Takahashi speech at U of Chicago: “Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”


Hi Blog. Great speech (available as a podcast from the link below) from the University of Chicago’s International and Area Studies Multimedia Outreach Service (CHIASMOS) (Thanks to Fiona for notifying me):

“Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine”
by Professor Tetsuya Takahashi, University of Tokyo
March 6, 2007

Professor Takahashi’s writings, including his 2005 bestseller, The Yasukuni Issue, make unmistakably clear that the role of the Shrine is antithetical to democratic values in Japan and to reconciliation with Asia, which requires acknowledgment of the harms inflicted through colonialism and war. The subject of his lecture is Japan at a crossroads today, its hard-won postwar democratic values at stake as never before.

Professor Takahashi teaches philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo.

Available as a podcast and/or video at:

Delivered in Japanese, with excellent translation by Dr. Norma Field (author, “In the Realm of a Dying Emperor”), there are no excuses for not listening on either side of the linguistic fence!

EXCERPT (minute 120):
“At the outset of my talk, I referred to the Tomita Memorandum as having been used by those who wanted to criticize the Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. However, I think that in the medium future, it is possible that that memorandum could be used in the opposite way–i.e. to clear the way for official visits by the Emperor himself. This past summer, in 2006, Foreign Minister Aso, an extremely influential politician, proposed that in order to revive the path for Imperial worship, the [Yasukuni] Shrine should be nationalized again. Such a proposal by such an influential politician is one we can not afford to overlook.

“It is the case that between 1969 and 1974, the LDP proposed legislation that would remove Yasukuni Shrine from its non-special status and make it again subject to State support. However, in that period, from 1969 to 1974, there was too strong a worry that this would lead to the revivial of militarism, and this legislation was not enacted. However, now, thirty years later, influential politicians in the LDP are stating that the State should remove, according to its own judgment, the Class-A War Criminals from Yasukuni Shrine, secure the understanding of China and Korea, and then make it possible to nationalize Yasukuni Shrine, make it possible for Yasukuni Shrine to have regular visits from the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I think that what I laid out earlier is that Triadic System stands a very good chance of being revived now. Namely, with the revision of Article 9, and the establishment of a force that is openly recognized to be an army, with the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education already effected in December of 2006 building in patriotic education. And then, the possibility of nationalizing Yasukuni Shrine–so that if there are deaths on the battlefield that occur, given the newly-established army, then these people will be enshrined in the national shrine and honored by the Prime Minister and the Emperor.

“I hope that you can understand now why I cannot accept that the problem of Article 9 is merely a problem with the Class-A War Criminals. I should have added that all these things could be happening according to this scenario with no objections coming from China and Korea–because the Class-A War Criminals have been disposed of.”
(Transcript by Arudou Debito)

Alex Kerr falls into “Guestism” arguments with unresearched comments


Hi Blog. I covered some of this material in a previous post on the blog. However, for the newsletter I did a significant rewrite last night, describing how flippant and unresearched comments from a noteworthy person (Alex Kerr) can cause problems for others (particularly through unscrupulous anonymous editors on places like Wikipedia). I don’t want this new version to be buried in a newsletter, so I repost it separately and delete the older version from the blog. Debito in Sapporo


Some time ago, Alex Kerr, author of DOGS AND DEMONS and LOST JAPAN (and a person I have great respect for), was asked in an interview with the Japan Times (Oct 25, 2005) about he thought about activists (and, er, about me in particular). He responded:

JT: In Dogs and Demons you argue that Japan has failed to internationalize. What do you think about the work of Debito Arudou and others to combat racial discrimination in Japan?

AK: Well, somebody has to do it. I’m glad that there is a whistle-blower out there. But, I am doubtful whether in the long run it really helps. One would hope that he could do it another way. He’s not doing it the Japanese way. He’s being very gaijin in his openly combative attitude, and usually in Japan that approach fails.

I fear that his activities might tend to just confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.

That said, perhaps we who live here are slow to stick our necks out when we sense an injustice, and quick to self-censor in order to get along smoothly in our communities.

To me the most interesting aspect of Arudou Debito is that, in taking on Japanese citizenship, he has brought the dialogue inside Japan. His activities reveal the fact that gaijin and their gaijin ways are now a part of the fabric of Japan’s new society. A very small part of course, but a vocal and real part.

This sticks in my craw for two reasons: One is that Alex, who does incredible amounts of research for his books, seems ill-informed about the ways we have combatted racial discrimination. If he had read my book JAPANESE ONLY (and despite receiving a copy from me nearly two years ago, he wrote me last January that he still hadn’t read it), he might understand that ARE doing it the so-called “Japanese Way”. We took every channel and route available to us WITHIN the Japanese system, as I meticulously detail in the book. In fact, there are plenty of Japanese who do exactly what we do (and more), and don’t get slapped with a “gaijin” label. It is out of character for Alex to comment on something he hasn’t done thorough research on.

The other reason is that this quote has been lifted out of context and selectedly reproduced by the unscrupulous on places like Wikipedia:
Some critics question Arudou’s brand of conflict resolution: the judicial system. Alex Kerr, author of the best-selling Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan (ISBN 0-8090-3943-5), criticize such tactics as “too combative,” is doubtful “whether in the long run it really helps,” noting that “in Japan…[the combative] approach fails.” Acknowledging that “gaijin and their gaijin ways are now part of the fabric of Japan’s new society,” Kerr also notes that Arudou’s activities may “confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.”[24]
The essence and thrust of Alex’s comment, which is in fact about two-thirds positive, is lost.

Anyhow, the reason I bring this up now is because Matt Dioguardi in a recent, thoughtful essay, grounds this phenomenon in historical context, from an angle I hadn’t considered before:

=========== MATT DIOGUARDI WRITES =================
As a foreign national who is making a life for himself in Japan, I’m personally concerned that remarks like his have a negative effect on me (as a so-called “gaijin”). Because regardless of what one may or may not think of Debito, unintentionally Kerr is commenting on all “gaijin”.

Compare this to C. Eric Lincoln’s vivid description of a “smart nigger” in Coming Through the Fire: Surviving Race and Place in America:

The smart nigger was likely to be everything the good nigger was not. Most likely he was educated above the norm considered sufficient for colored folks; whether he got it in school or some bigger fool than he had put it into his head, he had some dangerous notions. In either case, Mr. Martin said that the smart nigger was a pain in his own ass, and everybody else’s too. He wanted too much. He wanted his street paved, and he wanted it paved because he paid taxes rather than because his wife cooked for the judge. His house was painted and well kept and he didn’t waste his money on rattletrap cars. He didn’t “owe money downtown,” or “take up” advances on his pay every Monday morning. More than likely he had “been up North,” and he had a colored newspaper come to his house in the mail. The smart nigger paid his poll taxes, and he was mighty slow, it seemed to Mr. Dubbie Gee, to answer when somebody said “Boy!” He didn’t think that the bad nigger was funny, or that the good nigger could be trusted. Clearly, every smart nigger would bear watching. “They don’t last long,” Mr. Martin said, and he “flat out had no use for them.” He said that if he were colored he’d either kick a smart nigger’s ass down off his shoulders or keep away from him. A smart nigger, he said “is a damn fool hell-bent for trouble. And mark my words, he’s gon’ find it quicker’n a catfish can suck a chicken gut off a bent pin.”

Is Alex Kerr saying Debito is a “smart nigger”?

I’d like to note that Kerr should be more specific in his comments, because is it really the case that there are no non-“gaijin” doing the things that Debito does? Is he saying that when Japanese file lawsuits, this is a natural evolution of culture, but when Debito does it, it’s reinforcing the notion that “gaijin” have an “openly combative attitude”?

Is he saying the teachers who refuse to sing Kimigayo are acting like “gaijin”?

What exactly is the definitive way some one displays an “openly combative attitude”?

Moreover, what is the definitive “Japanese way”? And in what specific way is Debito not doing it?

It’s very disappointing to see some of Alex Kerr’s calibre engaging in Nihonjinron. He should know that there is nothing so destructive to Japan’s traditional local customs as Nihonjinron. Do I need to quote from his own books? Just like the centralization of construction standards begins to make all parks and all buildings look bleakly similar, the centralization of identity around the concept of “Japanese” in an essentialist sense is just as destructive to the development of a full personality.
=========== END MATT DIOGUARDI ==============

More at

The point is, I always find it amazing how easily people can fall right back into the “Guestist”-sounding paradigms of “nicely, nicely, don’t get too uppity, for it’s not ‘The Japanese Way'”. When in fact everything we have ever done has also been done by Japanese. I hope Alex gets around to reading my book (https://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html) and will offer more informed comments. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Irish Times: “Abe unleashes the deniers of history”, NYT on textbook revisionism


Hello Blog. Thought this would happen. It’s business as usual as Japan Inc. takes on the world’s political arenas with spin doctoring over “Comfort Women” etc., to feint with the left hand while fiddling with the right. Distract with snow jobs while whitewashing the historical record. Only this time I think we’ve got enough people on the ground over here who know what our government is doing for a change. David McNeill releases an excellent article for the Irish Times, while Norimitsu Onishi, on an incredible roll these days, continues unearthing for the New York Times (who’da thunk it, considering Nori’s articles when he first got here…?) Debito in Sapporo

Abe unleashes the deniers of history
David McNeill
Irish Times, April 2, 2007


One of the Japanese TV networks recently pointed out that some of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ministers no longer stood up when he walked into the Cabinet meeting room. Even worse, fumed one observer, they kept chatting as he tries to start the meeting. Such disrespectful behavior in a political culture where small acts carry enormous symbolic weight could only mean one thing, most concluded: Mr. Abe had lost the respect of his troops.

The unruly Cabinet coincides with a period of plummeting approval ratings for the government, which started last year at 63 percent and now speed inexorably toward the low thirties as elections loom. After a string of scandals and six months in office compared unfavorably to the rocket-fuelled years of Mr. Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, that shuffling of ministerial feet may be the harbinger of a prime-ministerial lynch mob.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mr. Abe is taking shelter under a political umbrella he has always found comfortable: nationalism. The man who coined the election slogan “beautiful Japan” and who will, if nothing else be remembered for re-injecting patriotism into the nation’s schools (in an education law approved Friday) is also unleashing the historical deniers and whitewashers who have long been kept tied up in the dungeons of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The deniers offer a startling historical counter-narrative: Japan was not the aggressor in the Pacific War but the liberator, fighting to defend itself from the U.S. and European powers and free Asia from the yoke of white colonialism; Imperial troops were not guilty, as most historians suggest, of some of the worst war crimes of the 20th century but the “normal excesses” of armies everywhere.

Mr. Abe’s cabinet is dominated by such revisionists. Even as the prime minister was trying to put out the diplomatic fires sparked by his assertion in March that the Japanese wartime state did not round up thousands of sex slaves, his No.3 minister, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura was again denying the military was involved. “It is true that there were “comfort women” said Mr. Shimomura. “I believe some parents may have sold their daughters. But it does not mean the Japanese army was involved.”

Foreign Minister Taro Aso claims a proposed US House of Representatives resolution demanding Japan apologise for the abuse of the women is “not based on the facts.” Mr. Abe himself still says there was no coercion of the women “in the narrow sense of the word.”

As one observer said, what part of “coercion” does Mr. Abe not understand? “I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word,” wrote Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor of Japanese History at the Australian National University.

The ground zero of the revisionist movement is Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and the attached museum, which offers the same Alice-in-Wonderland version of history. For decades, Yasukuni has generated controversy because among the 2.5 million ordinary troops enshrined there are the men – officially branded war criminals — who led Japan’s disastrous 1931-45 campaign. The government has always said that it had nothing to do with the decision by Yasukuni’s Shinto priests to honour the men but evidence released this week suggests this is a lie.

Papers released by Yasukuni and compiled in a new book claim the government was “closely involved” in the campaign to enshrine hundreds of A, B, and C-class war criminals, going back to 1958. The campaign was of course done in secret. “How about enshrining them in a way that would be hard to discover,” wrote one Welfare Ministry bureaucrat. The conservative Yomiuri newspaper concluded Thursday that the government and the shrine “shared the view” that war criminals should be honoured.

Mr. Abe is a well-known supporter of prime ministerial visits to the shrine. Confronted with evidence that successive governments had shredded Japan’s Constitutional ban on the separation of state and religion, however, he reverted to type by denying any such thing. “I don’t think there is any problem,” he told incredulous reporters, those big teddy-bear eyes darting nervously from side to side.

So far the prime minister has swatted away speculation that he will visit Yasukuni this year, but this is clearly a case of damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. If he goes, he will torpedo Japan’s slowly healing ties with China and South Korea; if he doesn’t his nationalist supporters will cry foul.

The fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Japan early next month makes this political hire-wire act that much more fascinating for political watchers. Will the leaders of one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships discuss Japan’s undigested history? Will Mr. Abe continue to insist that politics and economics be kept separate? And will he keep the political forces he has helped unleash from destroying the hard-won respect Japan has earned since 1945?



April 1, 2007
Japan’s Textbooks Reflect Revised History


TOKYO, March 31 — In another sign that Japan is pressing ahead in revising its history of World War II, new high school textbooks will no longer acknowledge that the Imperial Army was responsible for a major atrocity in Okinawa, the government announced late Friday.

The Ministry of Education ordered publishers to delete passages stating that the Imperial Army ordered civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, as the island was about to fall to American troops in the final months of the war.

The decision was announced as part of the ministry’s annual screening of textbooks used in all public schools. The ministry also ordered changes to other delicate issues to dovetail with government assertions, though the screening is supposed to be free of political interference.

“I believe the screening system has been followed appropriately,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long campaigned to soften the treatment in textbooks of Japan’s wartime conduct.

The decision on the Battle of Okinawa, which came as a surprise because the ministry had never objected to the description in the past, followed recent denials by Mr. Abe that the military had coerced women into sexual slavery during the war.

The results of the annual textbook screening are closely watched in China, South Korea and other Asian countries. So the fresh denial of the military’s responsibility in the Battle of Okinawa and in sexual slavery — long accepted as historical facts — is likely to deepen suspicions in Asia that Tokyo is trying to whitewash its militarist past even as it tries to raise the profile of its current forces.

Shortly after assuming office last fall, Mr. Abe transformed the Defense Agency into a full ministry. He has said that his most important goal is to revise the American-imposed, pacifist Constitution that forbids Japan from having a full-fledged military with offensive abilities.

Some 200,000 Americans and Japanese died during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the most brutal clashes of the war. It was the only battle on Japanese soil involving civilians, but Okinawa was not just any part of Japan.

It was only in the late 19th century that Japan officially annexed Okinawa, a kingdom that, to this day, has retained some of its own culture. During World War II, when many Okinawans still spoke a different dialect, Japanese troops treated the locals brutally. In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan — a starkly different view from the Yasukuni Shrine war museum, which presents Japan as a liberator of Asia from Western powers.

During the 1945 battle, during which one quarter of the civilian population was killed, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa’s defense and safety. Japanese soldiers used civilians as shields against the Americans, and persuaded locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. With the impending victory of American troops, civilians committed mass suicide, urged on by fanatical Japanese soldiers.

“There were some people who were forced to commit suicide by the Japanese Army,” one old textbook explained. But in the revision ordered by the ministry, it now reads, “There were some people who were driven to mass suicide.”

Other changes are similar — the change to a passive verb, the disappearance of a subject — and combine to erase the responsibility of the Japanese military. In explaining its policy change, the ministry said that it “is not clear that the Japanese Army coerced or ordered the mass suicides.”

As with Mr. Abe’s denial regarding sexual slavery, the ministry’s new position appeared to discount overwhelming evidence of coercion, particularly the testimony of victims and survivors themselves.

“There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide,” Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, said in an angry editorial. “There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers” to blow themselves up.

The editorial described the change as a politically influenced decision that “went along with the government view.”

Mr. Abe, after helping to found the Group of Young Parliamentarians Concerned About Japan’s Future and History Education in 1997, long led a campaign to reject what nationalists call a masochistic view of history that has robbed postwar Japanese of their pride.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former prime minister who is a staunch ally of Mr. Abe, recently denied what he wrote in 1978. In a memoir about his Imperial Navy experiences in Indonesia, titled “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23,” he wrote that some of his men “started attacking local women or became addicted to gambling.

“For them, I went to great pains, and had a comfort station built,” Mr. Nakasone wrote, using the euphemism for a military brothel.

But in a meeting with foreign journalists a week ago, Mr. Nakasone, now 88, issued a flat denial. He said he had actually set up a “recreation center,” where his men played Japanese board games like go and shogi.

In a meeting on Saturday with Foreign Minister Taro Aso of Japan, South Korea’s foreign minister, Song Min-soon, criticized Mr. Abe’s recent comments on sexual slaves.

“The problems over perceptions of history are making it difficult to move South Korean-Japanese relations forward,” Mr. Song said.

Mr. Aso said Japan stuck by a 1993 statement acknowledging responsibility for past sexual slavery, but said nothing about Mr. Abe’s denial that the military had coerced women, many of them Korean, into sexual slavery.


PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already


Hi Blog. Trace the Arc of Abe, from denial to hair-splitting to no comment to deflection to apology through his cabinet. Previous articles archived here

However, belated apologies like this (just by simple human nature, apologies tend to mean less when they come after being demanded, especially over a long duration) will have the irony of a similar debate:

Just how much “coercion” was there behind Abe’s apology? And how does this affect the sincerity of the act?

Anyway, it’s a step in the right direction (was there any other direction realistically to step?). The media from the Mainichi etc. leading up to this included below. Debito in Sapporo


Abe apologizes to sex slaves
March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a new apology Monday for the front line military brothels.

“I apologize here and now as prime minister,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, according to his spokesman Hiroshi Suzuki.

Thousands of Asian women — mostly from Korea and China — worked in the brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say the Japanese military forced them into the brothels and held them against their will.

Earlier this month, Abe denied there was any evidence the women had been coerced into sexual service, reflecting the views of conservative Japanese academics and politicians who argue the women were professional prostitutes and were paid for their services.

