Mr. Hashimoto’s unacceptable words

Remarks by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, on Japan’s wartime military sex slave system and his call for the “greater use of adult entertainment shops” (fuzoku) by U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa have once again raised serious questions about his nationalistic views and his understanding of human rights. His statements, which have provoked an outcry in Asian countries that suffered from Japan’s militarism as well as disdain in Washington, threaten to undermine international trust in Japan and have dealt another blow to already strained ties with China and South Korea.

On Monday, Mr. Hashimoto told reporters that the sex slave system was necessary to maintain discipline in the Imperial Japanese armed forces and stressed that there was no proof that the Japanese state kidnapped women and forced them to become sex slaves, aka “comfort women.” This statement flies in the face of the indisputable fact that the most fundamental human rights of tens of thousands of Asian women were violated by the Japanese military.

Mr. Hashimoto also revealed that during his Golden Week visit to Okinawa he had recommended to a U.S. Marine Corps commander at Air Station Futenma that U.S. Marines in Okinawa use local sex shops more often. His “logic” is that frontline soldiers and young servicemen stationed abroad — such as Imperial soldiers during Japan’s wars in the 1930s and ’40s — need women’s sexual services for rest and relaxation so discipline can be maintained. He clearly believes that the war effort justified the subjugation of women as sex slaves. This view of women being first and foremost sex objects for men not only rubs salt in the wounds of former sex slaves but is an insult to the dignity of all women.

Making matters worse, former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party together with Mr. Hashimoto, supported his views by saying, “Any military is associated with prostitution. It is a principle of history and by no means preferable. But Hashimoto is not saying anything wrong, basically.”

It is reprehensible for Mr. Hashimoto to try to minimize Japan’s responsibility for its wartime military sex slave system by questioning whether the Japanese state was actively involved in the abduction of the women who were used as sex slaves. In doing so he ignores the statements of a number of former sex slaves, who said that they were forcibly taken away by Japanese soldiers. The critical point is that the Japanese military was involved in setting up and managing comfort stations, and transporting comfort women, as stated in 1993 by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

Mr. Hashimoto’s remarks should not be regarded as an isolated incident. They come amid a nationalistic political environment created by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appears to be trying to weaken the 1993 Kono statement and Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s Aug. 15, 1995, statement, in which he apologized to Asian countries for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” that caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to their people. Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Ms. Sanae Takaichi said that she cannot wholeheartedly accept the Murayama statement.

Mr. Abe and Mr. Hashimoto are intent on weakening Article 96 of the Constitution, which is designed to prevent imprudent revisions of the Constitution by requiring the approval of two-thirds of all Diet members in both houses before a referendum can be held. They should realize that their nationalistic agenda and moves to weaken constitutional democracy will only serve to undermine international trust in Japan and inflame regional tensions.

  • Masa Chekov

    Excellent editorial. Issues related to WWII aside, Hashimoto manages to dehumanize both women (by suggesting that a woman’s role is to serve as a sexual plaything for men) and men (by saying that men cannot be controlled and are prone to violence without visiting prostitutes).

    Disgusting, shameful man.

    • JTCommentor

      Well put – he certainly has annoyed basically everyone with these comments.

      One thing that confuses me, though, is that people keep kind of assuming that the fact that prostitutes exist is somehow sexist, or some insult to women. As the author puts it “This view of women being first and foremost sex objects for men … is an insult to the dignity of all women”. This sort of ignores the obvious fact that, except for modern day sex slaves, the profession is chosen by the women. And, not standing up for Hashimoto, but what is wrong with viewing prostitutes (not all women, prostitutes) as being first and foremost sex objects for men. Thats what they hold themselves out as being, and that is what they earn money for being.

      • I strongly doubt if prostitutes has CHOSEN their profession out of their own will, considering the fact that very high percentage of them were victims of abuse or sex crimes, and many of them are from poor families.

      • gnirol

        How many teenage women do you know whose #1 career choice is prostitution once they complete their Coming of Age Day celebration and reach the age of 20, if they manage to reach 20 before joining the profession? (Think “hostesses” imported from poorer countries in Asia or poorer areas in Japan.) Maybe they “choose” that life because they find they have no other realistic choice to bring some money in? Ya think? How many guys are lining up to marry former prostitutes? Mr. Hashimoto? Perhaps if he were in a situation in which he had no choice but to become a male prostitute to satisfy the urges of other men, which he claims they cannot control, in order to put food on the table, he’d understand. Theoretically, this is just another profession. Does anyone realistically believe that?

