Mayor’s spin deepens suspicions

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who is also a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, held a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Monday in an effort to control the damage caused by his May 13 remarks on Japan’s wartime military sex slave system and from his call for the “greater use of adult entertainment shops” (fuzoku) by U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hashimoto’s response, which seemed to showcase the skills that he honed in his earlier career as a lawyer, has only deepened suspicions about his honesty and sincerity.

Referring to the Imperial Japanese armed forces’ sex slave system, Mr. Hashimoto said on Monday: “I am totally in agreement that the use of ‘comfort women’ by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War II was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.”

But it is hard to take this statement at face value given his earlier statement on May 13 that the military sex slave system was necessary in those days to maintain the discipline of the Imperial Japanese armed forces. At Monday’s press conference, Mr. Hashimoto tried to clarify his May 13 comments, saying that his point was that the armed forces of various countries considered it necessary to use women in wartime, but that this was not his personal opinion.

This was clearly an attempt — and a pathetic one at that — by Mr. Hashimoto to weaken the impact of his original remarks.

Demonstrating his refusal to take responsibility for his May 13 remarks, he went on to blame the media for twisting his words, saying, “These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context. I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.”

It is said that actions speak louder than words. If Mr. Hashimoto was truly committed to the dignity of women, he would have retracted his May 13 remarks on Japan’s military sex slave system. But he did not.

Mr. Hashimoto did retract his earlier recommendation that U.S. service members in Okinawa make more use of sex service shops to prevent sexual crimes, and apologized for making it. But a person committed to the dignity of women would not have made such a recommendation in the first place.

Mr. Hashimoto mentioned the use of women by the militaries of other nations such as the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union and said, “If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.” Once again, Mr. Hashimoto tried to shift attention away from the fact that Japan’s military was “directly or indirectly” involved in setting up and managing comfort stations, and transporting comfort women (as stated in 1993 by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono), and that these sex slaves were deprived of their most fundamental human rights.

Citizens should be wary of politicians who try to circumvent the core point of this important issue, and even more wary of those who make rash statements that twist or ignore the truth, and then refuse to take responsibility for them.

  • The issue is not the dignity of woman. US soldiers in Okinawa don’t display must dignity for women, or even themselves, but their mindless action does not descend to the level of desecrating the rights of another person. This is ultimately the problem with Japan’s acts in WWII, whether its their invasion of Pearl Harbour or ‘use’ of comfort women.

    I don’t think Hashimoto should be removed from office because of his views; I think his office should be removed as a basis for extortion. He is a representative for his constituency; notwithstanding the illegitimacy of his views. You wanted representative democracy; this is what you get.

    • Mark Klapheke

      Holy crap! Pearl Harbor was invaded by the Japanese?!

  • Eoghan Hughes

    The upside to all this is that we can expect Nippon Ishin no Kai to take serious electoral hits in the near future. By being this “open” about his opinions about women Hashimoto has in fact done the world a great favour.

    • mohindar

      Spoken like a non-Asian.

      East Asians are pragmatists, voting on self-interest and not morals or feelings or whatnot. Hashimoto’s prime error is ticking off rival nations for no good reason, the “human rights” aspect is not so important.

      • Eoghan Hughes

        Wait, what!? By “East Asians” do you mean people of a particular racial or ethnic stock? Or people who are born in the HUGE area that is “East Asia”?? Please note that my comment did not mention “human rights” once, so you are effectively setting up a straw-man argument.