Abe’s denial drew intense criticism from Beijing and Seoul, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for it’s wartime invasions and atrocities.

The issue has also stirred debate in the United States, where a committee in the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution calling on Tokyo to fully acknowledge wrongdoing and make an unambiguous apology.

Abe previously said he would not apologize because Tokyo expressed its remorse in a 1993 statement on the matter by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. (AP)

March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun


Shinzo Abe’s Double Talk
He’s passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea — and blind to Japan’s own war crimes.
Washington Post, Saturday, March 24, 2007; A16


THE TOUGHEST player in the “six-party” talks on North Korea this week was not the Bush administration — which was engaged in an unseemly scramble to deliver $25 million in bank funds demanded by the regime of Kim Jong Il — but Japan. Tokyo is insisting that North Korea supply information about 17 Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by the North decades ago, refusing to discuss any improvement in relations until it receives answers. This single-note policy is portrayed as a matter of high moral principle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has used Japan’s victims — including a girl said to have been abducted when she was 13 — to rally his wilting domestic support.

Mr. Abe has a right to complain about Pyongyang’s stonewalling. What’s odd — and offensive — is his parallel campaign to roll back Japan’s acceptance of responsibility for the abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II. Responding to a pending resolution in the U.S. Congress calling for an official apology, Mr. Abe has twice this month issued statements claiming there is no documentation proving that the Japanese military participated in abducting the women. A written statement endorsed by his cabinet last week weakened a 1993 government declaration that acknowledged Japan’s brutal treatment of the so-called comfort women.

In fact the historical record on this issue is no less convincing than the evidence that North Korea kidnapped Japanese citizens, some of whom were used as teachers or translators. Historians say that up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries were enslaved and that Japanese soldiers participated in abductions. Many survivors of the system have described their horrifying experiences, including three who recently testified to Congress. That the Japanese government has never fully accepted responsibility for their suffering or paid compensation is bad enough; that Mr. Abe would retreat from previous statements is a disgrace for a leader of a major democracy.

Mr. Abe may imagine that denying direct participation by the Japanese government in abductions may strengthen its moral authority in demanding answers from North Korea. It does the opposite. If Mr. Abe seeks international support in learning the fate of Japan’s kidnapped citizens, he should straightforwardly accept responsibility for Japan’s own crimes — and apologize to the victims he has slandered.


The analogy – fair or otherwise – between the Japanese abductees and second world war ‘comfort women’ and forced labourers of other types, seems to get very little attention in the Japanese press.

However, this article in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301640.html was reported in this morning’s Asahi Newspaper (This is an onlilne article from yesterday) http://www.asahi.com/international/update/0325/006.html which accuses the Japanese prime minister of “double talk” about abductions.

BTW todays’ printed asahi article uses “ni mai jita” (forked tongue?) as a translation for “double talk” in the original, but yesterday’s internet version of the Asahi uses “gomakashi” (fudging) as a translation of the same article.

Abe’s talk is double, it is claimed, since he takes a severe, high moral against the North Koreans for abducting Japanese, but seems to be attempting to play down the abduction of Asians as sex slaves, claiming that there is no documentary evidence for abductions by the Japanese government. I am sure that at least the North Koreans have been drawing this analogy.

Indeed one Japanese abductee – who claims not to have been abducted – visited Japan and returned to North Korea saying things like (not accurate quote but something along the lines of ) ‘you don’t understand your past at all’ to this mother before he left. The mother thought he had been indocrinated. His story was reported in a back page Asahi article but I can’t find any mention of him on the net. Does anyone know his name?

Still less attention is the analogy between the Japanese abductees and the abduction of children – at least under non-Japanese law – by Japanese parents as mentioned in the life in Japan list previously on these threads. http://groups.yahoo.com/unbounce?adj=163087019,28171&p=1174878464 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/life_in_japan/message/1541 Tim

South Korean activist enters Japanese Embassy to protest World War II sex slaves
March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


PHOTO CAPTION: A South Korean protester Oh Sung-taek, left, runs away from a police officer, right, after he climbs over the walls of the Japanese Embassy compound in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women, including some Australians, were coerced into prostitution. He later said Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” The Korean read “History Distortion.” (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL — A South Korean activist scaled a wall of the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday, and staged a brief protest atop an embassy building against Japan’s denial of responsibility for forcing women to work as sex slaves during World War II.

Oh Sung-taek, a member of a vocal civic group, stomped on a Japanese flag and shouted anti-Japanese slogans for 10 minutes before he was removed by police, according to witnesses and a police officer. He wore a placard with a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that read: “Destroy History Distortion.”

Police could not immediately enter the embassy to detain Oh because they needed permission from the embassy, the officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

Oh was among 100 protesters gathered outside the embassy for a rally that has been held every Wednesday since 1992 to demand that Japan apologize and compensate World War II sex slaves — who were also called “comfort women” — for Japanese troops.

“Japan who forgets her past cannot create a peaceful future,” read a banner held by one protester.

The turnout was larger than usual because Japan recently insisted there was no evidence its military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels.

On Friday, Japan’s Cabinet issued a formal statement that no such proof existed, repeating a similar claim by Abe. The declaration was seen as a slap in the face of Asian nations already outraged over Abe’s remarks.

Historians say about 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

Japan ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony in 1910-45 before it was divided into the South and North. Many Koreans still harbor resentment toward Japan’s occupation. (AP)

March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan tries to calm furor over WWII sex slaves
March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


Japan tried to calm an international furor Wednesday over its forcing Asian women to work in military brothels during World War II, saying the government stands by an earlier landmark apology for the practice.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered a barrage of criticism throughout Asia by saying last week there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. He said Monday Japan will not apologize again for the so-called “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers.

“The prime minister’s recent remarks are not meant to change this government’s position,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said, referring to a breakthrough 1993 apology made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

“The government continues to support the Kono statement,” Shiozaki said.

Historians say thousands of women — as many as 200,000 by some accounts — mostly from Korea, China and Japan worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s.

Documentary evidence uncovered in 1992 showed the Japanese military had a direct role in running the brothels. Victims, witnesses and even former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses. The government has also questioned the 200,000 women figure.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution demanding a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.

But on Wednesday, Shiozaki also reiterated earlier comments by Abe that the prime minister would not apologize again even if the measure passes.

“The U.S. resolution is not based on objective facts and does not take into consideration the responses that we have taken so far. Therefore, we will not offer a fresh apology,” Shiozaki said.

Abe’s recent comments about the military brothels have spurred a backlash across Asia, with critics in China, South Korea and the Philippines demanding Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing denounced the use of sex slaves as “one of the serious crimes committed by Japanese militarists during the second World War.”

Li also urged the Japanese government to “stand up to this part of history, take responsibility and seriously view and properly handle this issue.”

Shiozaki tried to downplay criticism that Japan was reneging on past apologies.

“I think we should not continue these discussions in an unconstructive manner for much longer,” Shiozaki said. “Japan’s stance is clear.”

The 1993 apology was not approved by the parliament. It came after a Japanese journalist uncovered official defense documents showing the military had a direct hand in running the brothels — a role Tokyo until that point had denied. (AP)

March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Abe says LDP to conduct fresh investigation into WWII military brothels
March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that ruling party lawmakers will conduct a fresh investigation into the Japanese military’s use of brothels during World War II.

The government is ready to cooperate with the investigation, Abe told a group of reporters, amid calls for a review from conservatives who question many of the claims by victims and others who say the government kidnapped the women and force them into sex slavery.

“I was told the party will conduct an investigation or a study, so we will provide government documents and cooperate as necessary,” he said.

Last week, Abe triggered outrage across Asia by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. On Monday he said Japan will not apologize again for the Japanese military’s “comfort stations.”

Earlier Thursday, Japan’s top government spokesman said that Japan’s position on the coercion of women into sex slavery on the front-line during WWII has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by the U.S. media, and Tokyo will soon issue a rebuttal.

Abe’s remarks came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding a formal apology from Japan for its wartime use of the women.

Japanese leaders apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the apology was not approved by the Diet. Japanese officials have said the government will not issue a fresh apology and that the issue has been blown up by the U.S. media.

“Our view is that the media reports are being made without an appropriate interpretation of the prime minister’s remarks,” chief Cabinet spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. “We are considering appropriate measures, such as putting out a rebuttal to reports or comments that are not based on facts or that are based on incorrect interpretations.”

He did not cite any specific reports.

“My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas which further invites misunderstanding,” Abe said. “This is an extremely unproductive situation,” he said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women — mostly from Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Japan — worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

Abe said Thursday that he “basically stands by the 1993 apology.” The apology, made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged government involvement in the brothels, and that some women were coerced into sexual service.

But Abe’s remarks appeared to step away from the government’s previous position.

Defense documents uncovered in 1992 showed the military had a direct role in running the brothels, a charge the government had previously denied. Victims, witnesses and former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

Abe’s comments have incensed critics in China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines who have demanded Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

The fallout from the remarks continued to build.

The coercion of women into prostitution was “one of the key, serious crimes committed by Japanese imperial soldiers,” Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

“We hope that Japan can show courage, take a responsible attitude toward history,” he said during a regular news briefing.

“This once again strips bare his true colors as a political charlatan,” North Korea’s official news agency said Wednesday. (AP)

March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Japan’s Cabinet says no evidence establishing coercion of ‘comfort women’
March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


The Japanese government has found no evidence that the military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels, Japan’s Cabinet said Friday.

The Cabinet presented its assessment in a response to an opposition lawmaker’s question over its stance on a 1993 apology for the government’s role in setting up brothels.

The lawmaker, Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Social Democratic Party, posted the documents on her Internet home page.

“The government has not come across anything recorded in the materials it has found that directly shows so-called ‘coercion’ on the part of the military or constituted authorities,” the document said.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women, most of them Asians, worked in Japanese military brothels across the region in the 1930s and ’40s.

Japanese defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

A senior Japanese official apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the Diet did not approve the apology.

Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution.

The remark came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding that Japan formally apologize for its wartime use of women.

Abe later said that he stands by the 1993 apology, and that Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” (AP)

March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Former Japanese leader Nakasone denies setting up sex slave brothel in World War II
March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun


A Japanese former prime minister and elder statesman Friday denied setting up a military brothel staffed by sex slaves during World War II, despite writing a memoir that critics say shows he did so while in the navy.

Yasuhiro Nakasone, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1987 and was known for his friendship with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, described the facility he set up as a place for civilian engineers to relax and play Japanese chess.

“I never had personal knowledge of the matter,” Nakasone told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan when asked about wartime sex slaves, known in Japan euphemistically as “comfort women.”

“I only knew about it from what I read in the newspaper,” he said, adding that such enslavement was “deplorable” and that he supported the Japanese government spokesman’s 1993 apology to victims.

Historians say thousands of women — most from Korea and China — worked in the frontline brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution that calls on Japan to make a full apology for the brothels, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stirred criticism earlier this month when he denied there was evidence the women were forced into service.

A Nakasone memoir published in 1978 said that members of his 3,000-man navy unit in wartime Philippines and Borneo “began attacking women, while others took to gambling.”

“At one point, I went to great pains to set up a comfort station” to keep them under control, he wrote. The essay was in an anthology of war accounts, “The Eternal Navy — Stories to Hand Down to the Younger Generation.”

In the 1990s, former Philippine sex slaves cited the memoir as further proof Nakasone was involved with enslavement, bolstering their demands that Tokyo compensate the victims. The Japanese government in 1995 set up a private fund for the women, but never offered direct government compensation.

A Nakasone spokesman in 1997 told The Associated Press that the brothel was operated by local business people and that the prostitutes worked there voluntarily and had not been forced into sexual slavery.

But on Friday, Nakasone was vague about the activities at the facility, skirting a question about whether prostitutes were active there.

“The engineers … wanted to have a facility to relax and play ‘go,’ so we simply established a place so they could have that,” Nakasone said, explaining that the men — civilian engineers — needed someplace for rest and entertainment.

Nakasone’s government, as all Japanese governments until the 1990s, denied any official involvement with the wartime brothels.

The former prime minister is known in Japan for his nationalist stance. In 1985, he was the first Japanese prime minister to visit a Tokyo war shrine after it began honoring executed war criminals. (AP)

March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

Aso says Japanese better diplomats due to hair and eye color


Hi Blog. More Japanese-elite social science at work. Foreign Minister Aso offers his well-thunked-out theories as to why Japanese would do better than Westerners in the Middle East diplomatically.

Wonder how much of this has to do with how well Japan gets along in parts of Asia diplomatically. Oh yeah, must be the color of Japanese eyes and hair getting in the way… Race engenders trust, you see.

Courtesy of the Mainichi, NYT/Reuters/CNN, Jerusalem Post… thanks to several people for notifying me.

Followed by an article from the FCCJ website last June talking about Aso’s lack of a lack of a past himself, and a NYT Editorial of Feb 13, 2006 demonstrating his lack of diplomatic tact. Couldn’t be due to the shape of his mouth, now could it? It might, if you follow Aso Logic. Debito.


Japan’s FM: Japan doing what US can’t

Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 22, 2007
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1173879146662&pagename=JPost%2FJP Article%2FShowFull

Japan’s outspoken foreign minister said “blue-eyed, blond” Westerners probably would not be as successful as the Japanese in Middle East diplomacy, media reported Thursday.

Taro Aso made the remarks Wednesday during a speech in southwestern Japan, business daily Nikkei reported. National newspaper Mainichi carried a similar report.

“Japan is doing what the Americans can’t do. The Japanese are trusted. It’s probably no good with blue eyes and blond hair,” he was quoted as saying by the papers, referring to projects in Jordan River Rift Valley initiated by Japan.

“Luckily, we have yellow faces. We have no history of exploitation there or … fired a machine gun for once,” Aso said, according to the reports.

Takashi Sasaki, one of Aso’s aides, confirmed the minister gave a speech to a group of local assembly members in Nagasaki on diplomacy including Japan’s policy on Middle East, but refused to confirm the exact wording of the speech.

Japan, which wants to deepen its engagement with the Middle East, hosted a confidence-building conference in Tokyo earlier this month attended by officials from Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

The conservative minister is known for making gaffes. Aso has irked China with provocative remarks such as calling the country a military threat and attributing Taiwan’s high educational standards to Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.


Aso hints Westerners not as good as Japanese in Mideast peace initiative
The Mainichi Shinbun March 22, 2007


NAGASAKI — Foreign Minister Taro Aso caused a stir Wednesday by commenting in a speech on a Middle East peace initiative that “blue eyed, blond” Westerners would be “no good.”

Speaking during a lecture in Nagasaki Prefecture, Aso referred to a Japanese peace initiative, saying, “Japan is doing what the Americans can’t do. You can trust Japanese. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair.”

The minister added, “Fortunately, we have yellow faces. We have never at all been involved in exploitation there (in the Middle East) or been involved in fights or fired machine guns.

Aso’s comments related to projects in the Jordan Valley connected with a Japanese peace initiative. (Mainichi)
March 22, 2007

Still searching for the Japanese versions…

Japan Minister Raps “Blond” Diplomats in Mideast
Published: March 22, 2007 Filed at 8:22 a.m. ET
New York Times

Also CNN at http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/03/22/japan.aso.reut/index.html

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) – Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can’t be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their “yellow faces,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.

“Japan is doing what Americans can’t do,” the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.

“Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it’s probably no good,” he said.

“Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.”

Foreign Ministry officials were unable to comment on the report, which said Aso elaborated by saying Japan had never exploited the Middle East, started a war there or fired a shot.

Aso, seen in some circles as a contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if the Japanese leader runs into trouble in a July election for parliament’s upper house, is known for verbal gaffes.

He offended South Korea with remarks in 2003 that were interpreted in Seoul as trying to justify some of Japan’s actions during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.

He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where “rich Jews” would want to live.

Aso said then he had not intended to be discriminatory.

Japan has long felt it has a special role to play in the Middle East because it lacks much of the political baggage of the United States, allowing for warmer ties with Arab nations.

Last week Tokyo hosted four-way talks aimed at working toward peace in the Middle East, involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories as well as Japan.

Abe’s government has been battered by a series of problematic remarks by cabinet ministers this year, including the health minister’s reference to women as “birth-giving machines” and Aso’s own description of Washington’s occupation strategy in Iraq as “immature.”



Aso amnesia
by Christopher Reed
Courtesy of the FCCJ website.

Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, has made so many embarrassing and asinine remarks, several betraying racist-colonial attitudes, that he was attacked in a New York Times editorial as “inflammatory.”

But he is connected to a much nastier ghost from Japan’s imperial past.

Unmentioned by the NYT and deliberately under-reported in the Japanese media is the story of the aristocratic Aso’s connection, through his family coalmining firm, with the cruel and degrading exploitation of thousands of Korean laborers in slave-like conditions. Indeed this scandal, together with Japan’s reluctance to confront other past atrocities, remains its primary foreign policy obstacle.

In other countries, a link with slave labor would be intolerable for an important government official. The Korean pit workers were systematically underpaid, overworked, underfed and confined in penury.

They suffered chronic ill health, frequent death from unsanitary conditions or work accidents and were under 24-hour watch by brutal police. Their release came only with Japan’s 1945 defeat. Neither the survivors nor their families have received a penny in personal reparations, despite pleas from both Koreas.

Aso, 65, cannot plead generational separation. From 1973-79, when he entered politics, he ran the family company in Fukuoka Prefecture. He did not then address its history of peonage labor nor has he since. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to my inquiries.

The Aso company changed its name more than once and in 2001 entered a joint venture with Lafarge Cement of France, with Aso’s younger brother, Yutaka, remaining president of Lafarge Aso Cement Co. In December, the French ambassador in Tokyo awarded Yutaka the Legion d’Honneur at a champagne reception.

Guests of honour were Taro Aso and his wife, Chikako.

It seemed a fitting tribute to a family steeped in Japan’s recent aristocratic traditions. The Aso line includes a noble samurai, one of five who led the 1868 overthrow of the centuries-old shogunate that ushered in the modern era.

