Toru Hashimoto (橋下徹) is a former Mayor of the City of Osaka, Governor of the Prefecture of Osaka, and the leader of Osaka Ishin movement (Japan Innovation Party, Innovation from Osaka, etc.). Hashimoto announced retirement from politics in December 2015 after his term as the Osaka Mayor expired, but continues to serve as the legal and policy advisor to the Nippon Ishin no Kai (日本維新の会).
In May 2013, while he was the Osaka Mayor, Hashimoto argued that “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 comfort women system is necessary: anyone can understand that.” He further suggested that the U.S. military should utilize legalized sexual services to reduce sexual violence committed by members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Okinawa. In response, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki immediately criticized Hashimoto’s statement “outrageous and offensive,” and the City and County of San Francisco asked Hashimoto to cancel his planned sister city visit.
Two weeks later, Hashimoto retracts his comment about U.S. service members while insisting that the comfort women system was similar to legalized prostitution at the time and that the Japanese military was not involved at all in the trafficking of comfort women during the WWII. The City and County of San Francisco adapted a resolution condemning Hashimoto’s statement in June.
In July 2015, as the City and County of San Francisco considered a resolution establishing a comfort women memorial in a city’s public park, Mayor Hashimoto criticized the resolution as “unfair” and sent a letter opposing the memorial.