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Japanese Scholars’ Reply to the American Scholars’ Comfort Women Statement:


Japanese Scholars’ Reply to the American Scholars’ Comfort Women Statement:
In search of a constructive dialogue based upon facts
             August 6, 2015

On May 5th, 2015, one hundred and eighty-seven American-based researchers of Japan issued a statement on the comfort women issue titled, “Open letter in support of historians in Japan” (hereafter, “American scholars’ statement”). It is our understanding that, subsequently, the number of signers increased to some four hundred and sixty people. In response to the challenge proposed by the American scholars’ statement, we Japanese scholars respond with the following views.

<1> Complete agreement that events should be viewed in their historical context, and weighed carefully in the balance

We were struck by this passage from the American scholars’ statement:

“[…] we believe that only careful weighing and contextual evaluation of every trace of the past can produce a just history. Such work must resist national and gender bias, and be free from government manipulation, censorship, and private intimidation.”

We are sympathetic to this suggestion, which we believe to be an important, fundamental principle of historical research. It is cause for celebration that researchers in both Japan and the United States are in agreement on this point.
That we are attempting a response here is due to our having detected, in the American scholars’ statement, a willingness to deal constructively with historical facts that has previously been lacking in American debate on the comfort women issue.

<2> Who are the “historians in Japan”?

The above-mentioned agreement on a fundamental principle of historical inquiry notwithstanding, there remain aspects of the American scholars’ statement that we find puzzling, or that cause us to harbor grave intellectual reservations.
The American scholars’ statement is titled, “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan,” and begins:

“The undersigned scholars of Japanese studies express our unity with the many courageous historians in Japan seeking an accurate and just history of World War II in Asia.”

It is unclear, however, whom the American scholars mean here by “historians in Japan.” Academic freedom is guaranteed in Japan, which means that there exists a broad diversity of scholars and researchers. According to the explanation provided by the American scholars who compiled the statement, they were influenced by a statement issued in December of 2014 by the Historical Science Society of Japan (Rekishigaku Kenkyūkai, commonly abbreviated as “Rekiken”).

This Rekiken statement includes this assertion: “The forced abduction of comfort women is a fact. Comfort women were sex slaves.” It would seem that this assertion is almost completely different from the current American scholars’ statement, which includes neither the phrase “forced abduction of comfort women,” nor the phrase, “sex slaves.”

Furthermore, Rekiken is a Marxist organization that has opposed the Japanese-American Security Treaty. (See link for their April 1st, 2013 statement. Were the American scholars aware of these positions when they signed their May, 2015 open letter?

<3> History must not be used for political purposes

In the American scholars’ statement, Japan’s “comfort women” system is understood to be “one of the most divisive issues” of historical interpretation. The American scholars write:

“Postwar Japan’s history of democracy, civilian control of the military, police restraint, and political tolerance, together with contributions to science and generous aid to other countries, are all things to celebrate as well.”
  “Yet problems of historical interpretation pose an impediment to celebrating
these achievements. One of the most divisive historical issues is the so-called ‘comfort-women’ system. This issue has become so distorted by nationalist invective in Japan as well as in Korea and China that many scholars, along with journalists
and politicians, have lost sight of the fundamental goal of historical inquiry, which should be to understand the human condition and aspire to improve it.”

We wish to ask the American scholars whether they are seeking unanimity of historical interpretation between the United States and Japan. We ask this because we believe it impossible to achieve unanimity of historical interpretation among differing nations and peoples when that interpretation goes beyond the level of historical fact. This impossibility is self-evident when one considers, for example, the differing historical interpretations of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki between America and Japan.
We affirm the American scholars’ statement when it points out the problem of Korean and Chinese nationalistic rhetoric. We, too, oppose nationalistic rhetoric without basis in historical fact when it is deployed by any country.
From this perspective, we are compelled to point out that in the United States, too, one is able to find a mistaken understanding of the facts of the comfort women issue. In their statement, the American scholars allow that, “the precise number of ‘comfort women’ […] will probably never be known for certain.” If this is truly the American scholars’ position, then it should be an imperative, based upon this admission of great uncertainty as to the actual number of comfort women, to correct the erroneous passages in the McGraw-Hill textbook without delay.

But the McGraw-Hill textbook is not the only site for the perpetuation of mistaken information on comfort women numbers. The stelae accompanying the comfort women statues erected throughout the United States also state unequivocally that “two hundred thousand ordinary women were abducted and forced to work for the Japanese military.”

In addition to these falsehoods, in the Coomaraswamy Report filed with the United Nations, as well as in United States House of Representatives Resolution No. 121, the Japanese military stands accused, not only of abducting comfort women, but also of drawing and quartering them, and of slaughtering them en masse in order to cover up the evidence of their crimes. What we are asking for here is simply the correction of statements such as these that are so greatly at odds with fact.
We believe it is our mission as scholars to bring facts to light exactly as we find them. We must not allow ourselves to be drawn away from our scholarly preserves and into the realm of politicization, as doing so would hinder the kind of dialogue and cooperation that are necessary for solving the many problems that we now face.