His great grandfather, Takakichi, founded the Aso mining firm in 1872. At one time it owned eight pits in Kyushu’s rich Chikuho coal fields and was the biggest of three family corporations mining an area producing half of Japan’s “black diamonds.”

As the scion of landed gentry, Taro Aso graduated from the university that traditionally educates Japan’s imperial family, spent time at London University, joined what was then Aso Industries, and quickly became a director. Completing the aristocratic tradition, he joined the Japanese rifle shooting team in the 1976 Olympics.

A grandfather was Shigeru Yoshida, prime minister of Japan five times between 1946 and 1954, and an autocratic conservative who, conveniently for the Aso family, conducted a 1950s purge of “reds” in the coal mining unions. Aso’s wife adds to family influence as the daughter of Zenko Suzuki, prime minister from 1980–82.

There is even a royal link. Aso’s sister, Nobuko, married Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, recently in the headlines over his opposition to a woman occupying the chrysanthemum throne. Tomohito suggested continuing the male line through concubines, an imperial tradition that would move Japan back several centuries.

The Aso connection to forced labor — unmentioned in its official website history — has been catalogued by three amateur historians in Fukuoka assisted by a Korean living in Japan. The four present a shocking picture with local library references, and documented in their books.

Tokyo’s National General Mobilization Law that forced all colonial subjects to work wherever it suited Japan, was not passed until 1939, but the historians found that before then, Korean laborers were shipped to Aso Mines. Precise numbers are unknown, but it was several thousands, especially after an Aso Mine strike of 400 miners in 1932. After 1939, the historians calculate, the number of Koreans in Japan’s labor force swelled to over a million; their figure is 1,120,000. Tokyo’s official number is 724,287.

The 12,000 Aso miners were paid a third less than equivalent Japanese labourers to dig coal to fuel Japan’s war.

It amounted to ¥50 a month, but less than ¥10 after mandatory confiscations for food, clothes, housing and enforced savings that often remained unpaid. All workers toiled underground for 15 hours a day, seven days a week, with no holidays at all.

“Housing” was cramped, dirty dormitory huts with six to seven tiny rooms in each. Single men lived and slept on a single tatami mat. There was no heating or running water. Lavatories were in earthen pits. A three-metre high wooden fence topped with electrified barbed wire ringed the outside. Workers were prisoners, guarded by police.

They kept statistics, however. In March 1944, Aso Mines had a total of 7,996 Korean laborers of whom 56 had recently died. A staggering 4,919 had escaped. Across Fukuoka, total fugitives amounted to 51.3 percent but at Aso Mines it was 61.5 percent because conditions there were “even worse,” said Noriaki Fukudome, one of the historians.

Most workers suffered malnutrition with no meat or fish provided. Early last year in Seoul the government-appointed Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism began inquiries, toured 16 Korean provinces, conducted hearings, and took evidence from witnesses. Its chairman, Dr Jeon Ki-ho, also visited Japan to clarify what he boldly called its “atrocities.”

The Korean commission compiled a list of hundreds of Japanese companies that exploited forced Korean labour, and likely would have knowledge of remains of the dead. One firm prominently on the list: Aso Mines. But a spokesman said the firm could not investigate the whereabouts of remains as no records were available.

The commission continues to press for information.

As if this record was not bad enough, Aso has continued to offend Japan’s neighbors — and the world — with a series of offensive and inaccurate remarks.

Fundamentally he seems to share Japan’s racial supremacy ideology of the 1930s, encapsulated in his remark last October at a museum opening, that Japan was “one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one race, the like of which there is no other on earth.”

This ignored the presence of the indigenous Ainu in Hokkaido, and the natives of Okinawa, both of whom have their own languages, and the Ainu, different racial characteristics. But Aso-style genealogical mythology was scientifically discredited decades ago. It remains the currency only of the racist inclined.

Aso also suggested that Koreans “voluntarily” changed their names to Japanese ones, thus ignoring a Tokyo law compelling them to do so. Above all he remains a Yasukuni enthusiast, but his remark that the emperor should visit the shrine and its sanctified war criminals — he has conspicuously avoided doing so — was too much for the LDP establishment.

Aso’s blunder was belittled. But is he just a political loudmouth of the kind many nations occasionally produce? His continued presence in office suggests he may be more than this. What the New York Times’s editorial described as “inflammatory statements about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War,” runs contrary to the new Old Right version of those events.

In this scenario Japan was a pitiful victim of western imperialist aggression and the war was merely defensive. Is this now the accepted version, and is Aso merely its stalking horse? If so, the Japanese (again) embark on a self-destructive foreign policy.

The whole issue should be opened for debate, but here the media are lamentably deficient. Two Japanese media scholars, Takesato Watanabe of Doshisha University in Kyoto and Tatsuro Hanada of Tokyo University, identified the cause as the dead hand of Japan’s kisha clubs.

The closely-knit journalist specialists of the kisha clubs conspire to keep out of the news anything they think will embarrass their department, and thus make their jobs more difficult. In this they abnegate the prime requirement of the press: to report without fear or favour.

As Hanada said: “As Aso is a candidate for prime minister, his attitudes and behaviour are a political issue with the question of his qualifications an important subject that should be open to the Japanese public.” As for Aso himself, Watanabe came briskly to the point.

“He should be replaced,” he said.

Posted by Martyn Williams on Sat, 2006-07-15 22:31

That NYT Editorial:

Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister
NEW YORK TIMES Editorial: February 13, 2006
(Thanks to Gen Kanai’s weblog)

People everywhere wish they could be proud of every bit of their countries’ histories. But honest people understand that’s impossible, and wise people appreciate the positive value of acknowledging and learning from painful truths about past misdeeds. Then there is Japan’s new foreign minister, Taro Aso, who has been neither honest nor wise in the inflammatory statements he has been making about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War.

Besides offending neighboring countries that Japan needs as allies and trading partners, he is disserving the people he has been pandering to. World War II ended before most of today’s Japanese were born. Yet public discourse in Japan and modern history lessons in its schools have never properly come to terms with the country’s responsibility for such terrible events as the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement of Korean young women, the biological warfare experiments carried out on Chinese cities and helpless prisoners of war, and the sadistic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in the city of Nanjing.

That is why so many Asians have been angered by a string of appalling remarks Mr. Aso has made since being named foreign minister last fall. Two of the most recent were his suggestion that Japan’s emperor ought to visit the militaristic Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are among those honored, and his claim that Taiwan owes its high educational standards to enlightened Japanese policies during the 50-year occupation that began when Tokyo grabbed the island as war booty from China in 1895. Mr. Aso’s later lame efforts to clarify his words left their effect unchanged.

Mr. Aso has also been going out of his way to inflame Japan’s already difficult relations with Beijing by characterizing China’s long-term military buildup as a “considerable threat” to Japan. China has no recent record of threatening Japan. As the rest of the world knows, it was the other way around. Mr. Aso’s sense of diplomacy is as odd as his sense of history.

Excellent article on “Comfort Women” on Japan Focus


Hi Blog. Here’s a pretty much perfect article on the “Comfort Women” Issue at Japan Focus, which ties everything we need for this debate together: The USG and GOJ’s reaction to the issue, the UN’s reports, the background of the primary agents in the process of denial, and all contextualized within a comparison of Nazi Germany’s and Imperial Japan’s wartime behavior and postwar followup.

Japan’s “Comfort Women”: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)
Japan Focus Article 780
Some select quotes:

Reading these remarks [from Abe and Aso regarding “coercion” and “facts”], I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word”. I also found myself in particular imagining how the world might react if one of the German ministers most actively engaged in this denial happened (for example) to be called Krupp, and to be a direct descendant of the industrial dynasty of that name….

Many people were involved in the recruitment of “comfort women” – not only soldiers but also members of the Korean colonial police (working, of course, under Japanese command) and civilian brokers, who frequently used techniques of deception identical to those used by human traffickers today. Forced labour for mines and factories was recruited with the same mixture of outright violence, threats and false promises…

To summarise, then, not all “comfort women” were rounded up at gunpoint, but some were. Some were paid for “services”, though many were not. Not all “comfort stations” were directly managed by the military. None of this, however, negates the fact that large numbers of women were violently forced, coerced or tricked into situations in which they suffered horrible sexual violence whose consequences affected their entire lives. I doubt if many of those who, “suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” have spent a great deal of time worrying whether these wounds were the result of coercion in the “broad” or the “narrow” sense of the word.

And none of this makes the Japanese system any different from the Nazi forced labour system…

In 1996, a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a detailed report on the “comfort women” issue. Its conclusions are unequivocal:

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that most of the women kept at the comfort stations were taken against their will, that the Japanese Imperial Army initiated, regulated and controlled the vast network of comfort stations, and that the Government of Japan is responsible for the comfort stations. In addition, the Government of Japan should be prepared to assume responsibility for what this implies under international law”. [11]

This denial [from members of the LDP] goes hand-in-hand with an insistence that those demanding justice for the “comfort women” are just a bunch of biased and ill-informed “Japan-bashers”. An article by journalist Komori Yoshihisa in the conservative Sankei newspaper, for example, reports that the US Congress resolution is “based on a complaint which presumes that all the comfort women were directly conscripted by the Japanese army, and that the statements by Kono and Murayama were not clear apologies.” [15]

Komori does not appear to have read the resolution with much attention…

What purpose do Abe’s and Aso’s denials serve? Certainly not the purpose of helping defeat the US Congressional resolution. Their statements have in fact seriously embarrassed those US Congress members who are opposed to the resolution. [18] The main strategy of these US opponents of Resolution 121 was the argument that Japanese government had already apologized adequately for the sufferings of the “comfort women”, and that there was no need to take the matter further. By their retreat from remorse, Abe and Aso have succeeded in neatly cutting the ground from beneath the feet of their closest US allies.

Well done that researcher! Debito in Sapporo

More on Ibuki “butter” Bunmei from Matt Dioguardi



On Feb 28, 2007, at 1:12 PM, Kirk Masden wrote:

I don’t know if Abe will be made to regret it but he should be.

Abe’s defense strikes me as more problematic than the original

gaff. Abe is equating homogeneity with getting along well. By this

logic, diversity (more foreigners in Japan, etc) leads to acrimony.

It also implies that whatever peace and good human relations have

characterized Japan thus far have been in spite of minorities such as

Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans, etc. This is a very problematic way for

Japan’s leader to defend a remark.

[Education Minister] Bunmei Ibuki’s comments continue to trouble me.

Some things to think about:

1. I’ve found at least two places where Ibuki specifically basically

says, “though there are exceptions such as the Ainu and the Zainichi

people, Japan is fundamentally, one ethnos, one culture, one ethnic

rulership, one language, one belief system” (As Kirk says above, this

is a very exclusivist attitude. He’s basically *excluding* the Ainu

and the Zainichi from participation in the successes of Japanese

rulership, culture, language, and beliefs.)

2. Ibuki also states in more than one place, practically like a

refrain, that because of the post-war constitution and Fundamental

Law of Education are western they emphasize rights over duty, private

over public. This is one reason why Japanese society is falling into

decadence. The examples given again and again are Livedoor and

Murakami funds. Ibuki will say, of course, rights and privacy are

very important, *but* … then he launchs into the problems they cause.

3. The solution suggested is to revise the constitution and the

Fundamental Law of Education to include more values of the Japanese


Has this not already happened somewhat? Article 2 of the Fundamental

Law of Education has been revised from what was previously an

emphasis on individuality and personal development, to a list of

values that perhaps are intended to reflect the values of the

Japanese ethnos.

So because there is a *perceived* majority, and the *perception* that

the *perceived* majority have certain supposedly *shared* values,

those values must now be imposed on *everyone*?

Good grief!

The one positive element here, is that I am gradually finding very

active and vocal Japanese citizens on the net who see through all

this nonsense. But so far not enough to stop the steamroller …

This is a really terrible price to have to pay for Koizumi’s economic


As far as Ibuki’s statements I’ve been blogging some of them here:






Matt Dioguardi


Abe denies existence of “Comfort Women”, overseas media and US Congress react, Abe backpedals, then clams up. Media pounces


Hi Blog. Here we go. Now the Western media has their peg to unzip the Abe Adminstration’s overt right-wing historical revisionist bent. Newsweek did a puff piece on Abe’s wife (comparing her to Jackie O) not too long ago, sigh. Now Abe undoes her image control with these revelations. NYT and Time Magazine articles (with updates from CBS News, showing Abe suddenly backpedalling, plus Kyodo and NYT again, plus links to US Congressional hearings by Mike Honda and actual victims on this issue) follow.

A quick note beforehand: Remember that Abe tried this on NHK in 2001 before he was PM, forcing NHK to re-edit a historical piece involving the Comfort Women some years ago. Sources:

NHK stung by censorship suit appeal
Court links politics with deletion of Hirohito verdict in sex-slave program

The Tokyo High Court on Monday… ordered NHK and two production companies to pay damages to a women’s rights group for altering the content of a documentary on a mock tribunal over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery… The suit has been closely watched because the NGO claimed NHK censored or otherwise altered part of the 2001 program after being pressured by heavyweights in the Liberal Democratic Party, including Shinzo Abe, who is now prime minister, and Shoichi Nakagawa.
(Japan Times Jan 30, 2006)

The political pressure put, in 2001, on NHK, the national broadcaster, by the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to excise portions of a program that would imply imperial responsibility for war crimes. Add to this the government ordering NHK in 2006 to broadcast information about the North Korean abductions in the service of the country.
(Japan Times Jan 7, 2006)

That event was basically ignored by the foreign media, sadly. Not this time.

(And yes, given that these “Comfort Women” (ianfu), better known as sexual slaves, were almost all foreign, this is definitely germane to the focus of this blog.) Debito in Youga, Tokyo


Japan PM Denies WWII Sex Slavery
Time Magazine Thursday, Mar. 01, 2007


TOKYO—Yasuji Kaneko, 87, still remembers the screams of the countless women he raped in China as a soldier in the Japanese imperial army in World War II. Some were teenagers from Korea serving as sex slaves in military-run brothels. Others were women in villages he and his comrades pillaged in eastern China.

“They cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died,” Kaneko said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Tokyo home. “We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.”

Historians say some 200,000 women—mostly from Korea and China—served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops, and the top government spokesman acknowledged the wrongdoing in 1993.

Now some in Japan’s government are questioning whether the apology was needed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday denied women were forced into military brothels across Asia, boosting renewed efforts by right-wing politicians to push for an official revision of the apology.

“The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said.

Abe’s remarks contradicted evidence in Japanese documents unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.

The comments were certain to rile South Korea and China, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for wartime atrocities. Abe’s government has been recently working to repair relations with Seoul and Beijing.

The statement came just hours after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun marked a national holiday honoring the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule by urging Tokyo to come clean about its past.

Roh also referred to hearings held by the U.S. House of Representatives last month on a resolution urging Japan to “apologize for and acknowledge” the imperial army’s use of sex slaves during the war.

“The testimony reiterated a message that no matter how hard the Japanese try to cover the whole sky with their hand, there is no way that the international community would condone the atrocities committed during Japanese colonial rule,” Roh said.

Dozens of people rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to mark the anniversary, lining up dead dogs’ heads on the ground with pieces of paper in their mouths listing names of Koreans who allegedly collaborated with the Japanese during its 1910-45 colonial rule. Protest organizers said the animals were slaughtered at a restaurant; dogs are regularly consumed as food in Korea.

Roh’s office said late Thursday it did not immediately have a direct response to the Japanese leader’s remarks. In Beijing, calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry seeking comment on the remarks were not immediately returned.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not comment on Abe’s statement. “I’ll let the Japanese political system deal with that,” he said.

Abe’s comments were a reversal from the government’s previous stance. In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized to the victims of sex slavery, though the statement did not meet demands by former “comfort women” that it be approved by parliament.

Two years later, the government set up a compensation fund for victims, but it was based on private donations—not government money—and has been criticized as a way for the government to avoid owning up to the abuse. The mandate is to expire March 31.

The sex slave question has been a cause celebre for nationalist politicians and scholars in Japan who claim the women were professional prostitutes and were not coerced into servitude by the military.

Before Abe spoke Thursday, a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers discussed their plans for a proposal to urge the government to water down parts of the 1993 apology and deny direct military involvement.

Nariaki Nakayama, chairman of the group of about 120 lawmakers, sought to play down the government’s involvement in the brothels by saying it was similar to a school that hires a company to run its cafeteria.

“Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs, and set prices,” he said.

“Where there’s demand, businesses crop up … but to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark,” he said. “This issue must be reconsidered, based on truth … for the sake of Japanese honor.”

Sex slave victims, however, say they still suffer wounds—physical and psychological—from the war.

Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.

“The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities,” said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. “I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history.”

“I was so young. I did not understand what had happened to me,” she said. “My cries then still ring in my years. Even now, I can’t sleep.”

AP writer Burt Herman contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.



Abe Rejects Japan’s Files on War Sex
NEW YORK TIMES: March 2, 2007


TOKYO, March 1 — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied Thursday that
Japan’s military had forced foreign women into sexual slavery during
World War II, contradicting the Japanese government’s longtime
official position.

Mr. Abe’s statement was the clearest so far that the government was
preparing to reject a 1993 government statement that acknowledged the
military’s role in setting up brothels and forcing, either directly or
indirectly, women into sexual slavery. That declaration also offered
an apology to the women, euphemistically called “comfort women.”

“There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support
it,” Mr. Abe told reporters. “So, in respect to this declaration, you
have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.”

The United States House of Representatives has begun debating a
resolution that would call on Tokyo to “apologize for and acknowledge”
the military’s role in wartime sex slavery.

But at the same time, in keeping with a recent trend to revise Japan’s
wartime history, a group of conservatives in the governing Liberal
Democratic Party is stepping up calls to rescind the 1993 declaration.
Mr. Abe, whose approval ratings have been plummeting over a series of
scandals and perceived weak leadership, seemed to side with this
group. A nationalist who has led efforts to revise wartime history,
Mr. Abe softened his tone after becoming prime minister last fall. In
fact, he first said he recognized the validity of the declaration,
angering his conservative base.

“Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias
run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure
foodstuffs and set prices,” Nariaki Nakayama, the leader of 120
lawmakers who want to revise the declaration, said Thursday.

“Where there’s demand, business crops up,” Mr. Nakayama said,
according to The Associated Press. “But to say women were forced by
the Japanese military into service is off the mark. This issue must be
reconsidered, based on truth, for the sake of Japanese honor.”

Historians believe some 200,000 women — Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese,
Filipinos, as well as Japanese, Dutch and other European women —
served in Japanese military brothels. For decades, Japan denied that
its military had been involved, calling the brothels private
enterprises and the women prostitutes.

But in 1992, a Japanese historian, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, outraged by
government denials, went to the Self-Defense Agency’s library and
unearthed, after two days of searching, documents revealing military
involvement in establishing brothels. One was titled “Regarding the
Recruitment of Women for Military Brothels.” Faced with this evidence,
the government acknowledged its role and issued the declaration.

But the response angered people across the political spectrum. The
women and their supporters said that the government was not fully
acknowledging its responsibility because the declaration was issued by
Yohei Kono, then chief cabinet secretary, and not adopted by
Parliament. It is known inside Japan simply as the “Kono Statement.”

What is more, supporters accused the government of evading direct
responsibility by establishing a private, nongovernment fund to
compensate the women. Many former sex slaves have refused to accept
compensation from this fund.

But conservatives said the declaration went too far in acknowledging
the military’s role in recruiting the women. While the documents
showed that the military established the facilities, Mr. Yoshimi did
not find documentation that the military had forcibly recruited the
women. Conservatives have seized on this distinction to attack the

Supporters of the women say that the Japanese authorities famously
burned incriminating documents or kept them hidden.

At the same time, many former sex slaves have stepped forward in
recent years with their stories. Three testified in the United States
Congress recently, saying that Japanese soldiers had kidnapped them
and forced them to have sex with dozens of soldiers a day.



COMMENT: Abe has apparently decided not to work to repeal Kouno’s apology (the “Kono Statement”) made back in 1993 after all.

Japan PM to Stand by Sex Slaves Apology
Japan PM will stand by apology over forcing Asian women to have sex with troops
CBS NEWS March 5, 2007 12:12am


(AP) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will stand by Japan’s apology over forcing Asian women to have sex with Japanese troops in the last century, an aide said Sunday, after the leader’s denial that Tokyo used coercion caused an international uproar.

“Though there are many definitions of coercion, Prime Minister Abe has said … that he will stand by the Kono statement,” said Hiroshige Seko, special adviser in charge of Abe’s public relations, referring to a 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing to the victims of sex slavery.

The Kono statement also acknowledged many women were forced into prostitution and that the military government was involved in some cases.

“He has not denied the statement,” Seko told a TV Asahi talk show. He did not attempt to explain the apparent discrepancies between the statement and Abe’s denial that coercion was involved.

“The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said on Thursday.

South Korea later lodged an official protest, accusing the leader of “glossing over the historical truth.” Rights activists in the Philippines also slammed Abe for labeling the slaves as common prostitutes.

Historians say that about 200,000 women _ mostly from Korea and China _ served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Accounts of abuse by the military have been backed up by witnesses, and even former Japanese soldiers.

Abe’s statement contradicted evidence in Japanese documents, unearthed in 1992, that historians said showed that military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for the abuses.

Statement of
The Honorable Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress

Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing on
Protecting the Human Rights of “Comfort Women”
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Now, nearly nine years after the passage of AJR27, I stand united with several of my colleagues in the House, from both parties, in support of H.Res.121 and the surviving Comfort Women who are here with us today. The urgency is upon this Committee and the Congress to take quick action on this resolution. These women are aging and their numbers dwindling with each passing day. If we do not act now, we will lose a historic opportunity to encourage the Government of Japan to properly acknowledge responsibility for the plight of the Comfort Women.

Elected officials of Japan have taken steps to address this issue, and for that they are to be commended. In 1993, Japan’s then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued an encouraging statement regarding Comfort Women, which expressed the Government’s sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal. Additionally, Japan attempted to provide monetary compensation to surviving comfort women through the Asia Women’s Fund, a government initiated and largely government-funded private foundation whose purpose was the carrying out of programs and projects with the aim of atonement for the Comfort Women. The Asia Women’s Fund is to be disbanded on March 31, 2007.

Recent attempts, however, by some senior members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to review and even possibly retract Secretary Kono’s statement are disheartening and mark Japan’s equivocation on this issue. Additionally, while I appreciate Japan’s creation of the Asia Women’s Fund and the past prime minister’s apologies to some comfort women, which accompanied this Fund’s disbursal of monetary compensation from this fund, the reality is that without a sincere and unequivocal apology from the government of Japan, the majority of surviving Comfort Women refused to accept these funds. In fact, as you will hear today, many Comfort Women returned the Prime Minister’s letter of apology accompanying the monetary compensation saying they felt the apology was artificial and disingenuous.
REST AT http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/110/hon021507.htm

More Congressional Record on this, courtesy of Matt Dioguardi’s Blog:



More replies. Making a bigger hash of things as they go along… Now it’s time to blame the media for miscommunication….? Debito


Japan tries to calm outrage on sex slave issue, says
no new apology

Courtesy of Club of 99

Japan’s top government spokesman on Wednesday
reiterated that there will be no new apology regarding
wartime sex slaves in response to a resolution pending
in the U.S. Congress and that discussions on the
”comfort women” issue should not continue any
further in an ”unconstructive” manner.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sparked an
international outcry recently by saying there was no
proof that the Japanese military had coerced women
into sexual servitude during World War II, said,
”What we say in parliament on this issue is not
always conveyed (by the media) accurately. It
magnifies and spreads, and foreign countries react to

”The longer we continue this discussion, the
more misunderstanding there is going to be,” Shiozaki
told a morning news conference. ”I think it better
not to go on with this kind of discussion in a rather
unconstructive manner.”

Shiozaki again stressed that the government
continues to uphold a 1993 statement that acknowledged
and apologized for the forced recruitment of so-called
”comfort women.”

In an interview with Japanese media, Abe
reiterated that he stands by the statement and added,
”The U.S. resolution is based on a mistake of fact.
It contains the misunderstanding that there was
coercion, as in abductions carried out by the
(Japanese) authorities. There was no such thing and I
was just stating the fact that there have been no
documents or witnesses of proof.”

”The U.S. Congress bill is not based on
objective facts and does not take into consideration
the (Japanese) government’s handling of the issue so
far,” spokesman Shiozaki said. ”Therefore, no new
apology will be made in response to such a resolution
should it be passed.”

Shiozaki insisted that Abe’s recent remarks did
not contradict the so-called Kono statement, which was
issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in
1993 and represents the government’s official stance.

The statement acknowledges that women from the
Korean Peninsula, which Japan had annexed at the time,
and other places, were in many cases ”recruited
against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, et
cetera, and that at times, administrative/military
personnel directly took part in the recruitment.”

Abe, however, reignited decades-old anger,
especially in Asian countries that suffered under
Japanese wartime aggression, when he said last
Thursday that there was no evidence that the military
was directly involved in forced recruitment.

This week, Abe further explained that there was
coercion ”in the broad sense” of the word, referring
to private traders who recruited the women, but
insisted that there was no coercion ”in the strict
sense,” as in military personnel taking women from
their homes and putting them in brothels.

The more Abe and his spokesman Shiozaki try to
explain the premier’s hair-splitting over the broad
and strict definitions of ”coercion,” the deeper it
seems they find themselves bogged in a quagmire.

Cornered by reporters’ questions at an afternoon
news conference, Shiozaki effectively retracted his
remarks in the morning that the Kono statement
stipulates ”both the strict and broad sense” of

”As the prime minister has said many times in
parliament, it was possible (the victims) felt
pressure in the broad sense,” he said. ”Issues in
the narrow sense were by no means written in the Kono

The hawkish premier, who declared immediately
after taking office last September that his
administration will stand by the Kono statement, was
once part of a group of lawmakers opposed to the 1993

Some historians estimate that up to 200,000 women
from the Korean Peninsula, China, Taiwan, the
Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere were forced into
sexual servitude by the Japanese military before and
during World War II.

Although Abe said there is no evidence to prove
there was physical coercion by the Japanese military,
some surviving former ”comfort women” and even
former Japanese soldiers have testified that girls and
women were abducted.

Earlier on Wednesday, Abe praised the work of a
semiofficial relief organization for former World War
II sex slaves and said it ”conveyed (to the world)
the feelings of Japan and the Japanese people.”

The premier also told reporters the government
does not plan to get involved in setting up any
organizations to carry on the activities of the Asian
Women’s Fund after it is disbanded at the end of this

The fund, launched in 1995, disbursed a total of
1.7 billion yen to support foreign women who were
forced into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese
Army during wartime. It has been criticized as being
an attempt by the government to avoid responsibility
for state redress.

Denial Reopens Wounds of Japan’s Ex-Sex Slaves
N Y Times March 8, 2007


SYDNEY, Australia, March 7 — Wu Hsiu-mei said she was 23 and working as a maid in a hotel in 1940 when her Taiwanese boss handed her over to Japanese officers. She and some 15 other women were sent to Guangdong Province in southern China to become sex slaves.

Inside a hotel there was a so-called comfort station, managed by a Taiwanese but serving only the Japanese military, Ms. Wu said. Forced to have sex with more than 20 Japanese a day for almost a year, she said, she had multiple abortions and became sterile.

The long festering issue of Japan’s war-era sex slaves gained new prominence last week when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied the military’s role in coercing the women into servitude. The denial by Mr. Abe, Japan’s first prime minister born after the war, drew official protests from China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines, some of the countries from which the sex slaves were taken.

The furor highlighted yet again Japan’s unresolved history in a region where it has been ceding influence to China. The controversy has also drawn in the United States, which has strongly resisted entering the history disputes that have roiled East Asia in recent years.

Ms. Wu told her story on Wednesday outside the Japanese Consulate here, where she and two others who had been sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women, were protesting Tokyo’s refusal to admit responsibility for the abuse that historians say they and as many as 200,000 other women suffered.

All three — Ms. Wu, who is now 90; a 78-year-old South Korean from Seoul; and an 84-year-old Dutch-Australian from Adelaide — were participating in an international conference for Japan’s former sex slaves here. Now, just days after Mr. Abe’s remarks, the three were united in their fury.

“I was taken away by force by Japanese officers, and a Japanese military doctor forced me to undress to examine me before I was taken away,” said Ms. Wu, who landed here in Sydney on Tuesday night after a daylong flight from Taipei. “How can Abe lie to the world like that?”

Mr. Abe, a nationalist who had built his career partly on playing down Japan’s wartime past, made his comments in response to a confluence of events, beginning with the Democratic victory in the American Congressional elections last fall. That gave impetus to a proposed nonbinding resolution in the House that would call on Japan to unequivocally acknowledge and apologize for its brutal mistreatment of the women.

Even as Mr. Abe’s closest allies pressed him to soften a 1993 government statement that acknowledged the military’s role in forcing the women into sexual slavery, three former victims testified in Congress last month.

On Monday, Mr. Abe said he would preserve the 1993 statement but denied its central admission of the military’s role, saying there had been no “coercion, like the authorities breaking into houses and kidnapping” women.

He said private dealers had coerced the women, adding that the House resolution was “not based on objective facts” and that Japan would not apologize even if it was passed.

The resolution calls for Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.”

“Prime Minister Abe is in effect saying that the women are lying,” Representative Mike Honda, the California Democrat who is spearheading the legislation, said in a telephone interview. “I find it hard to believe that he is correct given the evidence uncovered by Japanese historians and the testimony of the comfort women.”

Japanese historians, using the diaries and testimony of military officials as well as official documents from the United States and other countries, have been able to show that the military was directly or indirectly involved in coercing, deceiving, luring and sometimes kidnapping young women throughout Japan’s Asian colonies and occupied territories.

They estimate that up to 200,000 women served in comfort stations that were often an intrinsic part of military operations.

Yet although Mr. Abe admitted coercion by private dealers, some of his closest allies in the governing Liberal Democratic Party have dismissed the women as prostitutes who volunteered to work in the comfort stations. They say no official Japanese government documents show the military’s role in recruiting the women.

According to historians, the military established the stations to boost morale among its troops, but also to prevent rapes of local women and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among soldiers.

Japan’s deep fear of rampaging soldiers also led it to establish brothels with Japanese prostitutes across Japan for American soldiers during the first months of the postwar occupation, a fact that complicates American involvement in the current debate.

In 1995 a private fund was set up to compensate the women, but many refused to accept any money because they saw the measure as a way for the government to avoid taking direct responsibility. Only 285 women have accepted money from the fund, which will be terminated at the end of this month.

The most direct testimony of the military’s role has come from the women themselves.

“An apology is the most important thing we want — an apology that comes from the government, not only a personal one — because this would give us back our dignity,” said Jan Ruff O’Herne, 84, who testified to a Congressional panel last month.

Ms. Ruff was living with her family in Java, in what was then the Dutch East Indies, when Japan invaded in 1942. She spent the first two years in a prison camp, she said, but Japanese officers arrived one day in 1944. They forced single girls and women to line up and eventually picked 10 of them, including Ms. Ruff, who was 21.

“On the first night, it was a high-ranking officer,” Ms. Ruff said. “It was so well organized. A military doctor came to our house regularly to examine us against venereal diseases, and I tell you, before I was examined the doctor raped me first. That’s how well organized it was.”

In Japan’s colonies, historians say, the military worked closely with, or sometimes completely relied on, local people to obtain women.

In Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, Gil Won-ok said, she lined up outside a Japanese military base to look for work in her early teens. A Korean man, she said, approached her with the promise of factory work, but she eventually found herself in a comfort station in northeast China.

After she caught syphilis and developed tumors, Ms. Gil said, a Japanese military doctor removed her uterus.

“I’ve felt dead inside since I was 15,” said Ms. Gil, who was 16 when the war ended.

Like many comfort women, Ms. Gil was unable to bear children and never married, though she did adopt a son. She now lives in a home with three other former comfort women in Seoul.

Ms. Wu married twice, each time hiding her background. Somehow the husbands found out, and the marriages ended unhappily. Her adopted daughter is now angry with Ms. Wu for having spoken in public about her past, she said.

As for Ms. Ruff, she returned to the prison camp in Java after her release from the comfort station. Her parents swore her to silence. A Roman Catholic priest told Ms. Ruff, who had thought of becoming a nun: “My dear child, under these circumstances it is wise that you do not become a nun.”

It was at the camp that she met her future husband, Tom Ruff, one of the British soldiers who had been deployed to guard the camp after Japan’s defeat. She told him her story once before they were married — long before they had two daughters and migrated to Australia.

“But I needed to talk about it,” Ms. Ruff said, sitting at the kitchen table in her daughter Carol’s home here. “I could never talk to my husband about it. I loved Tom and I wanted to marry and I wanted a house. I wanted a family, I wanted children, but I didn’t want sex. He had to be very patient with me. He was a good husband. But because we couldn’t talk about it, it made it all so hard.”

“You could talk to Dad about it,” said her daughter Carol, 55.

“No, this is what I keep saying,” Ms. Ruff said. “I just told him the story once. It was never talked about again. For that generation the story was too big. My mum couldn’t cope with it. My dad couldn’t cope with it. Tom couldn’t cope with it. They just shut it up. But nowadays you’ll get counseling immediately.”

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Carol said.

“You don’t know how hard it was to carry this enormous burden inside you, that you would like to scream out to the world and yet you cannot,” Ms. Ruff said. “But I remember telling Carol, ‘One day I’m going to tell my story, and people will be interested.’ ”


…The beat goes on… With the government saying one thing in the morning and another thing in the afternoon. Keep buffeting them, media! Debito

JAPAN TIMES Friday, March 9, 2007
Abe endorses LDP probe into wartime sex slaves


The government will provide documents to aid a new investigation by the Liberal Democratic Party into Japan’s wartime sexual slavery, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

The move comes after Abe’s denial last week that the Japanese military coerced the “comfort women,” as Japan euphemistically called them, sparked a storm of criticism.

Earlier in the day, an LDP lawmaker quoted Abe as saying the government would open a new investigation into the issue. The remark was made at a meeting of LDP lawmakers who adopted a resolution claiming that neither the wartime government nor the Imperial Japanese Army was responsible for “forcibly bringing” women to frontline brothels in the 1930s and ’40s. Abe was previously a director general of the LDP group.

But when asked if the government plans to take another look at the issue, Abe said: “I heard the party is going to study and investigate the issue. As for the government, we will cooperate in providing documents as requested by the party.”

Abe repeated that his government will continue to stand by the 1993 statement made by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that admitted and apologized for the military’s involvement in forcing women into frontline brothels.

Abe declined comment on what kind of documentation or evidence the government would submit. “I don’t know about details yet,” he said.

In the resolution adopted Thursday, the LDP lawmakers’ association claimed its investigation showed that, despite the 1993 government statement, only private agencies forced women to work at the “comfort stations.”

The group admitted in a written statement that private-sector agencies did kidnap some women and forced them to work at their brothels, but it denied the government and army’s involvement in the process of “forcibly bringing” women to the military brothels.

Abe last week claimed there was no evidence that the army coerced women into sexual slavery, which drew fire from across Asia and provoked U.S. lawmakers to demand Japan’s apology on the issue.

The association, headed by former education minister Nariaki Nakayama, consists of 130 lawmakers, or nearly one-third of the 417 LDP lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet. The group handed the resolution to Abe Thursday afternoon.

Abe was once the director general of the association, which has long campaigned to push the education ministry to remove descriptions of “comfort women” from public high school history text books.

After becoming prime minister in September, Abe slightly changed his position and has repeatedly said he accepts the 1993 government statement as the official view.

