirades will eat their words. I wonder if the media will publish retractions and apologise. No, they probably won’t. Much like the New York State Legislature passed resolutions condemning Abe for making remarks he never made this cycle will continue.

    • Emma

      The media can’t be expected to quote the entire speech. No-one would read it anyway. Here is the whole speech if you want ‘context’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMjVAaZBb0Y
      It’s pretty clear that the media were spot on and Hashimoto is running scared.

  • The nature of their discourse appears to be that Japan was not alone in their nefarious ‘use’ of comfort women. Granted. But given the history of minimalisation of personal and institutional responsibility in Japan, outsiders are destined to be more vigilant in their indignation against Japan. It is an extremist nationalist fringe in Germany which denies their actions. Their surrender was unequivocal, except by that fringe Nazi group, who still deny the Holocaust. The Japanese ‘use’ of comfort women was ‘culturally’ sanctioned. These offenders did not hide their rape from other soldiers; it was widely endorsed. Such is the moral acquiescence you’d expect under collectivism. It was the same under Nazism. So where is the unequivocal apology? No sooner is there one apology, than there is backtracking from another faction. Clearly politicians do this because it was popular.

  • Justin Lindsay

    watching this clown’s political career disintegrate is the only enjoyable part of all this. The childish and knuckle-dragging level of his arguments bespeak and mind poorly suited to politics; slapstick comedy would seem a more appropriate path for someone like Hashimoto.

    Indeed it is almost time to simply let go of this buffoon and redirect our attention to things that actually matter – like the LDP dragging Japan’s future generations into increasing debt to fund today’s mini-recovery.

  • Steve McClure

    Ultimately Hashimoto is trying to help the Japanese state and military evade responsibility for a system of sex slavery. Saying the Japanese government has found no evidence of official government involvement is the same as relying on a protestation of innocence by a person accused of a crime.

    And why did no one at the FCCJ ask him to back up his statement that other countries engaged in similar behavior in World War II? (I am referring to state-organized/sanctioned human trafficking.) The only example I can think of offhand is the SS sex-slave system in the German concentration camps. And has Hashimoto never heard that two wrongs don’t make a right?

    • Eoghan Hughes

      Actually, I think the Japanese state paid full reparations for this system back in the 1960s (a fact which was covered up by the then-rising military dictatorship in South Korea), and countless high-ranking Japanese politicians have issued apologies for this and other crimes. What responsibility can Hashimoto possibly evade?

      • Eoghan Hughes

        And? Dredging up “newly-emerged” disputes over rights violations in the 1930s and 40s after having already signed a mutually acceptable treaty that said “[Both countries] confirm that the problems concerning property, rights, and interests of […] their peoples […] have been settled completely and finally” doesn’t seem very fair. (Source: http://www.ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~worldjpn/documents/texts/JPKR/19650622.T9J.html)

        What is that Korea wants? More money? MORE apologies? I am by no means defending Hashimoto’s ridiculous comments here. But the one group that should be most offended by them is JAPANESE WOMEN (was he not ultimately talking about American military personal “using” modern Japanese women?), and yet people keep trying to blame “the Japanese” for his comments. Note that what brought his comments on was not apparently a desire to rewrite the history of WW2 but a response to the continuing epidemic of US military personnel in Okinawa doing bad things to young local women…

  • Max Erimo

    It seems everyone is missing the point.

    It’s not whether soldiers from other countries raped and pillaged also. I have no doubt they did. Also their respective countries don’t deny this outright. Maybe they don’t admit it either. That’s another story.

    The reason Japan is singled out is that the GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY through the military was complicit in the act of dare one say kidnapping and forcing these women into sexual slavery. Sounds like human tafficking to me.
    As people often ask, why after 70 years doesn’t Japan bow it’s head and say sorry. This is their way. Always bow your head, shave it if necessary and take responsibility for your actions. If a foolish girl from AKB can do it then surely the grandees of politics can also do it. It’s not as if the fringe right ultra nationalists control that many votes when it comes to election time.

    • hudsonstewart

      Except that Japan has officially apologized.

      From wikipedia: In 1965, the Japanese government awarded $364 million to the Korean government for all war damages, including the injury done to comfort women.[64] In 1994, the Japanese government set up the Asian Women’s Fund to distribute additional compensation to South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Indonesia.[65] Each survivor was provided with a signed apology from the then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, stating “As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
      ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women#Apologies_and_compensation )

      • Emma

        Yes, there has been an official apology, but this apology seems tenuous when there are historic revisionists in government (Abe and co) who say things like ‘it depends on what you mean by coercion’ and take out advertisements in US newspapers denying government participation in the comfort women system.

      • hudsonstewart

        When you simplify the issue in such a way, yes it does seem that way. But when you consider that Chinese and South Korean politicians continue to use the war as a means to bolster national pride and gain votes despite Japan’s apologies, is it unreasonable to expect a counter-reaction in the opposite extreme from conservative Japanese politicians? Most South Koreans (and many commenters) don’t even know that Japan has officially apologized. Most don’t even understand that these right-wing Japanese politicians aren’t arguing that the comfort women never existed, they are arguing that the Japanese government/army did not command their forced recruitment, but rather they were forced into slavery by private brokers. I am not supporting either side, but I do support the side of being fully informed.

        This issue is ultimately not about the comfort women. It is about countries (South Korea, Japan, China) using “history” (as they see it) to manipulate their citizens for political gain.

      • KenjiAd

        Please note that the Wikipedia description on “Comfort Women” has been abused particularly by “neto-uyo” (Internet right-wingers). The 1965 treaty did not include any compensation for so-called “Comfort Women”, because they hadn’t come forward at that time (http://www.awf.or.jp/e2/survey.html).

        With that said, the general interpretation of the treaty is that it settled *all* the compensation issues, even though the “Comfort Women” were not discussed at that time.

        One complication is that, even though the treaty probably precludes the South Korean *government* from demanding compensation through diplomatic channels (see “diplomatic protection”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_protection), it doesn’t prevent *individuals* from seeking compensations. And this is exactly what those individual former “Comfort Women” were (are) doing by individually suing the Japanese government in Japan.

        They actually won the case in a lower court; but they ultimately lost the case in higher courts (http://www.kanpusaiban.net/index.htm), on the technical ground that they basically have no Japanese legal basis to seek compensation.

        That’s more or less what has been going on.

    • yas

      You believe that Japan military directly and forcedly become comfort women aren’t you?

      But as Hashimoto was said, It is not obviously that Japan military directry had done or not. It has been disputed between Korean and Japan for a long time.

      Most of liberality medias such as NYT, prefer to more miserable story. Although they has been broadcast doubtful thing.

      Also your opinion is based on doubtful thing to pretend that you are better than japanese. I think it is unfair.

  • David

    Despite both foreign and domestic opposition to Mr. Hashimoto’s rhetoric, he has raised issues central to many of the differences in points of view between Japan and its neighbors. As long as this Pandora’s Box remains open, keeping delicate issues like these firmly in the public eye will likely lead to more discussions, which would likely raise public awareness of the multitude of problems plaguing relations between Japan and other countries. Many of these historical issues will never find resolution without public involvement in this debate.

  • The bigger issue right now is the behavior of some US troops in Japan. A few bad apples really ruins it for everyone but the US government needs to step up and make it clear that this behavior will NOT be tolerated at ALL !! If the US is truly Japan’s friend and ally, it’s troops need to behave like it.

  • El Don

    The others did it too, so what’s wrong about it? Welcome to the kindergarten. That’s the place where Hashimoto obviously belongs to.