Saitama city blocks ‘one-sided’ exhibit on ‘comfort women’

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The city of Niiza, Saitama Prefecture, is refusing to let a citizens’ group use a municipal facility for an exhibition on “comfort women,” claiming that the display would promote the views of a particular group on the controversial wartime practice.

A municipal official also said the exhibition’s target audience — junior high school students — is too young to be taught about the wartime practice, through which women and girls, mostly from Asia, were forced to serve in Japanese military brothels.

The exhibition, which had been scheduled to start Friday in Furusato Niiza Hall, was aimed at informing teenagers about the issue through explanatory panels, photographs and written testimonies of former comfort women, according to the organizer, the Niiza Gender Equality Network.

The panels were created by the Tokyo-based Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, which is known as Wam.

“We thought it was a good idea to remind people of (the comfort women issue) as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II,” Yoko Tanimori of the Niiza citizens’ group said, arguing the city’s move infringes on the right to freedom of expression.

Niiza officials, meanwhile, say the event would have led students to form a one-sided opinion on the issue.

“If we allowed the exhibition by one specific group, it would mean that we are agreeing with one opinion while everyone has a right to form their own views,” said Tadahiko Koyama, director of the Niiza Municipal Government’s education and general affairs division.

He added that the exhibition didn’t match the city’s rules for use of the facility, which is to promote citizens’ works related to art and culture.