Akiko Okamoto

Akiko Okamoto (岡本明子) is a conservative writer and activist previously affiliated with Japan Conference who served as the founding secretary general of Japan Family Value Society. As a writer, she was influential in the anti-feminist (or anti- so-called “gender free” movement) backlash in the mid-2000s. She was one of the first Japanese conservative activists to lobby at various United Nations committees, and assisted other conservative activists and groups including comfort women deniers to do the same.

Okamoto was also among the first to call attention to the establishment of comfort women memorials in the U.S. as a threat to Japan’s national pride. In the May 2012 issue of Seiron, a conservative opinion magazine, Okamoto warned how Japan was losing ground in the U.S. and in the United Nations on the issue of comfort women as evidenced by the establishment of a comfort women memorial in Palisades Park, New Jersey, even as the Japanese conservatives consolidated their dominance over domestic discourse over comfort women. Her article served as a rallying cry for Japanese conservatives and comfort women deniers to begin propagating “Japan’s position” regarding comfort women at the United Nations and in foreign media.

Okamoto herself appears to be largely retired from public involvement in conservative politics, but her successor Kiyoshi Hosoya of FAVS and other conservative activists continue to lobby against comfort women at the United Nations level.

Committee for Historical Facts

Committee for Historical Facts (歴史事実委員会) is the group behind paid advertisements The Facts (2007) and Yes, we remember the facts. (2012) that deny the history of comfort women. It appears to be closely connected to the Society for Dissemination of Historical Fact, but it is unclear whether or not it is the same entity.

Committee members at the time of the 2007 ad were:

Committee members at the time of the 2012 ad were:

Hideaki Kase

Hideaki Kase (加瀬英明) is a foreign affairs commentator and the director of Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women, a revisionist group. He also leads Society for Dissemination of Historical Fact and is a leader of Japan Conference. Kase was interviewed in a 2007 documentary film about Iris Chang, the author of “The Rape o Nanking,” in which he argued that Nanking massacre did not take place.

Kase is said to be the author of “Minikui Kankoku-jin (Ugly Koreans),” which was published under the name of a fictitious Korean journalist. The book glorified the Japanese colonial rule of Korean peninsula, criticizing Korean people for their faulty remembrance of history. Some of his books are published by the Happy Science.

Historical Awareness Research Committee

Historical Awareness Research Committee (歴史認識問題研究会) is a group consisting of far-right nationalists in Japan. It was first announced by Shiro Takahashi in his column on Sankei Shimbun newspaper on August 31st, 2016 and formally founded on October 1st, 2016. HARC aims to collect “evidences” that support its nationalist views, including comfort women and Nanking atrocities denial, and publish them in foreign languages to influence the international community.

At the time of founding, HARC distributes materials produced and previously distributed by Society for Dissemination of Historical Fact and Japan Policy Institute. Its office is housed at the Institute of Moralogy (モラロジー研究所), a semi-religious entity affiliated with Japan Conference.

Board members of HARC are:

Website: http://harc.tokyo/

Japan Conference

Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi, 日本会議) is a powerful conservative organization described by New York Times as “largest nationalist organization, which rejects postwar pacifism, embraces the imperial system and defends Japan’s past wars in Asia.” In addition, Japan Conference opposes policies aimed at promoting gender equality as the organization views them as a threat against traditional Japanese families. Many leaders of Japan Conference, including Shiro Takahashi, Hideaki Kase, and Yoshiko Sakurai are also active in comfort women denial.

Japan Conference has an affiliated parliamentary caucus within the parliament (Nippon Kaigi Kokkai Giin Kondan Kai, 日本会議国会議員懇談会) with hundreds of members, mostly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. In 2014, 15 out of 19 members of the administration of Shinzo Abe were members of the Japan Conference caucus including Deputy Prime Minister (and former Prime Minister) Taro Aso (麻生太郎), Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication Sanae Takaichi (高市早苗), and Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga (菅義偉) in addition to Abe himself.

Website: http://www.nipponkaigi.org/

Japan Education Rebirth Institute

Japan Education Rebirth Institute (Nippon Kyoiku Saisei Kiko, 日本教育再生機構) is a right-wing Japanese group promoting nationalistic educational reforms, including the erasure of the comfort women system and other atrocities committed by the Japanese military from history textbooks. It was founded by Shuji Yagi (八木秀次) after he and others left the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform due to an internal division. Board members include Shiro Takahashi and others who are affiliated with the powerful Japan Conference.

