A Japan-born Nikkei’s case for the ‘comfort women’ resolution in S.F.

I am in support of a resolution to set up a memorial to remember and honor the women in Asia and the Pacific Islands who endured the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” (Sexual Slavery) System from the mid-1930s through the end of World War II.

A public hearing on this resolution, which was introduced to the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors on July 14th 2015, will be held on September 17th by the committee that is proposing it. I learned that Ms. Yong Soo Lee, a “comfort woman” survivor, is going to fly from South Korea to San Francisco to present her testimony at the hearing. Let me tell you my story to explain why I am in support of this resolution.

I was born and raised in a traditional family in an old town in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. In the mid-1930s my father studied Pharmacy at Chiba College of Pharmacy with a Japanese Army scholarship, and enlisted upon his graduation. He was sent to China and Burma, where he was captured by the British Army in 1945 and put in a camp as a POW. He returned home in 1946.

I am a son of war survivors. I had the privilege of living with my great-grandmother, from whom I learned about traditional Japanese ways of living. One of her sons studied at the Japanese Naval Academy in Hiroshima in the mid-1930s and joined the Japanese Navy upon his graduation. He was also sent to China and South East Asia. He died just after the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor and invaded Malaysia on December 7th, 1941, when his plane crashed in a thunderstorm over the jungle on the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula.

My family did not talk much about their war experiences. However, I cannot forget one thing, which I heard from my mother. The bathroom was the only place where my great-grandmother could go to cry when the news of the death of her son reached her. People were forced to hide their grief for the war dead and only express praise.

It was in Malaysia that I started to learn about the war from the other side. I joined the Japan Overseas Corps of Volunteers and went to work and live in Malaysia after I graduated from university in Japan. I lived there among Malay Malaysians, and listened when they told me what the Japanese military did during the war. I also befriended a Chinese Malaysian who told me about the mass killings of Chinese by the Japanese Army. I learned firsthand that their strong feeling of anger against the Japanese government and soldiers in the Chinese Community there was alive.

After I returned from Malaysia to Japan I visited Okinawa and South Korea several times. I encountered various kinds of people from whom I learned about the consequences of colonization and the war, during which time civilians on both sides suffered. Reconciliation has still not been made.

In 1990, we moved from Japan to New Jersey, where my wife grew up, so our children could go to school there. Then we moved to California in 2013 to live closer to our daughter who had settled in Watsonville. Here in California, I have often had opportunities to listen to the war experiences of Japanese Americans, especially Nisei Japanese Americans.

Setting up the memorial to remember and honor the “comfort women” is not only a reminder for us to urge the Japanese government to make a sincere official apology and governmental compensation, and carry out education, but also our response to the “comfort women” survivors who are calling us, through their own sufferings and activities for peace and justice, not to make war any more.

Takashi Mizuno is a member of the Comfort Women Coalition, a multi-ethnic-multi-purpose human rights group, and also of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Comments

  1. Thank you Mr. Mizuno for sharing this powerful piece!!!

    • Philip Ahn Cuddy says:

      I wish more people would support the truth about the Colonial Period history like you have done. My grandfather was killed by Japanese police in Korea in 1938. He was arrested for the first time in 1910. His sixth arrest was his last. Like your family experienced the tragedy of that era our family has, also. You know more about the truth than a lot of Koreans. Thank you Mr. Mizuno for your noble words, humility and sincerity.

  2. It is not the memorial to the “comfort women” that is causing anti-Japanese sentiment. Instead, it is the right-wing Japanese government leaders like Shinzo Abe and the mayor of Osaka, who want to deny, excuse or downplay Japan’s wartime atrocities, and refuse to make a clear apology and individual compensation to the victims — who are giving rise to anti-Japanese sentiment around the world.

    Mr. Mizuno’s statement makes it clear that the Japanese people, who also suffered greatly under the Japanese militarists, have a common interest in supporting the comfort women and other victims of Japan’s war crimes. Similarly, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans put their lives on the line, many of them volunteering straight out of U.S. concentration camps, to fight the Japanese imperial forces and their fascist allies. Thousands of Japanese Americans served in the Pacific during World War II as interpreters in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service, translating Japanese war documents, and interrogating captured Japanese soldiers. It dishonors the sacrifices of those Japanese American veterans and all Allied veterans of that war to try to gloss over or bury the memory of the horrific wartime acts of the Japanese militarists.

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