The 1993 Kono statement was issued after the government examined historic government documents and interviewed 16 women who claimed they were forced into sexual slavery.

The government did not find documents that directly proved the involvement of the government or army, but in combination with the interviews and circumstantial evidence from state documents, Kono admitted the official involvement and extended a formal apology.

A number of wartime government documents have been discovered to suggest the Japanese army did order the creation of military brothels for soldiers, played a role in managing the brothels, and even transported women to those brothels in China and other parts of Asia.

But the association claimed the Japanese authorities did not forcibly take those women to the military brothels, most of which were run by private-sector agencies for the sake of the army.

Now Abe plays the blame game, blames media for misconstruing him, and clams up…

Abe won’t explain sex slave remarks, accuses media of being inaccurate
Japan Today/Kyodo News Friday, March 9, 2007 at 19:41 EST


TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday declined to give further explanation of his recent remarks on wartime sex slavery, saying such discussion would be ‘unproductive” and accusing the media of being “inaccurate.”

“At this very sensitive time when it is difficult to have my remarks conveyed correctly, I believe discussion here will only become extremely unproductive,” said Abe, referring to criticism at home and abroad since he denied last week evidence of physical coercion by Japanese military in forcing women into sexual servitude.

“Last time I answered questions on this issue, my remarks were not conveyed or reported accurately, so I believe it to be the right political judgment not to spread this any further,” Abe told reporters at his office when asked if he intends to provide an easier-to-understand explanation.

The premier, a conservative hawk who seeks a bigger global role for Japanese troops and aims to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, has repeatedly said his government will stand by a 1993 statement that acknowledged and apologized for the military’s involvement in the forced recruitment of the so-called “comfort women.”

But Abe sparked an outcry when he said there was no proof of physical coercion by the military, namely soldiers kidnapping women and putting them in brothels.

The New York Times issued an editorial on Tuesday harshly criticizing Japan’s “efforts to contort the truth” and published a front-page article on the experiences of survivors in its Thursday edition.

Former comfort women, as the victims are euphemistically referred to in Japan, and even former Japanese soldiers, have testified that girls and women were coerced by the military. (Kyodo News)



No Comfort
THE NEW YORK TIMES Editorial March 6, 2007


What part of “Japanese Army sex slaves” does Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have so much trouble understanding and apologizing for?

The underlying facts have long been beyond serious dispute. During World War II, Japan’s Army set up sites where women rounded up from Japanese colonies like Korea were expected to deliver sexual services to Japan’s soldiers.

These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993. The unofficial fund set up to compensate victims is set to close down this month.

And Mr. Abe wants the issue to end there. Last week, he claimed that there was no evidence that the victims had been coerced. Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.

Mr. Abe seems less concerned with repairing Japan’s sullied international reputation than with appealing to a large right-wing faction within his Liberal Democratic Party that insists that the whole shameful episode was a case of healthy private enterprise. One ruling party lawmaker, in his misplaced zeal to exculpate the Army, even suggested the offensive analogy of a college that outsourced its cafeteria to a private firm.

Japan is only dishonored by such efforts to contort the truth.

The 1993 statement needs to be expanded upon, not whittled down. Parliament should issue a frank apology and provide generous official compensation to the surviving victims. It is time for Japan’s politicians — starting with Mr. Abe — to recognize that the first step toward overcoming a shameful past is acknowledging it.




Following is the text of the statement in English translation from the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

Original Japanese (included below) at

“The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime “comfort women” since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.

“As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.

“As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc. were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion etc.

“Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

“It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment.

“We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.

“As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private research related thereto.”

Original Japanese, for the record:




Now fellow LDP legislators are going to the US to fight Abe’s battles… Article courtesy of the author. Debito

Japanese Prime Minister angers victims of wartime sex slavery
By David McNeill in Tokyo
Published: 09 March 2007


Once a week, anger and the call of the past drags Gil Won-ok from her bed in a suburb of Seoul to the Japanese embassy in the South Korean capital. The frail 78-year-old is haunted by memories of what happened to her as a teenage girl when she was raped daily by Japanese soldiers in a Second World War “comfort station”. “I was in so much pain. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”

For 15 years, the Korean “comfort women” have stood outside this embassy to demand recognition from the Japanese government. Now, instead of an apology, they have heard another official denial. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week there was “no evidence” to prove the women were coerced. The statement has enraged the women. “They can’t make this go away by lying about it,” Gil Won-ok said.

Yesterday Mr Abe said the government stood by a 1993 admission that Japan had forced women into sexual slavery. But he also suggested that it would “reinvestigate” the comfort-women issue, a demand from about 120 politicians on the right of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who demand the admission be reversed.

Elderly women across Asia tell stories similar to the treatment of the Seoul pensioner. In the Chinese province of Shanxi, Guo Xi-cui was just 15 when she held in a comfort station for 40 days. She said Japanese soldiers stood watching as “two or three men” held her legs. “They spread them until I was injured and then they raped me,” she said. “When they sent me home I was not able to sit properly.”

Jan Ruff-O’Herne, an Adelaide grandmother, and her friends were taken from a Japanese concentration camp in Java to a comfort station. “We were given flower names and they were pinned to our doors,” she told Australian television. Then aged 21 and planning to become a nun, Ms O’Herne was raped by an officer.

According to Amnesty International, thousands of women from across Asia – some as young as 12 – were “enslaved against their will and repeatedly raped, tortured and brutalised for months and years” by the Japanese military. Thousands died in painful silence after a lifetime of torment until a group of Korean victims began to speak out in the early 1990s. Ms O’Herne remembers watching the women on television: “I thought, now is my time to speak out.”

But the issue has galvanised the Japanese right, who deny government involvement. “The women were legal prostitutes in brothels,” Nobukatsu Fujioka, a revisionist academic, said. He is one of the leading figures in a movement that aims to overturn much of the accepted wisdom about what took place during Japan’s rampage across Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

Twelve out of 18 members of Japan’s cabinet belong to a political forum that wants to “rethink” history education and backs many of Professor Fujioka’s views. His Society for History Textbook Reform has sold 800,000 copies of a revisionist history book that denies war crimes such as the comfort women and the Rape of Nanjing. Before coming to power, Mr Abe was one of the society’s supporters.

The revisionist denials are refuted by many Japanese historians. “The military decided when, where, and how ‘comfort stations’ were to be established,” Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of history at Tokyo’s Chuo University, said.

Former Japanese soldiers have also testified to their involvement in the wartime rape of Asian women. Hajime Kondo, who was stationed in China from 1940-44, recalled kidnapping a woman in Shanxi Province and taking turns with his comrades in raping her. He said the thought that gang rape was wrong “never occurred” to him until he had his own family.

The deniers, however, have grown stronger since a 1993 statement by chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono that the military was directly involved. That statement has never been accepted by the right. Now, with the prospect of a US Congressional resolution calling on Tokyo to “formally apologise and accept historical responsibility” for the comfort women, a delegation of LDP politicians is to travel to the US to lobby for the resolution to be quashed.

Mr Abe’s supporters say his plummeting approval ratingshave forced him to go for broke. “If he is true to his beliefs and says what he feels, his popularity will rise,” Professor Fujioka said.

Another article of note sent to me as a letter to the blog, talking about how the J media is turning this international issue into a domestic political one: Philip Brasor in the Japan Times March 11, 2007:



Japan can’t dodge this shame

‘Comfort women’ were forced to work in brothels during World War II; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says there’s no proof that ever happened.
By Dinah L. Shelton, professor of law at George Washington University.

IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, it is a punishable offense to deny the Holocaust. In contrast, Japanese war crimes have never been fully prosecuted or acknowledged, nor have most victims been afforded redress. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exploited this lack of accountability by asserting that there is “no proof” that women were forced into sexual bondage to serve the Japanese military during World War II, in effect labeling as prostitutes or liars all the thousands of victims of this abhorrent practice. After international outrage erupted, Abe stepped back, but by then the survivors had once more been victimized by his denial of an overwhelming historical record.

The prime minister’s revisionist statement contradicts abundant evidence that has come to light despite the government’s efforts to conceal or minimize the mistreatment of thousands of women in about 2,000 wartime brothels run by or with the cooperation of the Japanese military. Although no one knows exactly how many girls and women were conscripted to provide sex to Japanese soldiers, most historians estimate the number at between 100,000 and 200,000. Most were Korean and Chinese, though they also included other Asians and Europeans from Japanese-occupied areas. Many were kidnapped and raped, others were tricked or defrauded; some were sold by their families.

Japanese soldiers have come forward during the last 15 years to admit to forcibly taking girls and women on orders of the military. In 1992, documents found in the archives of Japan’s Defense Ministry indicated that the military was directly involved in running the brothels. The Japanese government formally apologized to the women in 1993. Since then, Japan’s official position has been one of admitting moral but not legal responsibility. A private fund was set up to compensate the former “comfort women,” and two Japanese prime ministers wrote formal letters of apology to women who received the payments. Some victims claimed that this ambiguity was unacceptable and refused to accept compensation.

The Japanese government claims that even if the women were held involuntarily, there was no law against it at the time; alternatively, if coerced sexual relations were illegal, the laws did not apply in militarily-occupied territories. A third prong of the Japanese defense is that any misconduct that did occur was settled by the peace treaties at the end of the war. Human rights activists in Japan and abroad have sought to prove this wrong, but so far they have been unable to secure redress for “comfort women” who have come forward in recent years.

In 2000, the Tokyo District Court dismissed a case brought by 46 former sex slaves from the Philippines who accused Japan of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court wrongly decided that “crimes against humanity” were not part of international law at the time. In 2001, a reparations claim by South Korean women who had been held as sex slaves failed in the Hiroshima High Court on the similarly erroneous grounds that coerced sex wasn’t illegal at the time.

However, there is a strong case to be made that the Japanese government does owe the women damages. Rape and kidnapping were crimes in Japanese law at the time and should have led to prosecutions of soldiers committing them. Moreover, despite the ruling in Tokyo District Court, the notion of crimes against humanity goes back to 1904, and such crimes were indicted after World War I and successfully prosecuted after World War II. On top of that, Japan had joined in four international treaties that barred sexual trafficking in women and forced labor: the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (1921), the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (1904), the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic of 1910 and the Agreement on the Abolition of Forced Labor (1930). In 1999, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions invoked these treaties and requested the International Labor Organization to rule that the women held by Japan in official brothels constituted forced laborers. The ILO Committee of Experts upheld the claim, despite Japanese contentions that the agreements did not apply to “colonial territories” such as occupied Korea. But the ILO had no power to order relief.

The Japanese government cannot be sued outside Japan because it has immunity from prosecution as a foreign state. Attempts by surviving women to sue in U.S. courts were dismissed on these grounds. Even if the victims were to surmount this “sovereign immunity” defense, they might run into problems with the peace treaties that ended World War II. For example, the 1951 U.S.-Japan peace treaty “recognized that the resources of Japan are not presently sufficient, if it is to maintain a viable economy, to make complete reparation” for damage and suffering. Japan has argued that this provision and others in peace treaties with some of its Asian neighbors and European powers closed the door on reparations claims by former prisoners of war, “comfort women” and other victims of Japanese atrocities and that nothing is owed anyone today. However, several provisions in the peace treaties suggest that reopening the issue of reparations might be possible, and advocates should look carefully at the texts. Still, it seems no court is likely to cure the injustice; Japan has a moral and legal obligation to do so.


UNREDRESSED GRIEVANCES have a habit of resurfacing, and sometimes burst forth in uncontrollable conflict, as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Already, Japan is facing increasing demands from several countries, including China, South Korea and the Philippines, that it more directly acknowledge its wartime misconduct and compensate its victims. Japan’s long-term interests in peaceful relations with its neighbors, not to mention its moral standing in the world, call for it to do so.

The problem that Japan — and its neighbors — have today stems from the lack of an equivalent of the Nuremberg trials to establish a complete and irrefutable record of the war crimes in Asia. Moreover, the Japanese government burned many of its own records, and others fell into private hands. This historical vacuum provides the opening for statements like Abe’s that there is “no proof” that women were coerced into sexual bondage. Those who oppose the International Criminal Court should be mindful of this pitfall. Meanwhile, Japan owes far more than an apology to the comfort women. Redress is legally and morally required.



Japan has atoned for transgressions
LA Times Letter to the Editor March 11, 2007
Re “The shame Japan can’t dodge,” Opinion, March 6

Let me set the record straight.

In 1993, the government of Japan acknowledged the involvement of former Japanese military authorities in the “comfort women” issue and expressed apologies and remorse to those who endured immeasurable pain and incurable wounds.

In 1995, the Asian Women’s Fund, which extended payments to women as a form of atonement and implemented medical and welfare projects, was established with the cooperation of the government and the Japanese people.

Since then, payments have been accompanied by letters from prime ministers saying: “We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future. I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that there has been no change in the position of the government of Japan.

Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles

(thanks to NHK 7PM news March 12, 2007, for notifying me)


No comfort for Abe
Mar 8th 2007
From The Economist print edition
Japan’s prime minister picks a shameful fight over the organised rape of thousands of women

SIX months ago Japan, whose leaders have often been dull political ciphers, celebrated an unaccustomed transition: the handover of power from a confident, reforming prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to an assertive, seemingly capable successor, Shinzo Abe. Mr Koizumi had pulled the economy out of its slump, and built up respect abroad. Japan may have failed last year to win the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council that it covets, but its diplomats, aid workers and (in modest but useful numbers) its soldiers, sailors and airmen are now ever more routinely deployed—and appreciated—in troublespots and disaster zones from Asia and Africa to the Middle East. Mr Abe has talked about his fellow citizens taking new pride in their “beautiful country”.

So they should. But sadly for those who expected better from Mr Abe, he seems to think he can build pride in the future on untruths about Japan’s past.

Mr Abe started promisingly enough. By adopting a more subtle approach towards China and South Korea he undid much of the damage Mr Koizumi had caused by his stubborn visits to the Yasukuni shrine honouring Japan’s war dead (where the souls of some convicted war criminals have also been “enshrined” at the request of their families). Then last week he squandered all the goodwill. Planting his own feet in the mire of imperial Japan’s wartime history, he questioned whether the 200,000 or so “comfort women” (from Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Burma and elsewhere) herded into the system of brothels run by the Japanese Imperial Army had really been coerced into their sexual servitude. Strictly speaking, Mr Abe said, there was no evidence of that.

Is he deaf? The first-hand evidence has mounted since some of the women courageously started breaking their silence, after decades of shame, in the early 1990s. More testified recently at hearings in America’s House of Representatives, where efforts are under way to pass a resolution calling on Japan to make a full apology, and where some of the victims explained, painfully, just how wartime sex slavery was for them. There would be more evidence too, if successive Japanese governments had not buried it in closed files or destroyed it.

Why pick this shameful fight? Other blunders have left Mr Abe dependent on his party’s noisy ultra-conservatives (see article). Resentful even of Japan’s past carefully parsed apologies for its wartime aggression, a group is now campaigning to overturn a 1993 statement by a cabinet official, noticeably unsupported by the parliament of the day, that for the first time accepted the army’s role in setting up the brothels.

The past is your country too

What the brothel survivors want is that full apology from Japan; they refuse to be fobbed off with offers of money instead from a private fund. By questioning their testimony—in effect, calling them liars—Mr Abe has instead added modern insult to past injury. But the damage goes wider. It revives distrust among Japan’s neighbours. And it belittles the efforts of those admirable Japanese working alongside others in the world’s dangerous places to help rebuild communities where people have sometimes suffered the same wartime traumas as the “comfort women”—victims of organised rape, in any other language than prime-ministerial Japanese.

Japan is not unique in its reluctance to confront a grim past. Though China lambasted Mr Abe for his statement, its Communist Party has never accepted responsibility for the 30m deaths from Mao’s self-inflicted famines of the 1950s, for example. But six decades on, deliberate amnesia is unworthy of modern, democratic Japan. Shame on you, Mr Abe.


Here’s a pretty much perfect article on the “Comfort Women” Issue at Japan Focus, which ties everything we need for this debate together: The USG and GOJ’s reaction to the issue, the UN’s reports, the background of the primary agents in the process of denial, and all contextualized within a comparison of Nazi Germany’s and Imperial Japan’s wartime behavior and postwar followup. Well done that researcher! Debito in Sapporo

Japan’s “Comfort Women”: It’s time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word)
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
(Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)
Japan Focus Article 780
Some select quotes:

Reading these remarks [from Abe and Aso regarding “coercion” and “facts”], I found myself imagining the international reaction to a German government which proposed that it had no historical responsibility for Nazi forced labour, on the grounds that this had not been “forcible in the narrow sense of the word”. I also found myself in particular imagining how the world might react if one of the German ministers most actively engaged in this denial happened (for example) to be called Krupp, and to be a direct descendant of the industrial dynasty of that name….

Many people were involved in the recruitment of “comfort women” – not only soldiers but also members of the Korean colonial police (working, of course, under Japanese command) and civilian brokers, who frequently used techniques of deception identical to those used by human traffickers today. Forced labour for mines and factories was recruited with the same mixture of outright violence, threats and false promises…

To summarise, then, not all “comfort women” were rounded up at gunpoint, but some were. Some were paid for “services”, though many were not. Not all “comfort stations” were directly managed by the military. None of this, however, negates the fact that large numbers of women were violently forced, coerced or tricked into situations in which they suffered horrible sexual violence whose consequences affected their entire lives. I doubt if many of those who, “suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” have spent a great deal of time worrying whether these wounds were the result of coercion in the “broad” or the “narrow” sense of the word.