      • Glen Douglas Brügge

        Not always. Sex trafficking is a big issue in Japan – and all over the world. Many women do enter into prostitution due to a lack of other options for earning money, and do so willingly – but many others are forced into it with threats of violence, deportation, and prison time. In Japan, for example, agencies will promise girls tickets to the country to work as hostesses (illegally, as visitors), promising quick, easy and plentiful money – the targets often being Eastern European women or Asian women desperate for money and escape from poverty. But when they arrive, they often find that these agencies are nothing more than fronts for human sex traffickers – the women are quickly stripped of their documents (passports etc.), told they will be reported and arrested if they go to authorities (because they are illegally working and have no documents) and find themselves essentially stuck. On top of this, they are threatened with violence and so are their families, if they do not comply. Although not a seminal work, Jake Adelstein’s “Tokyo Vice” takes a revealing look at the lives of sex slaves in Tokyo and is worth a read if only for that.

        And even if we are all accepting of the role prostitutes play in society – and they have existed in every corner of the world since we began walking the earth and men could barter something for sex – the fact that he is an insensitive revisionist and his logic so flawed – that is what upsets people. Hashimoto in summary: “It was wrong that we used prostitutes, but men need them to get their rocks off – and no one can really say they didn’t do it willingly – it kinda sucks for them, but hey, sacrifices need to be made!” “We have some pretty awesome Okinawan hookers for the US servicemen to use too – so by all means, be our guest, screw your brains out!” How does this not sound sexist? It denigrates women in so many ways.

      • JTCommentor

        Its hard to rebut your well worded opinion – thank you!

  • JTCommentor

    Referring to something as an “indisputable fact” does not make it an indisputable fact. I am not saying your claim is not true, but it would carry more ground if you gave a strong summary of evidence supporting it to the level of being an “indisputable fact” (I think to be at this 100% level, the support needs to be very, very strong).

  • Chesha no neko

    This is more than a foolish gaffe from Hashimoto. His agenda is to revise history. In solidarity with the women of Japan and worldwide, his remarks should be condemned. This episode has ignited anti-Japanese sentiment in the UK, and the Japanese people do not deserve to be vilified as a result of the views of a nationalistic minority. I’m a British woman with an Osakan partner of Okinawan descent, and my father’s cousin died in a Japanese PoW camp, so this issue carries special resonance with me.
    I hope that the foreign community in Japan call for Hashimoto’s resignation.

  • El Don

    I can only say: Japan Times is doing an excellent job. This editorial is a very good example. Critical analysis of Japan’s political right. As someone who really likes Japan and its culture, who has worked in Japan, and who has friends there, I am shocked if I read about Hashimoto’s comments on the sex slave issue as well as the LDP government’s handling of the atomic crisis. It’s definitely a sad time for Japan. Its so-called “elite” is a shame for a democracy. Isn’t there anyone better than those right-wing hawks and atomic-power-supporters? Fortunately, I know there are politicians who can make a difference. However, the question is will the people start the nation-wide grass-roots-movement in order to provide them with the (financial) support they need and to democratically set them in power? The French Revolution is long gone. What we now need is a Japanese Revolution.
    And once again chapeau for Japan Times! Keep the good work comin’!

  • Kyoto observer

    I too find Mr Hashimoto’s words and apparent beliefs abhorrent and applaud the Japan Times for its ongoing coverage of this story. I do however question the constant use of the highly emotive phrase “sex slaves”. This is not a translation from the Japanese or even a well established phrase in English when referring to the systemized and forced conscription of women for sexual purposes. There is a difference between talking of “sexual slavery” as defined by the International Criminal Court and using the almost tabloid-like phrase “sex slaves” in reportage. I wonder whether its overuse in this context detracts from the good intentions of this newspaper in its efforts to report this story.

  • Mike34

    Agreed, excellent article. I think the nationalist know their time is short, so they are going out with a bang, or perhaps they are delusional and actually think that their dream of a meiji era Japan will be realized.