In a recent edition, The Rafu Shimpo featured an article telling of the parliament in Japan authorizing a revision in its constitution that would allow its military to use its forces to defend Japan. This was ostensibly in response to recent threats from China.
This action by the government triggered in my mind the controversy regarding the comfort women. In 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued an apology and admitted the military had procured the women and forced them into sexual servitude for the military. Surviving comfort women have demonstrated in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul each week for 20 years, claiming a clear apology and adequate restitution have not been made. President Obama, on his recent visit to Seoul, asked the Japanese government for an apology. Premier Shinzo Abe apologized once more, but the parliament again found this apology not to their liking.
Early this year, I met with three members of the parliament who wanted to know why we, representing the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the JACL, and the NCRR supported a monument in Glendale replicating the Comfort Women Monument in Seoul. Our chapter president, Harold Kameya, and I, representing JACL, along with Kathy Masaoka and Wilbur Sato of NCRR, met with the representatives at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. After we all explained our views, the parliament members abruptly got up and left.
Shortly afterwards, David Monkawa of NCRR, who was born in Japan and lived there as a child, explained to us a few matters that he had gleaned from the Japanese press: It seems the three parliament members were all members of the Restoration Party, which was pressing for the constitutional revision mentioned above. To offer an apology for the government’s backing of the comfort women would damage the public’s view of the military, which would negatively affect the public’s attitude concerning the revision of the constitution.
The arguments against revising the constitution allowing for an expanded military were based on the historical consequences of Japan’s military aggressions. Most prominent were World War II and the consequent A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most relevant to us JAs, of course, was the attack at Pearl Harbor and our subsequent internment.
The United States has had a dismal record over the years since Pearl Harbor regarding its military interventions throughout the world: The Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more recently, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although I can understand the reasoning, I am not happy to see this turn of events in Japan.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.