And none of this makes the Japanese system any different from the Nazi forced labour system…

In 1996, a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a detailed report on the “comfort women” issue. Its conclusions are unequivocal:

“The Special Rapporteur is absolutely convinced that most of the women kept at the comfort stations were taken against their will, that the Japanese Imperial Army initiated, regulated and controlled the vast network of comfort stations, and that the Government of Japan is responsible for the comfort stations. In addition, the Government of Japan should be prepared to assume responsibility for what this implies under international law”. [11]

This denial [from members of the LDP] goes hand-in-hand with an insistence that those demanding justice for the “comfort women” are just a bunch of biased and ill-informed “Japan-bashers”. An article by journalist Komori Yoshihisa in the conservative Sankei newspaper, for example, reports that the US Congress resolution is “based on a complaint which presumes that all the comfort women were directly conscripted by the Japanese army, and that the statements by Kono and Murayama were not clear apologies.” [15]

Komori does not appear to have read the resolution with much attention…

What purpose do Abe’s and Aso’s denials serve? Certainly not the purpose of helping defeat the US Congressional resolution. Their statements have in fact seriously embarrassed those US Congress members who are opposed to the resolution. [18] The main strategy of these US opponents of Resolution 121 was the argument that Japanese government had already apologized adequately for the sufferings of the “comfort women”, and that there was no need to take the matter further. By their retreat from remorse, Abe and Aso have succeeded in neatly cutting the ground from beneath the feet of their closest US allies.


Abe’s ‘comfort women’ remarks: What was he thinking?

Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman
Star-Journal (Honolulu, Hawaii) March 18, 2007

WHAT WAS he thinking? That is the question most Japan-watchers grappled with following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fumbled questions about the imperial Japanese government’s role in recruiting “comfort women” during World War II. His responses came close to undoing the progress he had made in restoring relations with China and South Korea and threatened to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington.

The controversy began March 1 when Abe was asked about a Liberal Democratic Party group that wanted the government to revisit the 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. Kono acknowledged that the “Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women” and that “in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion , etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.”

Conservatives object to two related points: the role played by the military and the degree to which it actually “coerced” women. Abe said that the meaning of coercion was unclear and the accuracy of the statement depended on how the word was defined. (Ignored was his comment that either way, his government stood behind the 1993 statement.)

The readiness to challenge the conclusion that the government had “coerced” the women unleashed a firestorm of controversy, not least because the U.S. House of Representatives — during hearings on a resolution that called on Japan to apologize for its actions — had days before heard testimony from former comfort women that seemed to confirm the charge. Abe’s response sparked fierce condemnation from leading U.S. and foreign newspapers and seriously undercut those arguing against the resolution.

Why did Abe fan the flames, especially when it threatened to undercut diplomacy that promised “a new start” for Japanese foreign policy and had offered such promise for the new administration?

First, it should be noted that Abe wasn’t volunteering for controversy; he was responding to questions triggered by the actions of others (the LDP group and the U.S. hearings). This does not excuse or fully explain the response, however.

One explanation is that Abe, like many other conservatives, genuinely believes that the Kono statement was wrong. They challenge the factual basis for the conclusion that the government was involved in coercion. This argument rests on the definition of the word “coercion,” a legal distinction that is jarring given the long-standing insistence that Japan is not a “legalistic culture” and operates according to more flexible principles. It also attempts to trump a moral argument with a legal one. Whether the army actually coerced the women or left that job to independent contractors (as one legalistic argument asserts), there is little doubt that women were forced into servitude at the army’s behest.

This argument also rests on a sense of nationalism. Many conservatives still chafe at the judgment of the Tokyo Tribunals. The Kono statement implies that Japanese behavior was somehow different from that of other countries and Tokyo must apologize for things that other governments have not.

Underlying that conclusion — and obliging Abe to defend it — is domestic politics. The prime minister believes that Japan should be a more assertive country, one that is judged by its record of the last 60 years rather than for the sins of its forefathers. His domestic political base agrees, and they both resent being told what to do by any country.

Ironically, many in the United States and Asia agree that it is time to stop dwelling on the past, that today’s Japan should be judged by its postwar history. Unfortunately, Abe’s comments — like his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine — make it impossible for even Japan’s supporters to move past the history debate.

The phenomenon drives home the rising significance of domestic politics in Northeast Asia and the transition that all countries are experiencing as the international environment evolves and a new generation comes to power. While the U.S.-Japan relationship has been strengthened in recent years, both countries must still be acutely sensitive to developments in the other and ready to challenge assumptions about how the relationship works.

FOR EXAMPLE, the presumption that a House of Representatives judgment on Japanese history would be above challenge is plainly wrong. Gaiatsu (outside pressure) no longer works, even when it comes from Tokyo’s closest ally.

Yet the Japanese assumption that the alliance would counterbalance domestic politics in the United States is equally mistaken. The usual group of alliance handlers didn’t — or couldn’t — quash this tempest.

Abe is not the first politician to put the need to appeal to his domestic base above his country’s international image or long-term national interest, but it could not come at a worse time. As the first Japanese prime minister to be born after the war, Abe had an opportunity to pursue a forward-looking agenda. Instead, he and his more conservative colleagues have forced us once again to dwell on the past. Does this really serve Abe’s — or Japan’s — interest?


Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman are president and executive director, respectively, of the Pacific Forum CSIS (pacforum@hawaii.rr.com), a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and senior editors of Comparative Connections, a quarterly electronic journal.


Ivan Hall Speech text JALT Nov 3 06


Hi Blog. Dr. Ivan P. Hall is author of seminal work CARTELS OF THE MIND (Norton 1997), which described the systematic ways Japanese “intellectual cartels” in influential sectors of thought transfer (the mass media, researchers, academia, cultural exchange, and law) shut out foreign influences as a matter of course.

It was he who coined the important phrase “academic apartheid”, he who inspired a whole generation of activists (myself included) to take up the banner against imbedded “guestism” in the gaijin community, and he who has been a great personal friend and encourager in many a dark hour when all seemed hopeless in the human rights arena.

Now in his seventies and entitled to rest on his laurels, we at JALT PALE proudly invited him to speak and bask in the glow of the next generation of activists.

He gave a marvellous speech in Kitakyushu on November 3, 2006. It is my pleasure to premiere the full text to the general public on debito.org:


Choice excerpts:
[By writing CARTELS] I wanted to advertise the striking parallel to Japan’s much better known market barriers. In an era of incessant trade disputes, the foreign parties seeking to open Japan’s closed market were for the most part unaware of this complementary set of “softer” intellectual barriers that powerfully reinforce those ‘harder’ economic barriers. They do so by impeding the free flow of dialogue and disputation with the outside world, and through their encouragement of a defensive, insularist attitude on the Japanese side…

What about the attitude involved here? The way of thinking behind the exclusionary system of 1893 was best stated by Inoue Testujiro, the well-known Tokyo University philosopher and Dean of the Faculty of Letters in the 1890s, reflecting back on that time:

“In principle…professors at Japanese universities should all be Japanese. Accordingly, we managed to dismiss the foreign instructors from the Faculties of Medicine, Law, and Science, so that there was not one of them left.” “…every field should be taught exclusively by Japanese staff…the number of foreigners should gradually be reduced and ultimately eliminated altogether.” [Cartels of the Mind, p. 102]

Foreigners, Inoue continued, were to be hired only for the one thing they presumably could do better than the Japanese – to teach their own native languages…

One university trend clearly in sync with Japan’s rightward ideological swing is the now well-advanced barring of native speakers from the decades-long practice in many places of having them — as enrichment to their language instruction — convey some substantive knowledge about their own countries and cultures as well.

One of the leaders of university English language instruction in Japan is the Komaba campus at Todai, where there is great distress about the way PhD-holding foreign scholars are now strictly forbidden to digress from the new textbook. I have a copy here — it’s called On Campus — and it’s full of lessons on subjects like “Walking off Your Fat,” “Coffee and Globalization,” or “Why is Mauna Kea Sacred to Native Hawaiian People?” Not only are these teachers being forced to serve up something close to intellectual pap, but, more significantly, a pap that is devoid of any reference to the history, society, or culture of the English-speaking countries themselves– matters which I understand are deliberately downplayed if not off limits…

There is one area, however, where those of us fighting these issues are constrained only by our own lack of intellectual resourcefulness, honesty, and courage—and that is precisely this crucial arena of ideas and public persuasion. This means, more than anything else, writing – and, above all, the writing of books, for the simple reason that only books can be so thorough, so long-lasting, and so widely disseminated and reviewed (as long as you and/or your publisher work hard to promote it)…

In a word, what I am urging here is a much more active “protesting against the protest against protest” – if you follow me! That is to say, a much more active counter-attack on the apologia for continued discrimination – including all those special pleadings, culturalist copouts, and wacky non-sequiturs (some of them even from the judicial bench) that have gone without challenge for so long as to have gained the status of common wisdom – thereby inflicting real damage to the cause….


Read it all to see how the history of thought unfolded towards the foreign community in Japan, afresh from a world-class scholar and an eyewitness. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

SPECIAL REPORT: Issho Kikaku Deletion of the Historical Record



By Arudou Debito
December 23, 2006

(NB: The title is not meant to be sensational–merely a pun on the 1978 movie title, “Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?” The movie was a comedy. This report is, unfortunately, deadly serious. It is an update of a Dec 7 report, archived at https://www.debito.org/?p=108, because yet another mailing list has since been deleted.)




We open this report with a newspaper article:

========= ARTICLE BEGINS ================
Newscaster regrets anti-foreigner quip


Atonement, it seems, can never come too late. Newscaster Hiroshi Kume has apologized for a disparaging remark he made 10 years ago about foreigners speaking Japanese.

The comment offended a number of foreign residents in Japan, prompting some people to formally complain to TV Asahi Corp. that aired the remark. At the time, Kume was a presenter on TV Asahi’s evening news program, then called News Station.

The program aired in October 1996 and featured a report on India in which an Indian spoke fluent Japanese, according to Debito Arudou, 41. Arudou, who was born in the United States as Dave Aldwinckle and is now a naturalized Japanese, is active in efforts to protect the rights of foreigners.

Kume blurted out on the program, “Isn’t it better to see a foreigner speaking in broken Japanese?”

Arudou and others complained to the TV station that many foreign nationals are studying Japanese and trying to integrate into society.

He posted details of the protest on his Web site. Kume did not respond at the time, according to Arudou.

But on Dec. 1, Kume sent an e-mail message to Arudou, saying, “Thinking deeply, I realize this was quite a rude remark and I regret this as being narrow-minded.”

Kume told The Asahi Shimbun: “I recently learned on the Internet about the protest. I didn’t know 10 years ago.”

Arudou, in turn, said, “I was surprised but happy that an influential individual such as Kume did not neglect what he said in the past and tried to make things right.”

========= ARTICLE ENDS ================
(See what Kume saw at https://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#kume)

Very happy to see this happening. As I said above, I’m elated when somebody in authority displays a conscience. And I’m also glad the media has taken this up to show that amends can be made.

But what this brings to light is the power of Internet archives. If I had not archived this on debito.org, Kume would never have seen it…. Which is why maintaining a record of the past is a serious matter.



Information about the Kume Hiroshi Gaffe was also archived elsewhere–on a site called Issho Kikaku (http://www.issho.org). This domain is run and webmastered by Tony Laszlo, currently well-known as the star of the best-selling manga series “MY DARLING IS A FOREIGNER” (Daarin Wa Gaikokujin), created and rendered by wife Oguri Saori.

However, the Issho Kikaku archives, once open to the public, have been closed to the public since December 4, 2005, more than a year ago.

This is tragic. These archives contained the volunteer efforts of and reports from hundreds of researchers, essayists, and activists. These archives also had great historical value, as they charted the change in awareness in the mid-1990’s of the English-speaking foreign community in Japan. With the development of Japan’s Internet, foreigners went online, mobilized, and worked to change their status in Japan from “mere misunderstood guest who should shut up and behave” to “taxpaying resident with enforceable rights”.

Portions of this record can also be found in the archives of the seminal but now dead “Dead Fukuzawa Society”. (http://www.mail-archive.com/fukuzawa@ucsd.edu) Good thing these archives still exist.

However, the Issho Kikaku Mailing List archives, once a part of yahoogroups, were deleted several years ago. Information on and evidence of the list’s existence at https://www.debito.org/enoughisenough.html

When asked about moribund Issho.org in December of this year, Tony Laszlo said, in his final mail to the Shakai Mailing List (also an Issho Kikaku project), quote: “ISSHO Kikaku’s website is still in renewal… Tending to a new baby boy is keeping the webmaster busier than he had expected.” (December 10, 2006)

(That email–courtesy of a former Shakai member deeply troubled by these developments–is archived here:
I archive it on debito.org because, since then, the Shakai Mailing List archive has also been deleted.)

Congratulations on the birth. But this is an unsatisfactory excuse. The average gestation period of a human being is a little over nine months, not a full year. And as a poster to the NBR mailing list pointed out:

“…Tony can take months, years, decades, whatever to work on a “revamp” of ISSHO.org if he wants to. But there is no reason to REMOVE ALL THE CONTENT that was previously there while doing this work. Keep the old site running until the work is done, and then make the switch by simply changing the URL of the top page. It’s a simple task, and something that just about any website does while working on improvements.”

What’s more, despite all the busyness (and a millionaire’s income from the manga, meaning financially he can devote all his time to househusbandry, if not webmastering), Tony Laszlo is finding time to write articles again for the Shukan ST, not to mention appear in public as “Representative, Issho Kikaku” at a November 26, 2006, meeting of new NGO “No-Borders”: (See http://www.zainichi.net Click under the left-hand heading “nettowaaku ni sanka suru soshiki, kojin” . If that archive has also mysteriously disappeared, refer to https://www.debito.org/noborders120706.webarchive)

So that means there have been three archives done away with: Shakai, Yahoogroups Issho, and Issho.org–all under the aegis of Issho Kikaku. What’s next–the older yahoogroups archive for Shakai (May 2000 to Oct 2003)? Go visit it while it’s still there:

What’s going on?



I worked in tandem for years with Tony Laszlo and Issho.org, particularly in a Issho subgroup called BENCI (I’d send you more information on it, but, again, the Issho.org files have disappeared). I created, wrote, and maintained the BENCI webarchive. We had a falling out. I left the group.

Meanwhile, I had long since been archiving the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit website on debito.org. (https://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html) To this day it is still up there, along with its Japanese equivalent, serving as a citeable record for academics, lawyers, media, activists, and other interested parties as consistently one of the top twenty (of thousands) of accessed sites on debito.org.

Laszlo then told me to take related materials on debito.org down due to “violation of copyright”. Even though I never signed a waiver of my copyright, nor agreed in any way to waive it, nor received any remuneration for my writings. Yet according to Issho Kikaku former Co-Moderator Bern Mulvey, an eyewitness to this case, Laszlo was considering a lawsuit against me for “appropriation and misuse of Issho documents”:

December 13, 2006:

I was a member of ISSHO from the late 90s. Like Debito
and several other people, I was a also a member of the
Benci Project–the action group within ISSHO Kikaku which
took action against businesses with discriminatory
practices. Finally, I was co-moderator of the ISSHO
KIKAKU forum until June of 2001; hence, I have a pretty
good grasp of the details regarding Tony’s threatened
lawsuit (and other actions) against Debito.

Tony’s “issues” with Debito came out long before JAPANESE
ONLY was published first in Japanese (2003). Even when I
was co-moderator, there was a push from Tony to have
Debito removed from the ISSHO list because of his
“redundant” website and “misuse” of ISSHO documents. The
talk of suing Debito began then as well–ostensibly to
protect the accessibility and sanctity of the archived
materials, ironic given that said materials have
apparently been erased completely and permanently.

Much of the criticism directed at Debito from ISSHO and
Benci members was over how the collected documents and
other evidence–the fruits of a number of people’s
efforts–were being “appropriated” by Debito for his
supposedly “selfish” ends. The book was ostensibly just
another example of this–e.g., how dare Debito even
reference the ISSHO/Benci information?! (Note that there
was also a more legitimate anger over Debito’s use of
internal correspondence in the book.)

Of course, what Tony and others conveniently overlooked
was that much (80%?) of the archival information had been
gathered by Debito himself. I was one of Debito’s few
defenders when all this came down, and helped scuttle
Tony’s lawsuit (supposedly “on behalf of” BENCI members,
of which I was one). Indeed, I wonder, now that Tony has
taken down all documentation of 6 years of often
successful activism–almost all of it the results of
INTENSE effort he “ordered” but did not assist in–how his
former defenders live with themselves. Two of the most
vicious, at least, owe Debito a public apology.

For a long time, Tony justified his attacks on Debito
partly by asserting the need to ensure the archival
resources we created would remain open to everyone. Now,
they are gone, and I do not understand why. I am glad,
however, that Debito stood his ground and kept whatever
archives he could up at debito.org.
Bern Mulvey

We (Bern, Olaf Karthaus, Ken Sutherland, and myself) dispute the claims Laszlo made. Please see this historical website, written in 2001, and released for the first time today with updates for this report at:

It contains the remaining record of what went on in the Issho Kikaku Mailing list. It may also offer some insights on why these archives might want to disappear.

Then in 2004, my publisher was contacted by Laszlo’s lawyer. According to a letter dated August 13, 2004:

Laszlo, through a very famous TV lawyer named Kitamura Yukio, was formally threatening me with a lawsuit, claiming, quote, “violation of copyright, invasion of privacy, and libel” for the publication of my book “JAPANESE ONLY”.

In a face-to-face meeting we had at Kitamura’s offices in late August, he demanded that sales of the book cease.

What’s ironic, given Laszlo’s claims, is that Tony Laszlo, a journalist by byline, has himself taken materials verbatim from an Internet mailing list (Issho’s), without permission from or notification of the source. Then used them for personal remuneration in a Nihongo Journal article, dated December 1999. Archive at:

He was also not above using his journalist byline in a published journal (Shuukan Kin’youbi, April 18, 2003) to put out a clarion call for help to deal with “a recent publication using copyrighted materials without permission”.

Anyway, the lawsuit came to naught. And we got on with our lives. Until now.



Note that I wrote the above “enoughisenough” website above more than five years ago. Why didn’t I release it then?