<4> There is no basis for singling Japan out among the twentieth-century history of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution

In their statement, the American scholars conclude that the Japanese military’s comfort woman system was “distin[ct].” Thus,

“Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the twentieth century, the ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan.”

If the American scholars see the comfort woman system as one of prostitution carried out in the service of an army, then we are in agreement on this point. In order to prevent rape and other sexual violence in theaters of war, and in order also to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease, the Japanese military permitted brokers to procure comfort women from Japan as well as the Korean Peninsula, which at the time was part of the home territory of Japan. In addition to granting permission for this to take place, the Japanese military also helped expedite the process of procurement.

We object to the singling out of Japan for special opprobrium on this score, especially when one compares Japan’s actions with those of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, which permitted the rape of the women of defeated populations in Manchuria, Germany, and elsewhere; of the United States military, which used as prostitutes Japanese women provided by the Japanese government under the American Occupation; and of South Korea, which forced its own countrywomen to work as prostitutes for the sake of South Korea’s American allies during and after the Korean War.

Leaving aside for a moment the horrors of raping defeated populations, we feel that the American and South Korean actions described immediately above show just how common and universal was the “exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women.”

As a result of the poverty in Japan and on the Korean Peninsula at that time, parents took out loans with prostitute brokers and made their daughters work for these brokers as repayment of those loans. Such tragedies are now regarded as violations of the law. However, one can still find such tragedies occurring with terrible frequency all around the world. Human trafficking is a booming business and is still the result of poverty and famine, such as the case of the North Koreans who flee into China in order to escape the crushing conditions in their home country. As a United Nations report lays out, women in North Korean political prisons are subjected to appalling sexual abuse. Women’s rights continue to be trampled upon, even as we write.
We consider it incumbent upon all of us to strive to eliminate such tragedies without any excuse or prevarication. In order to realize this aim, we must examine, from the perspective of women’s rights violations, all of the facts from the past through to the present in an empirical and academic way. We must not allow nationalism or political objectives to distort our view of the facts. ■
WATANABE Toshio 渡辺 利夫  Takushoku University *Chancellor
NAKANISHI Terumasa 中西 輝政   Kyoto University
TAKUBO Tadae     田久保 忠衛  Kyorin University

