In what could be seen as another controversial statement that could again escalate tensions in the region, Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said on Monday that “comfort women” were a necessary element of World War II for Japanese soldiers. “Comfort women” was a term coined for those women – usually from countries that Japan occupied – who provided sex for Imperial Army soldiers during the war. Hashimoto then acknowledged that these women served soldiers “against their will.”
“In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives. If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a system like the ‘comfort women’ is necessary. Anyone can understand that,” Hashimoto told reporters in Osaka. “When I checked the history of those years, I found that not only the Japanese army but also those of various countries were utilizing (comfort women),” he added. Then the Osaka mayor seemed to soften his stance, saying “It is a result of the tragedy of the war that they became comfort women against their will. The responsibility for the war also lies with Japan. We have to politely offer kind words to (former) comfort women.” The issue of these women has been a flashpoint for anti-Japanese sentiments in Asia over the years. This was the reason why in 1995, a statement was released by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which expressed remorse and apology to Asian countries on Japan’s colonial rule and aggression, a statement which Hashimoto said he supported. “Japan is a defeated country,” he said. “As a result of the defeat in the war, we must accept (the view) that what Japan did was aggression. There are no doubts (about the accusation) that Japan caused tremendous suffering and damage to neighboring countries. Japan must reflect on it and make an apology.”
Japanese actions have, in recent weeks, triggered outrage in Japan’s neighbors – specifically in South Korea and China – and has put the spotlight back on Japan’s perspective of its wartime past. These comments by Hashimoto might not sit well with Japan’s neighbors who are always keen to remember Japan’s oppressive imperialistic past, especially as in his recent comments, he supports Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent controversial assertion that the definition of aggression has yet to be decided. “What Prime Minister Abe is saying is correct in that, academically, there are no definitions on aggression,” Hashimoto said.