Feminist Network Endorses the Protest Against Japanese “Comfort Women” Denialist Events in California

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.

For more information, please see the event page on facebook or contact us.

Does 1944 U.S. Military Report Prove “Comfort Women” Were “Just Prostitutes”?

When Japanese politicians visited Glendale and tried to “convert” Japanese American leaders who had supported the city’s peace memorial dedicated to the victims of Japanese “comfort women” system of enforced military prostitution, the politicians presented a copy of a U.S. military report from 1944 that they believed would “prove” their position that “comfort women” were simply prostitutes who followed Japanese military for business. Their American apologists Tony Marano (a.k.a. “Texas Daddy”) and Michael Yon both cited the same document when they descended on our facebook page to argue the same thing. Clearly, they view this U.S. report as their strongest evidence absolving Japanese military of wrongdoings.

The report is based on interviews with 20 Korean “comfort women” as well as two Japanese civilian “house masters” held by the U.S. military as prisoners of war in Burma. Because it was written by the U.S. Army that was still fighting against the Japanese Empire at the time, right-wing nationalists argue, it cannot be challenged as being biased in favor of Japan. Unfortunately, however, both Japanese and American military can still be biased against Koreans or women, and especially against Korean “comfort women.”

POW Report No. 49 (1st page)

Indeed, the report does contain passages that seem to uphold right-wing nationalists’ view that “comfort women” were prostitutes making good money doing business with the Japanese military. The right-wing nationalists selectively quote passages such as “a comfort girl is nothing more than a prostitute or ‘professional camp follower’ attached to the Japanese Army for the benefit of the soldiers,” or “they lived in near luxury… they had plenty of money.”

The right-wing nationalists cannot help also quoting parts of the document that do not actually help their argument that the author was an objective third party, but are too pleasurable for them to ignore. For example, they like to quote the report’s description of Korean “comfort women” as “uneducated, childish, whimsical, and selfish” and “not pretty either by Japanese or Caucasian standards” (this is why Marano decided to place a paper bag over the Glendale memorial, according to his own article published in Japan). While Japanese nationalists may be quoting these passages to amuse their racist and sexist selves, they clearly show that the author’s prejudice toward Korean “comfort women.”

Some of the Japanese right-wing nationalists cite this report as if it is a newly uncovered historical evidence, but it has been known among scholars of “comfort women” for more than 20 years. In fact, it was part of the supporting documents compiled by the Japanese government when then-Cabinet Minister Yohei Kono released the famous statement in 1993 in which Japanese government acknowledged responsibility for its direct involvement in the trafficking and exploitation of “comfort women” for the first time. While right-wing nationalists believe the report to be the “silver bullet” proving their case, scholars actually consider it one of many documents that prove Japan’s culpability.

Right-wing nationalists are correct that the U.S. military report describes a “comfort woman (girl)” as “nothing more than a prostitute.” But in the next paragraph, the report details how “comfort women” were taken from Korea under false pretense (offer of a good job) and placed in a situation that they could not escape from due to debt. Also according to the report, most “comfort women” were never involved in prostitution prior to arriving at Japanese military “comfort stations,” and many were considered “underage” under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children of 1921, which Japan had signed.

“House masters” took 50-60% of the fees paid by Japanese soldiers, depending on the amount of money the women owed. Women also had to purchase food and other necessities from the house masters, which “made life very difficult for the girls” because house masters often charged excessively high prices for these necessities. We find these descriptions believable because they are very similar to how contemporary human trafficking cases look like.

The report also states that women had the freedom to refuse customers, for example when a soldier was extremely drunk. But even if it were true, they obviously did not have the freedom to refuse the “job” altogether and leave because they were taken far away from home in a foreign land and had to repay their debt, which was made difficult by the fact that they had to pay excessive prices for food and other necessities in order to survive.

To understand why the report seems to contain such contradictory information (did “comfort women” lived in near luxury, or had difficult life due to economic exploitation?), we need to understand the context and purpose of the report itself. The report’s author is Alex Yorichi, a Japanese American soldier working for the U.S. Army’s Office of War Information, Psychological Warfare Team. Yorichi was tasked with finding out the effectiveness of Japanese-language leaflets that the Psychological Warfare Team had distributed in Japanese-occupied territories in Burma, and interrogated “comfort women” and their “house masters” as part of that investigation.

