Members of Central Washington University community are outraged about the upcoming film screening and lecture later this month on campus by a professional Japanese “comfort women” denier and a failed 2011 candidate for the governorship of Tokyo receiving 0.2% of the votes, Mr. Yujiro Taniyama. At the invitation of Japanese language instructor Ms. Mariko Okada-Collins, Mr. Taniyama will show his fauxcumentary “Scottsboro Girls” on April 28th and 29th at CWU, located in Ellensburg, Washington.
While Taniyama claims to introduce a new perspective that “challenges the conventional wisdom” regarding the “comfort women,” his film seems, based on the trailer posted on YouTube, to recycle the same old revisionist talking points that have been thoroughly debunked, including the oft-misrepresented 1944 U.S. military report.
In response to the upcoming events, anthropologist Dr. Mark Auslander and others have organized an academic panel to discuss the true history of “comfort women,” featuring specialists from CWU community as well as from other universities. In addition, performance arts students are putting on a public reading of the testimonies of former “comfort women” on campus to raise awareness of the issue. (Download the PDF flier of the event here.)
Mr. Taniyama and Ms. Okada-Collins insist that they are simply trying to uncover truth or to present an alternative perspective on the topic, but their reliance on misrepresentations of historical documents and contemporary scholarly works (mainly those of Korean scholars Ahn Byong Jik and Park Yuha, neither of whom actually agree with Mr. Taniyama’s or Ms. Okada-Collins’ views) prove the fundamental dishonesty of their historical revisionist project.
In recent years, Japanese far-right nationalists have declared the U.S. to be the “shusenjo,” or the main battleground, in their “history war” on “comfort women.” Their goal is to recruit as many politicians, journalists, opinion leaders, and scholars as possible to question the orthodox narrative of “comfort women” as the victims of a system of enforced military prostitution. The CWU events are a significant development in their campaign because it is the first time that a U.S. college or university allowed itself to play host to the Japanese equivalent of neo-Nazis on its campus.
The problem with giving an academic platform to historical deniers, whether they are denying crimes of the Holocaust or those of “comfort women,” is that they do not have to prove their points or convince us of their propaganda in order for them to win. They can claim victory simply by introducing enough doubt in the legitimate history; they can win simply by projecting an impression that legitimate historians might be on both sides of controversy regarding the historical crime they are denying, or by making others accept their premise that they are seeking the truth. Anything short of recognizing them as fundamentally dishonest and unscholarly political campaign is a victory for them.
There can certainly be legitimate disagreements about the exact number of “comfort women” (i.e. whether there were tens or hundreds of thousands) or the extent to which Japanese military was directly involved in the trafficking and exploitation of women in the system, but there is no disagreement among the academic community that Japanese military established, maintained, and managed a system of enforced military prostitution that relied on force, fraud, or coercion against women of its colonies and occupied territories.
We are also concerned that in a letter published on Mr. Taniyama’s website, Ms. Okada-Collins admits to teaching her version of “truth” of modern East Asian history in her classes, which includes denial of Nanjing massacre (the “Rape of Nanjing”) and “comfort women.” In the letter, she explains her belief that teaching of language must include “instructions” on culture and history, and states that she uses every opportunity in her classroom to discuss “China-centrism, colonial policy, and recent history between Japan and China/Korea.”
“Some of my students are not Americans, but Koreans, Chinese, or Taiwanese who may reject my views at first, but most of them eventually agree with me,” Ms. Okada-Collins writes. She further explains that some students have complained in the student evaluations that she is unfit as an instructor and should be fired by the university for denying historical atrocities such as the Nanjing massacre and the sexual enslavement of Korean “comfort women.”
We may or may not agree about whether or not the academic freedom protects the rights of historical revisionists to air their views on campus, but we don’t think that there is any doubt that language instructors should not be forcing her repulsive racist, sexist, revisionist views on their students, especially those who are Korean, Chinese, or Taiwanese. In fact, it may constitute a violation of students’ civil right to be free from racist and sexist practices in classrooms.
We are further alarmed that Ms. Okada-Collins have persisted in this practice despite the fact that students have formally complained about her abuse of the position. Is it a stretch to suggest that the university’s earlier failure to act on that knowledge resulted in the full-fledged historical denier event being planned on campus? We are not suggesting that Ms. Okada-Collins should be immediately fired, but we believe that she needs to be instructed to change her behavior in her classroom. Students deserve better, especially Asian and Asian American students who are directly harmed by her unprofessional behavior.
(P.S. – Can we also comment how offensive that Taniyama’s denier film’s title appropriates the case of Scottsboro Boys, the nine young Black men who were unjustly charged with raping white women in 1931 by the racist police/prosecutors and an all-white jury?)
Update: VICTORY! Japanese American Association of New York canceled the right-wing historical revisionist event planned for March 9th. If you were planning to join the protest, please still show up to celebrate with the community! Also, please don’t miss the legitimate panel about “comfort women” hosted by Human Rights Now in the afternoon (see below for info).