Website: http://www.kyoiku-saisei.jp/

Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (国家基本問題研究所) is a conservative think tank founded and led by Yoshiko Sakurai. The Institute has close ties to Japan Conference, and many of its board members, advisors, and fellows are members come from Japan Conference and/or textbook reform movement. Its priorities include a revision of the pacifist clauses of Japan’s constitution, continued use of nuclear power, and comfort women denial.

Affiliated individuals include, in addition to Sakurai:

Website: https://jinf.jp/

Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe (安倍晋三) is the 90th (2006-2007), 96th and 97th (2012-now) Prime Minister of Japan. Abe is recognized as one of Japan’s most nationalistic leaders in recent history. As a young legislator, Abe was the secretary general of the Young Diet Member Group for Considering Japan’s Future and History Textbooks (日本の前途と歴史教科書を考える若手議員の会, Nippon no zento to rekishi kyokasho wo kangaeru wakate giin no kai) made up of conservative members of his Liberal Democratic Party.

As the Prime Minister, Abe made a comment in March 2007 denying “forcible recruitment” of comfort women by the Japanese military. His remark was immediately criticized by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte and others, but Abe doubled down on the comment by stating that there is no evidence that point to the forcible recruitment by the Japanese military. His Deputy Cabinet Minister further stated on radio that the women were sold by their parents to become comfort women, insisting that the Japanese military had nothing to do with it.

Emboldened by Abe, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara and other political leaders repeated similar or even more controversial statements throughout the spring, which along with the publication of the devastatingly counter-productive opinion ad The Facts (2007) led to the issuance of the U.S. Congressional Research Service report as well as the passage in July of the U.S. House of Representative resolution H.Res.121, both of which were critical of Japan’s handling of the comfort women issue. Soon after, Abe abruptly resigned his position.

Before becoming the Prime Minister again in December 2012, Abe was among the co-signers to the opinion ad Yes, we remember the facts. (2012), a follow-up to the earlier ad in 2007 that denied historical orthodoxy on comfort women.

Upon returning to power, Abe became more cautious in addressing the issue of comfort women, focusing instead of delegitimizing the historical processes that led to the contemporary understanding of the comfort women issue. For example in June 2014, Abe administration released a report on the process resulting in Kono Statement (1993) intended to cast doubts in the accuracies of the groundbreaking 1993 statement by then-Cabinet Minister Yohei Kono that acknowledged Japanese government’s responsibility in the treatment of comfort women during the WWII, which was seen as the first step to retracting or trivializing it.

In March 2015 Abe expressed “sympathies” toward former comfort women, describing them as the victims of human trafficking, while leaving ambiguous who was responsible for the trafficking of the women. In April of that year, he delivered a speech at the joint session of the U.S. Congress without mentioning comfort women despite demands from some U.S. politicians and civic groups. A week later, a group of 197 mostly American scholars published the “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan” demanding Abe to take more concrete actions to address the issue of comfort women.

In December 2015, foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea jointly announced an “agreement” between two countries [Japan-ROK Agreement (2015)] that “permanently resolved” the issue of comfort women with Japan’s payment of 1 billion yens to the foundation set up by South Korean government to provide direct payment to the surviving former comfort women. The agreement was widely criticized by advocates for the comfort women because it did not involve survivors’ voices nor formal acknowledgement of violence by the Japanese military and also by Japan’s far-right fringes that considered any concession as unnecessary.

Shiro Takahashi

Shiro Takahashi (高橋史朗) is a conservative education scholar and one of the most prominent intellectual leaders of Japan Conference, a powerful conservative establishment group. Despite the fact Takahashi has been a lifelong critic of policies aimed at promoting gender equality, which he views as a threat against traditional families, he was appointed to the Council on Gender Equality by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013 shortly after Abe’s return to power.

In the past few years, Takahashi has focused his efforts on challenging historical orthodoxies regarding crimes committed by the Japanese military during the WWII, especially the comfort women system and the Nanking atrocities. He is also actively working to stop the establishment of comfort women memorials in the U.S. and elsewhere, traveling abroad frequently and organizing conservative Japanese expats.

As an operative of Japan’s conservative establishment (that supports LDP and Abe), Takahashi tends to keep himself at a distance from the more extremist elements of the conservative movements (which view LDP and Abe as too soft), but he sometimes shares the stage with members of the latter group including Koichi Mera, Yumiko Yamamoto, and Mio Sugita.

Takahashi is the founder and president of Historical Awareness Research Committee, a founder of Channel Sakura, and a board member of Japan Education Rebirth Institute.