Tag Archives: memorials

Critic of Comfort Women memorial praises Confederate memorial in Georgia

In March 2018, far-right activist Yumiko Yamamoto of Nadeshiko Action traveled to Brookhaven, Georgia to stage a protest against the “comfort women” memorial installed in the City’s Blackburn Park, joined by another Nadeshiko Action member Shizuko Culpepper from Minnesota. They apparently took particular offense to the fact that the City celebrated annual cherry blossom festival in the same park that week, as the two felt that cherry blossoms was “the symbol of Japan” and should not be juxtaposed along the comfort women memorial.

During the same trip, Yamamoto visited the infamous Confederate memorial in Stone Mountain, Georgia and gave a speech to a conservative group after she returned to Japan, on April 19th (YouTube). The speech is in Japanese, but she repeats much of the same thing in an English advertisement published on the June 2, 2018 edition of Weekly NY Seikatsu, a mostly Japanese language publication for Japanese residents in the New York area (PDF version here).

In the opinion ad, Yamamoto praises the Stone Mountain Confederate Carving, one of the largest stone reliefs in the world depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Quoting Davis, Yamamoto writes: “In 1886, 21 years after the defeat of the Civil War in Mississippi [Jefferson Davis] stated, ‘the Southerners would not have to get revenge on the Yankees but would never tell their children that the South was wrong in the War Between the States: the South lost the battle, but the cause was right.'” In her Japanese speech, she adds: “likewise, Japan lost the battle, but our cause was right,” showing her adoration of the white supremacist Confederate “Lost Cause” myth.

Yamamoto further writes, “Although the Confederates lost the Civil War, they praise the courage and honor of those who fought and died for the confederacy. I thought Japanese should pass down our history just like their words to the next generation.” She contrasts the memorial praising Confederate soldiers with memorials dedicated to the victims and survivors of Japanese military comfort women system, arguing that comfort women memorials are “totally wrong and not facts.” “What a big difference from the Confederate Memorial!” exclaims Yamamoto.

Stone Mountain is the exact site of the 20th century revival of the Ku Klux Klan, who climbed up to the summit of the mountain on Thanksgiving Day, 1915 to give birth to a new generation of the Klan after the original Klan from the 19th century went dormant. The KKK held enormous annual cross burnings at the site for decades since then.

The Confederate carving was proposed by C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of Confederacy. The construction was delayed repeatedly until the segregationist Governor Marvin Griffin pushed the state to purchase Stone Mountain and complete the project. Even today, Stone Mountain continues to serve as a sacred spot for white supremacists, for example as the campaign launch location for former KKK leader and frequent political candidate David Duke, even as the criticisms toward memorials glorifying the Confederacy spread across the American South. It is for this symbolism Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia” in his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963.

Yamamoto’s adoration for Confederate leaders and memorials is perhaps not an accident: until late 2011 she was the vice president and secretary-general of Zaitokukai, an extremist anti-Korean hate group that target Korean children, families, and businesses. She has never renounced or denounced Zaitokukai even after exiting the organization, explaining in her 2014 book that she only left the organization to focus on the comfort women issue. In fact, Nadeshiko Action continues to spread anti-Korean extremist rhetoric, for example by submitting a letter to the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) titled “Hate speech masquerading as Anti-Hate speech by privileged Korean Residents in Japan,” alleging that Koreans living in Japan enjoy special privileges over Japanese nationals, which is the core (and unfounded) talking point of Zaitokukai.

The 2018 short documentary Graven Image by Sierra Pettengill uses archival footages to tell the history of the Stone Mountain and its place in the continuation of white supremacy in America. Graven Image can be viewed online thanks to PBS’ POV series.

Far-right Japanese nationalist’s theatrical assault on “comfort women” statue in Taiwan is part of the pattern

In September 2018, far-right Japanese nationalist Mitsuhiko Fujii made international headlines when he was caught on a surveillance camera appearing to kick a recently enacted statue dedicated to victims and survivors of Japanese military “comfort women” system in Tainan, Taiwan.

Fujii, who directs comfort women denialist organization Rompa Project (a front group for Happy Science) was visiting Tainan as a representative of the Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women to demand Taiwanese officials to take down the memorial.

When surveillance camera footage of Fujii kicking the statue surfaced, Fujii’s allies such as Shunichi Fujiki and Toshiko Hasumi took to the Facebook to claim that recordings were doctored by pro-Chinese operatives in Taiwan to drive a wedge between Japan and Taiwan. Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women initially posted a statement “protesting” the “doctored footages,” pledging to have the video analyzed by experts, but it quickly deleted the statement, replacing with an announcement that Fujii has resigned his post as a board member of the Alliance.