Because I was worried that this would just be construed as a personal squabble. Seen as a petty dispute between two alpha males who just can’t get along, or who are somehow jousting for the pole position of “Mr Kokusaika” etc. Or, as time went on and the DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN turned him into a media superstar, seen as sour grapes for him getting rich and famous on his wife’s talents.

So I let things go. I just thought that he could do his thing, I could do mine. Even after he threatened me with a lawsuit for me doing my thing and writing books. Let it go, life’s too short, I thought.

Unfortunately, once the above decisions were made to delete whole archives and begin a process of whitewashing over history, I realized that this was going too far.

The destruction of public records is verifiable public damage. First he threatens to sue people over information he claims is copyright Issho.org. Then that information becomes unavailable to the public anyway.

The sad thing is that, even if Webmaster Laszlo eventually decides to let the Issho.org archives come back to life, the yahoogroups Issho and Shakai mailing list archives are gone forever.

This is irreversible. It is unforgivable. And should be known about.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
December 23, 2006

Previous report of this matter (Dec 7, 2006) available on this blog at

Kume Hiroshi reads his decade-old gaffe on debito.org, apologizes! And why archives matter (contrast with dead and deleted archives at Tony Laszlo’s ISSHO Kikaku)


Hello Blog. Got some great news regarding some unfinished business over a decade old:


This post is structured thusly:


December 7, 2006


I realized the value of a maintaining an archive all these years, when I got a letter out of the blue last Friday night (Dec 1) from a certain individual named Kume Hiroshi.

This is significant. Kume Hiroshi is a very influential person–for more than a decade he was Japan’s most popular (and controversial) news anchorman, hosting NEWS STATION on the TV Asahi network throughout the 1990’s. Much of his controversy stemmed from his glib editorial comments about news during the broadcast, found caustic or offensive by some viewers.

One thing that friends and I found offensive was his flippant use of the word “gaijin”, already becoming a “housou kinshi gotoba” (word not for broadcast, at least officially) on the networks at the time.

A gaffe he made in October 1996, questioning the efficacy of “gaijin” speaking fluent Japanese, caused a huge debate on mailing lists such as the Dead Fukuzawa Society and ISSHO Kikaku (both now moribund). It also occasioned my seminal essay on why “gaijin” is in fact a racist word (https://www.debito.org/kumegaijinissue.html).

Anyhow, this was one of the first human-rights issues ever I took up publicly in Japan, becoming a template for how to use “proper channels” for protest. Now, ten years later, those efforts have finally come to fruition!

What happened back then in more detail: On October 17, 1996, I emailed the following letter to TV Asahi (Japanese original):

============ MY 1996 LETTER TO TV ASAHI BEGINS =================
To Mr Kume Hiroshi:

(opening salutations deleted) On Monday (10/14)’s News Station broadcast something happened which troubled me. In the middle of a broadcast from India about the Maharaja burger in McDonald’s, some Indian apparently spoke very good Japanese.

But after that, Mr Kume apparently said:

“But it’s better if foreigners talk broken Japanese, right?”
(shikashi, gaijin wa nihongo ga katakoto no hou ga ii)

What does this mean? Maybe this was no more than an offhand comment, but I am greatly troubled. The next day, it became an issue on the the Fukuzawa internet group, and some “foreigners” felt very uncomfortable. The reason why was because foreigners both inside and outside Japan [sic] have taken great pains to become bilingual, and even if they try to fit into Japanese society, is it good for you to tell the whole country that “after all, it’s better if they remain unskilled like children”?

And then, I called TV Asahi directly and was connected to a gentleman at News Station. After I explained the above, he [replied]:

“‘Baby talk’ isn’t a bad word, I think. It’s just you who thinks so”, among other things. In other words, it seems he doesn’t take seriously the opinions of his viewers.

Even after I asked him, he wouldn’t give me his name, nor would he write down mine. “I’ll tell him” was all he said. But I really don’t have the confidence that he will pass the word along, so I am sending you this directly by email.

Afterwards, I called TV Asahi again and got hold of the Shichousha Center and talked to Mr Sekimoto. He said friendily, “That won’t do” and “I’ll talk to News Station”. However, that was around noon and I haven’t heard anything from them, so I don’t know what happened.

Anyway, Mr Kume, couldn’t you please take care of your terminology when addressing people who aren’t Japanese? If you take care about how you talk about Burakumin [Japanese Underclass], Zainichi Kankokujin [Japan-born Koreans], and “cripples” (bikko), please also do the same for the “gaijin”. (closing salutations deleted)

============ 1996 LETTER ENDS ======================
Japanese original at:

(The entire issue, related articles, and the debate on Fukuzawa is archived at

The issue then took off, hitting the Washington Post and the Daily Yomiuri twice. Finally, on November 28, News Station devoted an 11-minute segment on the word “gaijin” itself (a digression from the real issue of the “appropriateness” of their fluency–see my write-up of the telecast at https://www.debito.org/kume5tvasahibroadcast.html).

Alas, Kume topped the whole thing off by calling the reporter who anchored the story, award-winning novelist Dave Zoppetti, a “gaijin” all over again. Would he ever learn?

Yes, he would.



Fast forward more than ten years. Kume-san is now no longer on the air (except for a radio program one day a week), and is apparently considering becoming a politician.

This is what I received last Friday:
(Japanese original, available at https://www.debito.org/?p=106
Translated by Arudou Debito):

============ LETTER FROM KUME BEGINS ======================
Subject: Mr. David Aldwinckle
Date: December 1, 2006 7:32:40 PM JST
To: debito AT debito.org
Aldwinckle sama:

Please excuse this sudden email. My name is Kume Hiroshi. I appeared three years ago on News Station.

This is something more than ten years old, but on my program I said something about “I find it weird when foreigners (gaikokujin) are good at Japanese.” Recently I found out that you sent in a letter of protest about this.

I remember this happening. That person who came on the show had such incredible Japanese that I was blown away. My memory was that I remarked with the nuance that foreigners (gaikoku no kata) who speak Japanese should speak it like they knew that they were foreign (gaikokujin).

However, after a good think about this, I realize that this is a pretty rude thing to say. I’m thinking about how this reflects the narrow viewpoint of someone with an island mentality (shimaguni konjou).

I’m not sure how you feel about this nowadays, but if you took offense to this, I apologize from my heart for it.

============ LETTER FROM KUME ENDS ======================

(Note how careful he is even to avoid using the word “gaijin” throughout his letter. Good.)

Now, given the nature of the Internet, I of course had doubts about the veracity of this email. So I asked the author nicely for some more proof. He answered to give me the contact details of his agency (I checked with Dave Spector to make sure it is legit) and the cellphone of his agent, and would let them know I would be calling. I called on Monday and confirmed that yes, Kume Hiroshi really was the author. I have already made this information public to my Japanese lists, to show that Kume really is a person with a conscience.

I also send this to you to show that it really does pay to protest.

Make your thoughts known calmly and earnestly, and minds might change even at the highest levels!

However, this incident brings a more serious issue to light:



Now bear in mind that if these Kume letters were not up and searchable on debito.org, the entire issue would have been lost to the sands of time.

Which creates a clear irony. Another letter regarding the Kume “Gaijin” Gaffe up on my website is from ISSHO Kikaku, a formerly active Internet action group which promoted diversity in Japan (http://www.issho.org), headed by Tony Laszlo, now a millionaire and public figure. Tony Laszlo became very rich and famous in the 2000’s as “Tony-chan”, the amusing foreign husband of an international couple, thanks to the magical depiction by his wife, the very talented manga artist Oguri Saori, in the DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN multi-million-selling comic-book series. (Japan Times article “Drawing on Love: A publishing marriage made in heaven” at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20041017x1.html)

Anyway, the thing is, you can’t find that ISSHO Kume letter up at issho.org anymore. In fact, you can’t get any information whatsoever from the ISSHO Kikaku domain, despite all the years of work by hundreds of volunteers (myself included) creating that archive and information site. Issho.org also contained information on other important issues, such as foreign academics in Japan, the Azumamura Pool Exclusions Case, and the Ana Bortz Lawsuit.

Fact is, the ISSHO archives have been down for more than a year now (all you get when you access issho.org is “Site renewal – please wait a while. Submitted by issho on Sun, 2005-12-04 11:39.”) According to others doing net searches said: ” I just hope [information on the Ana Bortz Case] wasn’t solely on the issho.org site, because according to the Wayback Machine), ‘access to http://www.issho.org has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.’ Which means whoever controls that domain has purposely blocked any attempts from outside to access information from it.” “To be more specific, the robot directed all search engines not to create their own archive. Also, there was a text message in the file, it read: ‘Go away!'”

I don’t know any real human rights group which would do a thing like this. Collate all this information and then not let people access it?

Similarly, the archive for the former issho mailing list at yahoogroups, likewise under the administration of Tony Laszlo, was also deleted several years ago.

Why does this matter? Because ISSHO Kikaku’s archives were an important historical record of how the foreign community in Japan fundamentally changed its awareness in the 1990’s. Foreigners began to refuse being merely seen as “guests”. They began asserting themselves online with a newfound confidence as residents and taxpayers, demanding attention, due recognition, and commensurate human rights.

I also tried to chart the rise of foreign resident awareness in my books JAPANESE ONLY. However, I received a letter, dated August 13, 2004, from Tony Laszlo’s lawyer, the famous TV lawyer Kitamura Yasuo, accusing me of infringement of copyright, libel, and invasion of privacy. Kitamura’s letter is available at https://www.debito.org/letterlazlawyer.html”>https://www.debito.org/letterlazlawyer.html

On August 30, 2004, my publisher and I had a meeting with Tony Laszlo and his lawyer, where he demanded that my publisher halt publication of both my English and Japanese versions of JAPANESE ONLY. We didn’t.

I bring all this up now because there has been more than a year of dead issho.org archives, many years of dead yahoogroups archives, and an attempt to silence another published account of the times in two languages. Why is there so much suppression and/or deletion of the historical record?

The biggest irony is that Tony Laszlo is once again appearing in public as “Representative, ISSHO Kikaku”, according to a November 26, 2006, meeting of new NGO “No-Borders” (http://www.zainichi.net Click under the left-hand heading “nettowaaku ni sanka suru soshiki, kojin” in the blue field, fourth from the top. His is the fifth name on the list. If that archive also mysteriously disappears, refer to https://www.debito.org/noborders120706.webarchive)

With no clear membership, no accessible information site, and no archives to show whatever ISSHO Kikaku has ever done, it seems that this is a Potemkin group indeed.


The bottom line: It is precisely because of archives that Kume Hiroshi apologized. Without a record, we are writing sand messages on the wind. Let history be judged in retrospect without denial of access or mass deletion. If we’re ever going to get anything done for ourselves in this society, we need to know what to continue building upon.

Arudou Debito
Sapporo, Japan
December 7, 2006


Drawing on love

The “Da-rin” books detailing a couple’s quirky ways are a publishing marriage made in heaven
By TOMOKO OTAKE, Staff writer

THE JAPAN TIMES Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004
Courtesy (and with photos and book excerpts at)

She is a Japanese manga artist with a piercingly sharp eye for human traits and foibles. He is an American writer and language buff who can chat with equal ease in four languages. Together, they make for a magnetic — not to say a “mangaetic” — couple.

That’s because for Saori Oguri and Tony Laszlo (above), their life together has also spawned a side-splitting comic-book series which, in two volumes, has recently topped the million-sales mark.

In the first of the books, “Da-rin wa Gaikokujin” (which means, “My Darling Is a Foreigner”), 37-year-old Oguri turned her life with 44-year-old Tony into a hilarious read.

Published in December 2002, “Da-rin” depicts Tony as a sensitive, naive and reflective guy with markedly chiseled features.

In one episode, bearded Tony is so emotionally affected by seeing a bus fly through the air off the middle of a broken highway in the action film “Speed” (only to miraculously land on the unbroken other side) that he has to get up and lean against the wall for a while “to soften” the shock. Meanwhile, Saori comes across as an articulate, no-nonsense type — a spouse Tony had no chance of shifting when she’d decided to buy two luxurious 200 yen buns at a bakery, despite him urging her to just get one 100 yen bag (with two buns in it) to save money.

“But what if we died tomorrow?” she retorts, her eyes narrowing into fiery slits. Next moment, she’s morphed into a woman on her deathbed, a worn-out futon — whispering feebly from between sunken cheeks: “I . . . wanted to eat that 200 yen bun . . . ”

Talking recently with the couple at a trendy cafe near their home in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, that same comical chemistry came to life from the pages of their book, with Tony waxing lyrical and reflective while his wife, in total contrast, cut straight to the chase.

Their first encounter dates back to 1995, when Saori volunteered to help at an event organized by a nongovernmental group that Tony had founded. Which one of them first had a crush on the other is a bone of contention, with each claiming the other was the first to look him/her in the eye.

Tiffs over ‘subtleties’
But anyway they clicked, started dating, and eventually got married. Although the book describes their budding relationship humorously, it was rocky at first, Saori said. That wasn’t just because Tony hails from the United States and has Hungarian and Italian parents, or just because Saori grew up in Japan. The tiffs came from differences in “subtleties” — like feeling that the efforts you’ve made to adjust to the other went unrecognized.

It was Noriko Matsuda, an editor at the Tokyo-based publisher Media Factory, who persuaded Saori, her older sister’s friend, to create a comic book based on the couple’s life. Matsuda had been a longtime fan of Saori, whose style before “Da-rin” had been relatively low-key, often allied to serious story lines and with dramatically different graphics from “Da-rin,” featuring lots of gorgeous girls and guys.

After she agreed to rise to Matsuda’s challenge, Saori drew the first volume of the book in just six weeks — from October 2002 — after taking time off from a series she was doing for a comic magazine.

Riding the success of the first “Da-rin,” whose total print run is now up to 550,000 copies, Saori came up with a sequel, simply titled “My Darling Is a Foreigner 2,” which was published in March.

Initially, the books were targeted at cross-culturally married couples. But they have turned out to have a much wider public appeal.

Nonetheless, the scale of the books’ success — with a combined 1.03 million copies printed so far (for which Saori receives 10 percent royalties for every one sold) raises the question of whether its popularity is connected to the rising number of Japanese getting hitched to non-Japanese (36,039 in 2003, up from 26,657 a decade ago, according to official statistics). Or does it mean that more Japanese are finally embracing multiculturalism — or at least feeling obliged to tune into the English-speaking world?

According to Matsuda, the book’s success has little to do with any of that.

“Whether you marry a Japanese or a foreigner, marriage, at the end of the day, is about living with someone else,” she said. “And readers probably resonated with the author’s message, which is, if you try to understand each other better, it makes life so much more enjoyable.”

Saori agrees that it’s not the theme of “international marriage” that has fueled the “Da-rin” boom. In fact more than 70 percent of the 60 to 100 postcard responses she gets from readers every month are from Japanese married to Japanese, she said — or from Japanese who are single.

Long after the book’s publication, there was one significant other whose opinion Saori was denied. Tony stopped himself from reading it, because he didn’t want to get caught up in all the hype.

Characteristically, though, when he did recently delve between its covers, he minutely examined its every detail. That was after contracts were signed for an as yet untitled English-Japanese bilingual version of the first book — and Tony was assigned as the translator. Now, he faces the daunting task of ensuring that all its many jokes and entertaining nuances equally successfully bridge the linguistic — and cultural — divide.

“I trust him,” Saori said. Then she turned to him with just a hint of intimidation in her tone, and said: “I’m counting on you, really.”

Keys to cohabitation
So just what are the keys to enjoying living with someone else?

“Talk a lot with each other, but don’t meddle in the other’s business,” Oguri replied directly and without hesitation. “I want him to clean up his stuff, but I don’t tell him persistently.”

I asked for Tony’s input. He paused, then started talking — in impeccable and soft-spoken Japanese — about the limitations of space in big cities and how it is important for a couple to secure enough living space to avoid needless conflict with each other.

“To overcome the shortage of space, you should learn how to put things upward, instead of sideways,” he said. “It’s been some 15 years since I came to Japan, but it’s still hard to master that. In Japan, stereos and other electronic appliances are all stacked up . . . ”

“Everyone is doing it,” Saori cut in. “You’re trying to justify your inability to clean up, aren’t you?”

“And it’s important not to interrupt someone when they’re speaking,” he continued.

Saori sighed, as Tony went on to stress at length the importance of community support in a disaster-rich nation like Japan. Eventually, though, his orbit brought him back to the area of relationships.

“It would be nice if you could be flexible so that you can adjust to your partner, while at the same time retaining your solid, individual self,” he opined.

“Yes, flexibility is necessary,” Saori concurred in an ever-so-slightly un-“Da-rin” way.

The Japan Times: Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004



Hi All. Arudou Debito in Sapporo here. Lots been going on recently. Another newsletter to fire off to you:

Table of Contents:
(freely forwardable)


Let me start with this since it’s the briefest entry:

My latest article in the Japan Times Community Page will be coming out today, as in a few hours. Teaser summary:

Now that the UN’s corrupt Human Rights’ Commission has been replaced with the “Human Rights Council”, with more accountability for its members vis-a-vis their own human rights record, the Japanese government got elected last June as its richest member. Interestingly, I was able to obtain a copy of Japan’s submission to the UN when it declared its HRC candidacy. In it, Japan pulls the wool over the UN’s eyes, with half-truth claims regarding Japan’s willingness to comply with international standards of human rights (with prominent treaties left unsigned and signed treaties left unfollowed). Moreover, nowhere mentioned in the sales pitch is any form of commitment towards improving the rights of Japan’s international residents.

Maybe this ability for unqualified candidates to get elected is what’s causing writers on the UN, such as James Traub (author, “The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power”) to call the Human Rights Council “a failure” (NPR Fresh Air, October 31, 2006) already, mere months after its birth…

Anyway, pick up a copy of the Japan Times today and have a look.