In other words, it was never Yorichi’s intention to investigate the “comfort women” system itself. As such, he simply recorded testimonies of the “comfort women” and their “house masters” without verifying any particular claim about the “comfort women” system. Because the interview was likely conducted in Japanese (after all, the unit was interviewing Japanese prisoners of war), and many Korean “comfort women” did not receive Japanese education (most “comfort women” could not read the propaganda leaflets distributed by Yorichi’s colleagues), it would be natural to assume that the voices of the two Japanese “house masters” are disproportionately represented over the voices of Korean “comfort women” in the final report. Even then, the report details policies, structures, prices, and schedules at “comfort stations” that clearly prove the active involvement of Japanese military in managing or administering the everyday operation of “comfort stations.”

A copy of the U.S. military report is available for download here.

Tony Marano a.k.a. “Texas Daddy” has his propaganda busted

Last week, we posted a group photo representing “the faces of Japanese ‘comfort women’ denialism” with names and affiliations of the historical deniers.

Comfort Women Denialists

One of the “faces” featured, Tony Marano a.k.a. “Texas Daddy” a.k.a. “Propaganda Buster” commented on our blog, as well as on our facebook page, calling the caption “dishonarable and pathetic.” We responded to him, and here is the conversation that followed:

marano-fb

Here’s the text of the exchange, in case the screen capture does not work for you:

Tony Marano The title to the photograph is a total lie. Please point out which one(s) in that photograph deny the existence of Comfort Women.
Your scandalous lie is dishonorable and pathetic.

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization Nobody is accusing you of denying the mere existence of “comfort women.” Historical denialism is the denial of historical crimes, such as the Holocaust or the genocide of Native Americans or the crime Japanese military perpetrated against Korean and other women known as “comfort women” during the WWII. You deny the existence of the system of military enforced prostitution by the Japanese military, which means you, sir, are a “comfort women” denier.

Tony Marano You sir or ma’am are the denier between the two of us. In 1944 the United States Army captured, not rescued some Comfort Women and reported they were well paid prostitutes. That report place doubt in the version offered by many. That report may not reflect all the Comfort Women during that period throughout Asia, however it places doubt in the version that all were forced. By you and your colleagues refusing to acknowledge that report, it makes you the denier here. Also in the photograph where all are accused as deniers, do you know that for a fact about each individual? Or is that just another blanket inaccurate accusation?

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization The U.S. military report says that the women were deceived by the offer of good job and held in debt bondage, which is considered a form of slavery under the United Nations definition. The report also makes it clear that Japanese military managed the system of military prostitution by implementing policies, prices, schedules, etc. Finally, the report is contradictory in terms of the economic reality of the women: in some part it states that they “lived in near luxury” and in another they struggled financially because they had to purchase food and other necessities from “house maters” at an excessive cost. Most likely, the “luxury” story reflects the interrogation of the Japanese “house masters,” and the rest of the stories came from the women themselves. Now, who is “refusing to acknowledge” the report?

Tony Marano See, once again you are proving you are a denier. You left out the part where those so-called sex-slaves were paid more than the average Japanese soldier and where they ladies enjoyed entertainment and sporting events with members of the Japanese Imperial Army. Do sex slaves do that?

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization As I’ve pointed out already, the report states that women were nominally paid well but their earnings were taken away by the “house masters” for debt repayment and necessities. I find that description believable because it is very similar to the economic exploitation that occurs in contemporary human trafficking. As for comfort women having access to entertainment, even slave owners in the pre-Civil War U.S. South sometimes held picnics for their slaves. So yes, slavery can co-exist with occasional “entertainment” for the enslaved.

Who is this Tony Marano anyway, and why is he, a white American, so obsessed about denying the historical crimes of the Japanese Empire?

Tony Marano is a conservative video blogger who had posted political commentaries under the pseudonym “Propaganda Buster” on YouTube for several years. One time, he posted a video criticizing environmentalist group Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling campaign against Japanese fishers, and was embraced as a hero by the Japanese right-wing nationalists. One of the Japanese supporters, Shunichi Fujiki (also pictured), approached Marano and became his official Japanese representative, supplying him with more pro-Japan resources and coordinating his books and lectures in Japan.

