Shigeharu Aoyama

Shigeharu Aoyama (青山繁晴) is a conservative political commentator turned politician and a comfort women denier.

After visiting San Jose, California, Aoyama claimed to have heard first-hand testimonies about bullying experienced by Japanese children in the U.S. resulting from the construction of comfort women memorial in Glendale, California, which is over 300 miles away from San Jose. When the group of Japanese parents in San Jose who had sponsored Aoyama’s visit publicly contradicted his statement, he backtraced the comment, saying that the bullying stories were from elsewhere, even though he had not visited Glendale or anywhere near comfort women memorials in the U.S. by that time.

In June 2016, Aoyama ran for the House of Councillors and won a six-year term.

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.

Special Mission Committee to Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan

Special Mission Committee to Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan (日本の名誉を守る特命委員会) is a committee within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that was formed in October 2014 to refute criticisms toward postwar Japan’s handling of the Japanese military comfort women system during the WWII. It is headed by Hirofumi Nakasone (中曽根弘文), and Tomomi Inada (稲田朋美) spoke at the inaugural meeting along with him.

The committee me 13 times over the next year to discuss “false” depictions of the comfort women system in foreign media and textbooks, and issued a report in July 2015 calling on the Japanese government to more aggressively “correct the misperceptions regarding the comfort women issue.”

Members of the committee were:

  • Masahiko Takamura (高村正彦), advisor
  • Hirofumi Nakasone (中曽根弘文), chair
  • Takeshi Iwaya (岩屋毅)
  • Itsunori Onodera (小野寺五典)
  • Yoshiaki Harada (原田義昭)
  • Katsuei Hiarasawa (平沢勝栄)
  • Keiji Furuya (古屋圭司)
  • Kuniko Inoguchi (猪口邦子)
  • Kenji Kosaka (小坂憲次)
  • Keizo Takemi (武見敬三)
  • Taimei Yamaguchi (山口泰明)
  • Tsukasa Akimoto (秋元司)
  • Masahito Moriyama (盛山正仁)
  • Kenya Akiba (秋葉賢也)
  • Tsutomu Tomioka (冨岡勉)
  • Shuichi Takatori (高鳥修一)
  • Masahiko Shibayama (柴山昌彦)
  • Yoshitaka Ikeda (池田佳隆)
  • Tsuyoshi Hoshino (星野剛士)
  • Michiko Ueno (上野通子)
  • Yutaka Kumagai (熊谷大)

Tomomi Inada

Tomomi Inada (稲田朋美) is a right-wing member of the parliament and the Minister of Defense under Abe administration (2016-). As a lawyer, Inada represented the families of Japanese soldiers executed as war criminals involved in Nanking atrocities against newspapers that reported the war crime. She was recruited by Shinzo Abe, then the acting secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, to run for the House of Representatives after Abe heard Inada give a talk on the topic at the headquarters of the party.

Recognized as among the most hard-line nationalists when it comes to the issue of Japan’s past, Inada signed on to both The Facts (2007) and Yes, we remember the facts. (2012), opinion ads published in U.S. media to dispute historical orthodoxy on comfort women. Her appointment to Defense Minister by Abe led to a widespread concern about the further militarization of Japan.

Interestingly, Inada is surprisingly pro-LGBT, having proposed a legislation to combat discrimination against the LGBT community. In 2016, Inada claimed that LGBT groups in San Francisco supported Japanese Consulate’s campaign to prevent the establishment of a comfort women memorial in the city as a reason to support LGBT rights, but there is no evidence that any LGBT group took a position on the issue, let alone an opposition to the memorial. On the contrary, prominent Asian American LGBT leaders endorsed the memorial along with other Asian American community members.

Inada is a member of the parliamentary Japan Conference caucus.