These sorts of things just seem to keep on happening whenever I attend a JALT conference (http://www.jalt.org). Last year, it was me finding out how the Japanese police were bending newly-revised hotel laws, by misrepresenting the law to make it seem as though all foreigners (residents of Japan or not) must show their passports at check-in. (Wrong–it only applies to tourists.) See the Japan Times (“Checkpoint at Check In”, October 13, 2005) article that came out of that at

This year, the following happened:


Kokura, Kitakyushu City (Fukuoka Pref)
Restaurant “Jungle”
Kitakyushu-shi Kokura Kita-ku Kajimachi 1-7-4, Kajimachi Kaikan 3F
Ph: 093-512-7123, FAX 093-512-7124
Photo of storefront available at

On November 3, 2006, during the JALT National Conference at Kitakyushu, a JALT member was refused entry to the above restaurant. Reason given was that the establishment was full, even though to the refusee it visibly had open tables. The person who was refused informed Rogues’ Gallery moderator Arudou Debito at the conference after one of his presentations, and volunteer Jessica tracked down the site.

On November 4, at around 9PM, Arudou Debito, Jessica, and four other friends (including Ivan Hall, author of CARTELS OF THE MIND) went to the restauant in question. Arudou first went in alone and the manager, a Mr Matsubara Tatsuya, indeed tried to refuse him entry by claiming the restaurant was full. A quick walk around the restaurant confirmed that the establishment, with at least eight large tables plus counter space, was in fact almost completely empty. When it was clear that Arudou and Matsubara could communicate in Japanese, Matsubara then switched tacks and offered him counter space. Arudou then brought in his friends and confirmed that they could now have a table.

Arudou and friends then confirmed (after being seated and ordering drinks) that a) Matsubara did refuse foreigners entry, b) because he cannot communicate in English–he finds it his “nemesis” (nigate), c) and because he finds foreigners frightening (kowai). When asked if he had ever had any bad experiences or altercations with non-Japanese customers, Matsubara said no. He just (for reasons never made very clear) did not want to have to deal with them.

When Arudou and friends softly and calmly pointed out that a) non-Japanese are customers too, with money, not to mention language abilities (or at least forefingers to point to items on the menu), b) refusing them entry hurts their feelings, as it did the person refused the previous evening, c) that welcoming customers was part of the job description of his line of work (kyaku shoubai), he apologized and said he would try harder not to refuse non-Japanese customers in future.

The irony of the situation was that at the end of our drinks, one of the waiters who attended us (a student at the local technical college) talked to us in very good English. Why couldn’t Matsubara just have passed any customer with whom he was unable to communicate on to his staff?

We look forward to future reports from readers of this website who might wish to investigate this restaurant in future to see if Matsubara keeps his promise.

I should think that if I find some time, I should write a letter on this case to JALT, the Kitakyushu Mayor’s office (after all, he did officially welcome us in the JALT brochures), the local Bureau of Human Rights, and maybe the local newspaper, and let them know that this sort of thing happened and should not anymore. JALT is like a mountain in that it is big enough to influence the weather–with a couple thousand attendees surely a windfall for the local economy. Might as well ask to use the authority if we have it.



Here’s an article I stumbled across while reading back issues of The Economist, left fallow on my desk due to all my travels:

Iva Toguri, a victim of mistaken identity, died on September 26th, aged 90
From The Economist (London) print edition, Oct 5th 2006
Courtesy http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_SJJSDST

=================== EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
MANY years after the end of the war in the Pacific, a former tail-gunner who had been stationed in New Guinea wrote a letter to a veterans’ magazine. He wished to share his memories of a voice. Every night in the spring of 1944, huddled in a tent with his comrades, he would hear a woman speaking behind the crackle and whistling of the Halicrafter radio. “Hi, boys!” she would say, or sometimes “Hi, enemies! This is your favourite playmate.” She would play swing and jazz, introduce “some swell new records from the States” and then, almost as an afterthought, mention that a Japanese attack was coming: “So listen while you are still alive.”

They listened happily, as did American troops all over the Pacific. It was rare and good to hear a female voice, even through several layers of interference and even with the sneer of death in it. Whether it was one woman, or many different women, did not matter. They could picture her: a full lipstick smile, ample curves, perfect skin, part Hedy Lamarr and part the sweetheart left at home. She was a temptress and a vixen, and her name was Tokyo Rose. For even myths must have names and addresses…
=================== EXCERPT ENDS =======================
Rest of the article also at

Economist Oct 5 Obit: “Tokyo Rose” dies (with replies)

COMMENT: I think the author of article tries a little too hard to let Ms Toguri off the hook. Unwilling or subversive participant perhaps, the fact that she still participated is something that should be discussed. The author should have dealt with her motivations a little more, and instead of merely dismissing “incriminate Tokyo Rose” campaigner Walter Winchell as a “populist ranter”, brought up more of his claims and counterargued them better. Her popularity with the troops and celebrity status does not in my view exonerate her participation in the propaganda, and she herself should have told us a bit more about what went on before she died. If there is any “mistaken identity”, as the article claims in the title, I feel it is in part because she did an insufficient amount to correct it herself.

The Economist has done this sort of thing before, by the way. In an article on the Emperor Hirohito death in 1989, there was a Leader (editorial) dismissing British newspaper claims that he was “truly evil”. The Economist instead made the case that “Hirohito was one of the people in the 20th Century who delivered us” (IIRC–it’s been 18 years). I had trouble buying it then, and, given the revelations of Shouwa Tennou’s wartime involvement (see Herbert BIX’s book on it), I buy it even less today.

Contrast these with what passed as an Obit in The Economist for Leni Riefenstahl, another woman with wartime complicity. Also available at

Economist Oct 5 Obit: “Tokyo Rose” dies (with replies)

Maybe this is just something The Economist does: Focus on the output and not on the motivations of the artist. Pity it means glossing over archetypal historical figures in retrospective. I say: Less gush for people with possible complicity in wartime, please. There are issues here which should be discussed.



Shortly before writing this newsletter, I was interviewed tonight by “Bicyclemark’s Communique”, an introduction through ResPublica’s Lee-Sean Huang, by Mark, a Portuguese-American activist blogger, podjournalist, and vlogger living in Amsterdam. He asked me about Governor Ishihara, a topic I have probably B-minus knowledge about, and the emerging right-wing shift in Japan’s internationalist future. I’m pretty tired, so I made a couple of goofs, but have a listen anyway. I think it came out quite alright:



Thanks as always for reading!

Economist Oct 5 Obit: “Tokyo Rose” dies (with replies)


Hi Blog. Been reading back issues of The Economist left fallow during my recent trips, and stumbled across this. Comment at the very bottom follows:

Iva Toguri, a victim of mistaken identity, died on September 26th, aged 90

Oct 5th 2006
From The Economist (London) print edition
Courtesy http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_SJJSDST

MANY years after the end of the war in the Pacific, a former tail-gunner who had been stationed in New Guinea wrote a letter to a veterans’ magazine. He wished to share his memories of a voice. Every night in the spring of 1944, huddled in a tent with his comrades, he would hear a woman speaking behind the crackle and whistling of the Halicrafter radio. “Hi, boys!” she would say, or sometimes “Hi, enemies! This is your favourite playmate.” She would play swing and jazz, introduce “some swell new records from the States” and then, almost as an afterthought, mention that a Japanese attack was coming: “So listen while you are still alive.”

They listened happily, as did American troops all over the Pacific. It was rare and good to hear a female voice, even through several layers of interference and even with the sneer of death in it. Whether it was one woman, or many different women, did not matter. They could picture her: a full lipstick smile, ample curves, perfect skin, part Hedy Lamarr and part the sweetheart left at home. She was a temptress and a vixen, and her name was Tokyo Rose. For even myths must have names and addresses.

After the war American pressmen descended on ruined Tokyo to search for the girl they had invented. The Hearst empire was offering $2,000 for an interview and, after a while, a slight, pale, smiling young woman came forward. She had worked for Radio Tokyo and, for two years, had part-hosted a programme called “The Zero Hour”. Her name was Iva Toguri: an American citizen, born and raised in California, and now in desperate need of money to get home. She had never called herself Tokyo Rose, on air or otherwise, but there seemed no harm in taking the identity when the Hearst men asked her. Yes, she was “the one and only”, the “original”.

For a while it was glamorous to be this person. Troops mobbed her for her “Tokyo Rose” autograph. She was photographed with them, a schoolgirl figure in white blouse and black slacks amid a sea of beige uniforms. But if she was Tokyo Rose, and an American, then she was also probably a traitor. So, after the fun, she was arrested.

For a year she was kept in a military brig while her broadcasts were investigated. The authorities, finding nothing against her, concluded she was not Tokyo Rose and set her free. Others were not so easily robbed of their chimeras. A populist ranter and broadcaster, Walter Winchell, started a campaign to get her rearrested and retried. In 1948 she was indicted on eight counts of treason, one of which stuck: that in October 1944 “she did speak into a microphone concerning the loss of ships.” She was sentenced to ten years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

In fact, Miss Toguri’s story was all innocence. She had gone to Japan for the first time in 1941 to visit a dying aunt; the outbreak of war had trapped her there, an “enemy alien” without money and almost without the language. She was forced, like many other Allied prisoners-of-war, to work in propaganda broadcasting. Unlike her mythical persona, however, she had delivered no threats and nothing to demoralise the troops. Her radio manner was jolly rather than sultry. She was “Orphan Ann”, after Little Orphan Annie, and her theme tune, “Strike up the Band”, had been the fight song of her alma mater, the University of California at Los Angeles.

An alien in Japan

Ostensibly she was working for the Japanese. But she and her mentor, Charles Cousens, a major in the Australian army, had found ways of undermining them. Odd pauses or silly asides (“You are liking, please?”) would make nonsense of chilling remarks. And the records Miss Toguri chose were often British rather than American, entertaining the troops without making them think miserably of home.

As a nisei, the daughter of first-generation Japanese immigrants, she looked thoroughly Japanese. Not so. She was American to her fingertips, a Girl Scout, keen on big-band music and a regular at her Methodist church. Her father, though he ran a Japanese-import store, had insisted on that identity, wanting his children to speak and write only English. Iva—the name she had embraced, casting off “Ikuko”—had set off for Japan in 1941 with her trunks full of American food, and her letters home wailed at the misery of three rice meals a day. Stuck in Tokyo, she was pestered by the military police to give up her American citizenship. She clung to it fiercely until in 1949, as part of her treason sentence, it was revoked by her own country.

The mistake was eventually acknowledged. Gerald Ford pardoned Miss Toguri on the last day of his presidency, in 1977: the first-ever pardon of any American convicted of treason. By then, she had been released early for good behaviour, had paid her fine and had moved to Chicago, to live obscurely and to help out sometimes in her father’s Japanese-goods shop, selling bags of the hated rice to midwesterners.

Her pardon seemed an admission that she was not Tokyo Rose. But the American government still considered she was, even if wrongfully convicted. Hollywood, and the public, still thought so. And for many old servicemen “her” voice, and their dream of “her” face, still fill their memories of war in the Pacific, as real as the kamikaze aircraft plunging into the sea.

COMMENT: I think the author of article tries a little too hard to let Ms Toguri off the hook. Unwilling or subversive participant perhaps, the fact that she still participated is something that should be discussed. One should have dealt with her motivations a little more, and instead of merely dismissing Winchell as a “populist ranter”, brought up more of his claims and counterargued them better. Her popularity with the troops and celebrity status does not in my view exonerate her participation in the propaganda, and she herself should have told us a bit more about what went on before she died. If there is any “mistaken identity”, as the article claims in the title, I feel she did an insufficient amount to correct it herself.

The Economist has done this sort of thing before. In an article on the Emperor Hirohito death in 1989, there was a Leader (editorial) dismissing British newspaper claims that he was “truly evil”. The Economist instead made the case that “Hirohito was one of the people in the 20th Century who delivered us” (IIRC–it’s been 18 years). I had trouble buying it then, and, given the revelations of Shouwa Tennou’s wartime involvement (see Herbert BIX’s book on it), I buy it even less today.

Contrast these with what passed as an Obit in The Economist for Leni Riefenstahl, another woman with wartime complicity:


Leni Riefenstahl
Her cinema was unforgettable

Hand-held history
Sep 11th 2003
From The Economist print edition
Courtesy http://www.economist.com/books/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=2051630

WITH just two films, made when she was still in her early 30s, Leni Riefenstahl stamped on history the iconography of Nazi Germany. Not even Albert Speer, with all his grandiose architecture cast in marble, came as close to capturing the subconscious allure—at once both devilish and erotic—that represented power to many Germans in the early 1930s. And although being cast as Adolf Hitler’s favourite film-maker later killed off Ms Riefenstahl’s career for good, it is this early work, the first commissioned personally by Hitler, that sealed her reputation as the greatest female film-maker of the 20th century.

She was a dancer and actress, whose films for Arnold Fanck, steeped in the Nietzschean ideology of mountains, purity and a proximity to heaven, were among Hitler’s favourites. So it was perhaps inevitable that he should ask the 31-year-old Ms Riefenstahl, who had recently begun directing, to make a film of her own—not a newsreel but a piece of cinema—about the Nazi victory rally of 1934.

It was a moment that appealed to Ms Riefenstahl’s passion for the Busby Berkeley spectacle and she turned it into a political coronation. “Triumph of Will” opens with the Führer descending from the clouds, like Odin, in his aeroplane to celebrate the might of his troops. She used moving cameras, frequent close-ups of the wide-eyed party faithful and heroic shots of Hitler taken from ground level. “Triumph of Will” has no commentary, only real sound—the Führer exhorting and the crowd roaring approval.

The film won an array of German prizes and led directly to a commission to film the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. To capture the spirit of the early Greek Olympics, she filmed nearly naked athletes in an array of heroic poses. And although the film was less parti pris than its predecessor—it showed Jesse Owens sprinting to victory in a race that enraged Hitler—the power of moving muscle as the pinnacle of human excellence portrayed in “Olympia” had as much to do with Nazi ambition as it did with sport.

As before, Ms Riefenstahl’s filming and editing techniques both broke new ground, and many shots that now seem commonplace had never been seen before. To capture the drama of the pole vault and long jump, she placed her cameras in holes beside the sandpit where the athletes landed. She used four cameras, including one underwater, to capture the movement of high divers from all angles. Then, in the editing room, she turned them into graceful birds that you almost never see hitting the water.

Leni Riefenstahl took up still photography after she stopped making films. A favourite subject was the Nuba of Sudan. Like her athletes, her portraits of the Nuba were far less about the individuals she photographed than what their sculpted, muscular bodies represented. The similarity makes you wonder, if her film-making had not been abruptly cut off in its youth, whether she would indeed have evolved much further as an artist. Although she was 101 when she died earlier this week, there was always something of the James Dean about her.

Maybe this is just something The Economist does: Focus on the output and not on the motivations of the artist. Pity it means glossing over archetypal historical figures in retrospective. I say: Less gush for people with possible complicity in wartime, please. There are issues here which should be discussed. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hey Debito,
I think you need to read a bit more on Tokyo Rose. The trial was a travesty, with witnesses forced to committ perjury in order to get a conviction. Here are some urls

Identified by the press, however erroneously, as Tokyo Rose after the war, she was detained for a year by the U.S. military before being released for lack of evidence. Regardless, upon return to the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged her with eight counts of treason. Her 1949 trial resulted in a conviction on one count, making her the seventh American to be convicted on that charge. In 1974, investigative journalists found key witnesses had lied during testimony, among and other serious problems with the conduct of the trial. She was pardoned by U.S. President Gerald Ford, becoming the only U.S. citizen convicted of treason to be pardoned

The Department of Justice initiated further efforts to acquire additional evidence that might be sufficient to convict Aquino. It issued a press release asking all U.S. soldiers and sailors who had heard the Radio Tokyo propaganda broadcasts and who could identify the voice of the broadcaster to contact the FBI. Justice also sent one of its attorneys and reporter Harry Brundidge to Japan to search for other witnesses. Problematically, Brundidge enticed a former contact of his to perjure himself in the matter.

Neither Brundidge nor the witness testified at trial because of the taint of perjury. Nor was Brundidge prosecuted for subornation of perjury. According to FBI records available at the National Archives, the Department of Justice thought that the evidence came down to the witness’s word against that of Brundidge.



MY FRIEND CONCLUDES: Equating a film director supplied with resources from the Nazi party and a single woman without documentation trapped in Japan is missing the point on a number of levels. I think you are going to get hammered on this point.

As I should be, then. The Obit to me just didn’t make a sufficiently powerful case to the contrary. Ah well. Live and learn. Thanks for the info. Debito


Hi Debito-san,

…I always enjoy reading your news items through e-mail and in the Japan Times. I noticed this little notice about Tokyo Rose below. It reminded me of a radio show that I hear sometime earlier this year. I have found it on Internet and am sending the URL. If you have some time, have a listen.


Keep up the good work!


Dave, Eva Toguri, the so called Tokyo Rose, was framed–a post-war scapegoat. See

scroll down to page 22. Likewise, see
The Hunt for “Tokyo Rose” (Softcover) ($14.95)
by Russell Warren Howe – $14.95 – 384 pgs. A study of one of World War II’s most hated personalities. One realizes from the evidence Howe presents that the case against Iva Toguri, falsely identified as Tokyo Rose, was contrived and that the furor over her wartime activities while trapped in Japan after the war broke out was a combination of journalists wanting to create news and government officials looking for revenge against the Japanese. Howe includes detailed information from F.B.I. files and the testimony of surviving principals involved in the situation. The book reveals that Toguri’s broadcasting was not in any way detrimental to U. S. troops; in fact, she was forced by the Japanese to broadcast a show with little more than chitchat and music. The book carries a strong message about the vindictiveness of people under the stress of war, the ability of people to use the U. S. justice system for their own profit, and the power of the press. The book will also make readers reflect on American racism, the constitutional rights of the accused, and the immorality of U. S. officials.

Iva Toguri’s story was featured in the Spring 2005 issue of Justice Denied magazine. See, “Iva Toguri Is Innocent! – Iva Toguri was not Tokyo Rose and she was wrongly convicted of treason.”,