The surveillance footage also shows the presence of an apparent accomplice, who is seen holding a camera to capture Fujii’s feat as he repeatedly raised his foot against the statue. The identity of the accomplice is unknown, but is presumed to be another member of the Alliance.

This setup is reminiscent of how Fujii along with fellow history deniers Fujiki and Tony Marano staged a photo shoot at the site of another comfort women memorial in Glendale, California in 2014 with a paper bag covering the head of the statue, commenting that comfort women’s faces were too ugly to be shown. Later, Fujiki bragged that he had staged the photo to intentionally inflame Koreans and other Asians to blow it into international news, thereby attracting the attention of like-minded Japanese nationalists.

Similarly in 2017, Marano traveled to Brookhaven, Georgia for a photo op with a comfort women statue placed in the town’s public park with cash on the statue’s lap to make a point about comfort women being “highly paid, willing prostitutes” as history revisionists often say, instead of victims of military sexual slavery.

Fujii himself wrote the storyline for and produced a propaganda comic strip titled “The Facts,” which ended with a bear mascot surfing on a shark to the U.S. to demolish a comfort women memorial in Glendale. Please don’t ask us to explain why the bear is depicted crossing the Atlantic to travel from Japan to the U.S.: maybe they believe in geographical revisionism as well as historical revisionism.

The desire to physically attack and destroy statues representing and honoring the victims of Japanese military “comfort women” system appears widespread among far-right nationalist leaders. In 2016, parliamentary member (who was temporarily out of office at the time) Mio Sugita published a book in which she advocated for “bombing” comfort women memorials in the U.S. and beyond. Sugita wrote: “Once people realized that comfort women memorials would be bombed no matter how many they build, they will not think about building another one. We should bomb every single memorial as it is built.”

Sugita threatening to bomb U.S.

Sugita had lost her parliamentary seat in late 2014 and regained it in 2017. While she was out of office, she frequently joined Fujii and Fujiki to travel to various United Nations meetings in Geneva and in New York City as part of the Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women. Her return to political office has apparently emboldened Fujii to continue to attack comfort women memorials, both literally and figuratively.

Fujii’s assault on the Taiwanese statue took place following the reports of repeated vandalism of another comfort women memorial in San Francisco ahead of its first anniversary. According to CGTN, “paint was splattered on the statue and the grandmother’s eyes were painted white, while the panel that bears the description of the statue was scratched up at least four times.”

It is not yet known who is responsible for the vandalism in San Francisco or even if it was politically motivated, but attacks on statues around the world–and on the dignity of victims and survivors and on historical memories–appear rampant at the moment. We need to understand Fujii’s behavior not as an isolated act of idiocy, but part of a larger ongoing pattern of assaults on and disrespect for women (and others, for that matter) who have spoken out and are speaking out about their experiences of sexual violence.

Stretching the Truth. Cartoon by Stallina Chen

Has the establishment of “comfort women” memorials in the U.S. led to widespread bullying against Japanese children?

Conservative media in Japan have repeatedly claimed that the bullying and harassment against Japanese and Japanese American children have become rampant after a memorial dedicated to the victims and survivors of Japanese military “comfort women” system was enacted in Glendale, California in 2013. But there is no basis for this claim.

Since the stories about the supposed “bullying” of Japanese children began appearing in conservative publications in Japan, many local, national, and international media outlets have tried to substantiate the claim but to no avail: schools, law enforcement agencies, Japanese American community groups, and others could not identify a single report of such bullying. Even conservative Japanese politicians who visited Glendale in hope of meeting with the victim or their families could not find any.

Tokyo-based journalist Mark Schreiber wrote in “Tracking Southern California’s elusive ‘bullies’” (Number 1 Shimbun, October 2014):

My inquiries to individuals in Glendale who should have some information or insight continued to come up blank. “This is not true,” Sebastian Puccio, coordinator for the Glendale Unified School District, wrote me. “We are not aware of any incidents of students of Korean ethnicity confronting students of Japanese ancestry in this district, nor would this be tolerated.”

David Monkawa, a Glendale resident and member of the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress organization, wrote that he had also made inquiries, but with no success. “Sgt. Thomas R. Lorenz, Public Information Officer of the Glendale Police Dept., stated these statements are ‘100 percent fabricated,'” said Monkawa, who ended up believing that Glendale “should have the Human Rights Commission issue a stern statement exposing these lies.”

A Japanese residing in Los Angeles made a number of telephone calls on my behalf. A teacher at a school for Japanese children told him that the school had heard about the bullying story and had sent out a note asking for parents to report any incidents, but no one did.

Of course, lack of reports does not necessarily indicate that there is no bullying at all, but the conservative media’s claim of rampant or pervasive bullying against many Japanese or Japanese American children is demonstrably false.

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.