Anti-nuclear activist group Sloths Against Nuclear State and others are planning to protest an upcoming panel organized by Japanese far-right historical revisionists in New York City. The event–and the protest–is held at Japanese American Association of New York (49 W 45th Street, NYC) on March 9th, 2015 at 5:30pm. The panel is apparently being held in conjunction with the meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Speakers for the far-right event include:
- Yumiko Yamamoto, the president of “comfort women” denialist group Nadeshiko Action and formerly of notoriously racist Zaitokukai, which routinely held (and still holds) explicitly hateful anti-Korean demonstration in public spaces, including in front of a Korean elementary school.
- Tony Marano, a.k.a. “Texas Daddy,” a video blogger and “comfort women” denier (see our exchanges with him).
- Shiro Takahashi, a mainline conservative education scholar who have been involved with Japan Society for History Textbook Reform which has successfully lobbied to remove mentions of “comfort women” in Japanese history textbooks.
- Mitsuhiko Fujii, the president of “comfort women” denier group Rompa Project, which is considered a front group of the far-right religious group Happy Science (Koufuku no Kagaku).
- Shunichi Fujiki, a.k.a. “Shun Ferguson,” a businessman who recruited Marano and became his “Japanese representative,” orchestrating Marano’s books and lectures in Japan. (See how he used a pseudonym to post hate comments on our blog and got caught because he used the same IP address.)
Also at noon on March 10th, “comfort women” denier group Global Alliance for Historical Truth (GAHT) is holding a press conference at Westin Hotel Grand Central New York (212 East 42nd Street). GAHT has filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Glendale, California for enacting a memorial dedicated to victims and survivors of the “comfort women” system during the WWII. GAHT’s state case against the City was recently dismissed under the State’s anti-SLAPP statute.
But it’s not all bad: Tokyo-based international human rights group Human Rights Now is also holding a panel on the “comfort women” issue to coincide with the UN Commission meeting. HRN’s panel, titled “Truth and Justice for ‘Comfort Women’,” is scheduled on the same day (March 9th) as the right-wing panel, but it is held at noon as opposed to in the evening so you can go to the HRN panel first and then protest the right-wing panel later in the day.
Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) stands in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in New York City confronting the far-right historical revisionists from Japan.
Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) endorses the protest against seminars in California organized by Japanese far-right nationalist groups this weekend.
The protest is organized or endorsed by a number of other peace and human rights groups, including Eclipse Rising, Veterans For Peace, No Nukes Action Committee, United Public Workers For Action, and Bay Area Code Pink.
FeND is a network of U.S.-based individuals who have roots in Japan, and those who support our goals. We are activists, teachers, researchers, and other community members who came together in order to counteract the rise of antagonistic nationalism and historical revisionism in some corners of Japan and within (mostly recent migrant) Japanese communities in the U.S.
As individuals with roots in Japan, we want to make it clear that these antagonistic nationalists and historical revisionists do not speak for us.
The main speaker for the seminars being held in Redwood City and Torrance this weekend is Yumiko Yamamoto, the president of “comfort women” denialist group Nadeshiko Action and the former vice president and secretary general of notoriously racist Zaitokukai, which has been investigated and prosecuted multiple times during her leadership for its violent anti-Korean “demonstrations.”
Yamamoto will be joined by other Japanese far-right nationalists, including (for the Torrance event) the leader of the organization that is suing to remove a memorial in Glendale, California dedicated to the victims of the enforced military prostitution known as “comfort women.”
The seminars will be held at Redwood City Community Center on December 13th, and at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Torrance on December 14th. The rally and press conference against the far-right nationalists will be held in front of Redwood City Community Center, 1400 Roosevelt Ave in Redwood City, California on the 13th at 5pm.
Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Organizing in Southern California: A FeND Workshop
WHERE: UCLA Bunche Hall, room 10383
WHEN: Friday, November 14th @ 6-8pm
Emi Koyama, a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND), presents a workshop/seminar on confronting Japanese right-wing nationalist mobilization in Southern California and beyond. This workshop is especially designed for members of Japanese- and other Asian American communities, but is open to all.
Mostly unnoticed by English language media, right-wing nationalist/historical revisionist organizing among some Japanese expats and “shin issei” (new migrants) in Southern California is growing. They have stormed city council chambers of municipalities that have considered resolutions supporting former “comfort women,” the women forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military during the WWII, and have filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Glendale, which has enacted a memorial dedicated to them. They are closely connected to right-wing nationalist groups and politicians in Japan, and starting to dominate what Japanese people hear about Japanese Americans and Japanese people in the United States.
Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) was formed in response to this emerging Japanese right-wing organizing in the U.S. by scholars and activists who have been monitoring Japanese right-wing activities for years. FeND works with Japanese and other Asian Americans and allies to confront Japanese nationalists in the U.S. and to oppose Japanese and U.S. militarisms and (settler) colonialisms in Asia and the Pacific.
This workshop provides information about who these right-wing nationalists are, what they believe, and how they are connected to Japanese right-wing groups and even government. It also addresses what we can learn from how Japanese progressives have resisted them in Japan and articulates how best we can confront Japanese right-wing nationalist organizing in the U.S.
For more information about FeND, please see:
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on facebook.
(RSVP isn’t required, but it would help us know how many people are planning to come if those of you who plan to attend send us a note or “join” on facebook.)