Osaka Mayor Offers Non-Apology for ‘Comfort Women’ Comments


Toru Hashimoto, the unfortunately loquacious mayor of Osaka, Japan, managed to keep talking long enough to apologize for one offensive comment he made about contemporary American Marines making “more use” of Japan’s local, legal sex industry to “relieve” their sexual energy, and then stand by the other offensive comment he made about Japanese “comfort women” being a necessary evil during World War II. Don’t worry, though! He totally has an explanation for his apparent callousness.

On Monday, Hashimoto delivered a statement to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan in Tokyo in which he apologized for that thing he said on a visit to a military base at Okinawa about U.S. Marines making use of Japan’s legal sex industry. Hashimoto restated what he’d told a U.S. military commander back on May 13 about the adult entertainment industry serving as an outlet for the sexual energies of U.S. Marines —

I told him there are places that operate within the boundaries of the law which can be used for releasing sexual frustration, so they (the U.S. military) should fully utilize it or the Marines won’t be able to control their aggressive sexual desires.

Hashimoto then apologized, regretting that his comments “could be construed as an insult to the U.S. forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate.” That’s about as sincere as public apologies from public officials get, so fine, whatever — Hashimoto clearly knows he fucked up, which means he’s going to immediately apologize for the extremely offensive things he said about the women coerced into prostitution by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, right? Oh, wait, that is totally not where these is going.

As for his remarks about “comfort women” in wartime Japan — that their forced prostitution was part of “a necessary system to maintain military discipline” — Hashimoto remained stubbornly unapologetic, claiming that his words had been taken out of context and that his sober assessment of military history in no way meant that he was somehow morally justifying the Japanese Army’s treatment of comfort women during World War II. He explained,

I stated that ‘the armed forces of nations in the world’ seemed to have needed women ‘during the past wars.’ Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that ‘I’ tolerated it.

Besides, Hashimoto continued, seemingly unaware that the hole he was digging himself was getting so deep he could no longer even see his audience, Japan wasn’t the only country to commit wartime atrocities against women. Everyone was doing it!

The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War II.
It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.

Hashimoto’s right, of course, but his litany of wartime human rights violators is a bald attempt to deflect criticism and absolve himself of personal responsibility for the issue that he raised. Pointing out that countries do awful things during war is pedantic. I mean, no shit — war is one big whirlwind of awfulness. However, Japan’s wartime sins — and Hashimoto’s apparent insensitivity to the plight of women forced into prostitution — aren’t nullified by the wartime sins of other countries, which is probably why Hashimoto ended his most recent fit of self-justification with the following:

We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women.

And by “we,” Hashimoto probably, at this moment in time, should just say, “I” because he seems to be the only voice right now so intent on qualifying the brutal logic that led to Japan putting 200,000 women into sexual slavery during World War II.


Image via AP, Shizuo Kambayashi

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