ANBO Katsuya  安保 克也 Osaka International University
ANDO Yutaka  安藤 豊 Hokkaido University of Education
ARAI Kohichi  新井 弘一 Kyorin University
ARAKI Kazuhiro 荒木 和博 Takushoku University
ASADA Sadao  麻田 貞雄 Doshisha University
ASANO Kazuo  浅野 和生 Heisei International University
CHE Kilsong  崔 吉城 Hiroshima University
EDWARDS Hiromi  エドワーズ 博美 University of Maryland
ETOH Hiroyuki   江藤 裕之 Tohoku University
FIJII Genki   藤井 厳喜 Takushoku University
FUJIOKA Nobukatsu 藤岡 信勝 Takushoku University
FUKUCHI Atsushi 福地 惇 Kochi University
FUKUDA Hayaru 福田 逸 Meiji University
FUKUI Yuhzoh     福井 雄三 Tokyo International University
FURUTA Hiroshi 古田 博司 Tsukuba University
HAKAMADA Shigeki 袴田 茂樹 Niigata Prefectural University
HAMAYA Hidehiro 浜谷 英博 Mie-Chukyo University
HASEGAWA Kohichi 長谷川 公一 Edogawa University
HASEYAMA Takahiko 長谷山 崇彦 Chuo University
HATA Ikuhiko     秦 郁彦 Nippon University
HIGASHINAKANO Shudo  東中野 修道  Asia University
HIGUCHI Tsuneharu    樋口 恒晴   Tokiwa University
HiIZUMI Katsuo     樋泉 克夫 Aichi University
HIRAMA Yohichi     平間 洋一 National Defense Academy of Japan
ICHIMURA Shin-ichi 市村 真一 Kyoto University
IJIRI Hidenori     井尻 秀憲 Tokyo University
IMAOKA Hideki     今岡 日出紀 Shimane Prefectural University
INAMURA Kohboh 稲村 公望 Chuo University
INOUE Masao     井上 雅夫 Doshisha University
IRIE Takanori     入江 隆則 Meiji University
ISHIGAKI Kichiyo  石垣 貴千代 Toyo University
ISHII Nozomu    石井 望    Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University
ISOMAE Syuji    磯前 秀二 Meijo University
ITOH Ken-ichi    伊藤 憲一 Aoyama Gakuin University
ITOH Takashi    伊藤 隆     Tokyo University
KANAOKA Hideo   金岡 秀郎 Akita International University
KANEKO Yoshio    兼子 良夫 Kanagawa University
KATOH Juhachi    加藤 十八 Chukyo Women`s Universitu
KATSUOKA Kanji  勝岡 寛次 Meisei University
KEINO Yoshio    慶野 義雄 Heisei International University
KIMURA Hiroshi   木村 汎 Hokkaido University
KITAMURA Minoru  北村 稔 Ritsumeikan University
KITAMURA Yoshikazu 北村 良和 Aichi University of Education
KOBORI Kei-ichiro 小堀 桂一郎 Tokyo University
KOIZUMI Toshio    小泉 俊雄 Chiba Institute of Technology
KOYAMA Kazunori  小山 一乗 Komazawa University
KOYAMA Tsunemi  小山 常実 Ohtsuki University
KUNO Jun 久野 潤 Osaka International University
KUSAKA Kimindo 日下 公人 Tama University
MABUCHI Mutsuo 馬渕 睦夫 National Defense Academy of Japan
MATSU-URA Mitsunobu  松浦 光修 Kohgakkan University
MERA Kohichi     目良 浩一 University of Southern California
MIZUTO Hideaki 水渡 英昭 Tohoku University
MOMOCHI Akira 百地 章 Nippon University
MURATA Noboru 村田 昇 Shiga University
NAGOSHI Takeo     名越 健郎 Takushoku University
NAKAMURA Katsunori  中村 勝範 Keio University
NAKAYA Noriko     中屋 紀子 Miyagi University of Education
NISHI Osamu   西 修 Komazawa University
NISHIDATE Kazume 西館 数芽 Iwate University
NISHIO Kanji    西尾 幹二 University of Electro-Communications
NISHIOKA Tsutomu 西岡 力 Tokyo Christian University
NITTA Hitoshi     新田 均 Kohgakkan University
NIWA Fumio     丹羽 文生 Takushoku University
NIWA Haruki 丹羽 春喜   Osaka-gakuin University
NODA Yasuhisa 野田 裕久 Ehime University
OH Sonfa 呉 善花 Takushoku University
OH-HARA Yasuo 大原 康男 Kokugakuin University
OHIWA Yujiro 大岩 裕次郎 Tokyo International University
OHTA Tatsuyuki 太田 辰幸 Toyo University
OKADA-COLLINS Mariko 岡田-コリンズ マリ子Central Washington University
OKAMOTO Kohji 岡本 幸治 Osaka International University
OSADA Goroh 長田 五郎 Myojo University
OSADA Mitsuo 長田 三男 Waseda University
OYAMA Kazunobu 小山 和伸 Kanagawa University
SAKAI Nobuhiko 酒井 信彦 Tokyo University
SASE Masamori 佐瀬 昌盛 National Defense Academy of Japan
SHIBA Kimiya 柴 公也 Kumamoto Gakuen University
SHIBATA Norifumi 柴田 徳文 Kokushikan University
SHIBUYA Tsukasa 澁谷 司 Takushoku University
SHIMADA Yohichi 島田 洋一 Fukui Prefectural University
SHIMOJOH Masao 下條 正男 Takushoku University
SUGIHARA Seishiroh 杉原 誠四郎 Josai University
TAKADA Jun 高田 純 Sapporo Medical University
TAKAHARA Akiko 高原 朗子 Kumamoto University
TAKAHASHI Shiroh 高橋 史朗 Meisei University
TAKAI Susumu 高井 晉 National Defense Academy of Japan
TAKAYAMA Masayuki 高山 正之 Teikyo University
TANAKA Hidemichi 田中 英道 Tohoku University
TEI Taikin     鄭 大均 Tokyo Metropolitan University
TOKUMATSU Nobuo 徳松 信夫 Tokoha University
TOMIOKA Koh-ichiro 冨岡 幸一郎 Kanto Gakuin University
TOYODA Aritsune 豊田 有恒 Shimane Prefectural University
TOYOSHIMA Norio 豊島 典雄 Kyorin University
TUCHIDA Ryuhtaro 土田 龍太郎 Yokyo University
UMEHARA Katsuhiko 梅原 克彦  Akita International University
UMEZAWA Shohei 梅澤 昇平 Shobi Gakuen University
URABE Kenshi     占部 賢志 Nakamura Gakuen University
USHIO Masato     潮 匡人 Takushoku University
WATANABE Shoh-ichi 渡部 昇一 Sophia University
YAGI Hidetsugu     八木 秀次 Reitaku University
YAMAFUJI Kazuo 山藤 和男 University Electro-Communications
YAMAMOTO Shigeru 山本 茂 Kyushu Women`s College
YAMASHITA Eiji 山下 英次 Osaka City University
YOSHIDA Yoshikatsu 吉田 好克 Miyazaki University
YOSHINAGA Jun 吉永 潤 Kobe University
YOSHIWARA Tsuneo 吉原 恒雄 Takushoku University

( 110 persons in all )