Marano is behind the whitehouse.gov petition calling for the removal of the Glendale, California memorial dedicated to the victims of Japanese “comfort women” system. Fujiki brags about a “strategy” he devised in order to attract attention to the petition, which was to send Marano to Glendale to have him take photos showing him place a paper bag over the head of the statue representing a “comfort woman.”

marano-paperbag

Pictures on the left show Marano and the statue with its head covered by a paper bag. The image on the right shows Marano visiting Mio Sugita, a far-right Japanese member of Parliament who is also protesting the memorial.

According to Fujiki, Marano was intentionally trying to provoke Korean outrage with his action, so that the media would cover the controversy, ultimately bringing more attention to the petition effort. Marano further explained that he placed the paper bag over the statue because he believed “comfort women” were ugly, citing a derisive description in the 1944 U.S. military report he mentioned in his facebook comment above.

We suspect that perhaps Morano had not engaged directly with critics of his historical revisionism, because most English speakers have never heard of him or do not know enough about historical documents about “comfort women” that he (selectively) cites, and he cannot read or understand Japanese criticisms. In addition, his messaging for the Japanese audience is carefully scripted and orchestrated by Fujiki, insulating Marano from direct confrontation. But once he exchanged opinions and facts with us on facebook, the “propaganda buster” had his propaganda busted and could not respond any further.

FeND’s Letter to Fullerton in Rafu Shimpo newspaper

Rafu Shimpo, which describes itself as “the nation’s leading Japanese American newspaper since its original publication” in 1903, published an article based on our letter to Mayor Doug Chafee and City Council members of Fullerton in anticipation of Japanese protesters descending at the City Council meeting last week.

Thank you, Rafu Shimpo, for publicizing our letter as well as our upcoming workshop/seminar at UCLA next month!

FeND Expresses Support for Fullerton Peace Memorial

Today, Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) has submitted a letter to the Mayor and the City Council of Fullerton, California to express our support for its proposed peace memorial dedicated to victims and survivors of the Japanese “comfort women” system during the WWII.

City Council of Fullerton has already passed a resolution endorsing the U.S. House Resolution 121, leading a way for the Fullerton Museum Center board to approve the construction of the proposed memorial dedicated to former “comfort women.” But dozens of Japanese residents from surrounding areas, many of whom have come from Japan rather than from Japanese-American communities, are planning to storm the City Council meeting this Tuesday to voice their opposition to the memorial.

We are submitting our letter to demonstrate that these antagonistic Japanese nationalists do not speak for all of Japanese and Japanese-American individuals in the United States.

You can download the PDF file of our letter here.

Workshop: Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Organizing in Southern California

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:

http://www.fendnow.org/
http://www.facebook.com/fendnow

If you have any questions, please contact info@fendnow.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.)

We are FeND!

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) is a network of activists and scholars resisting both Japanese and U.S. colonialisms.

Founders of FeND are individuals living in the U.S. who have roots in Japan. We are organizing in response to the recent surge of ultra-right wing historical revisionist mobilization among some members of Japanese (not Japanese-American) communities in Southern California and elsewhere in the United States. For example, the revisionists are suing the City of Glendale, California over its public memorial dedicated to the victims of WWII-era “comfort women” system of the Japanese Imperial Army.

We also oppose the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, Hawai’i, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific, and the Japanese re-militarization.

脱植民地化を目指す日米フェミニストネットワーク(FeND)は、日本とアメリカ両方による植民地主義に対抗する運動家と研究者のネットワークです。

FeNDの創立者は、米国在住の日本にルーツをもつ人たちです。わたしたちは、南カリフォルニアやその他の米国の地域における在米日本人(日系アメリカ人ではありません)の一部などによる極右の歴史修正主義運動に対抗するために当団体を立ち上げました。例えば南カリフォルニアの歴史修正主義者らは、 日本軍「慰安婦」制度の被害者たちに捧げられた銅像を建てたカリフォルニア州グレンデール市に対して、訴訟を起こしています

また、わたしたちは、沖縄・ハワイやその他のアジア太平洋地域における米軍の駐留、日本の再軍国主義化などにも反対します。

Glendale Comfort Women Statue