Citizen groups and a group of publishers on Wednesday sought to reopen an exhibit in Nagoya that featured a statue of a girl symbolizing “comfort women.”
They denounced the closure of the exhibit, part of the Aichi Triennale 2019 cultural festival, that displayed the “Statue of a Girl of Peace,” saying the act suppressed freedom of expression and speech.
In a statement, the civic groups said, “We feel strong indignation about the fact that the exhibition was canceled after just three days, without proper discussion on its intent and objective.”
“In our society, a very important part of freedom of expression is being assailed,” said Yasuhiko Tajima, a former professor at Sophia University who represents one of the groups.
“This did not happen by chance or coincidence,” Tajima said of the decision. “The reopening is important for the taking back of the freedom of expression and the rightful freedom to exchange opinions,” he added.
Katsuhisa Nakagaki, a 75-year-old sculptor whose work was part of the exhibit, expressed anger at the decision to cancel it without consulting the artists, saying, “Is this really an art exhibit?”
“Although it is not pure art, it is a work that should be on display,” he said of the statue of the girl symbolizing comfort women who worked in wartime brothels, including those against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.
In a separate statement, the publishers’ group criticized Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, who sought to terminate the exhibit, and Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, who made the decision to cancel it.
Their actions are “tantamount to crushing the exhibit by those in positions of power,” the publishers’ group said.
“We don’t condone the suppression of freedom of expression and speech, as well as all censorship by authorities,” the group said.