Japanese American lawmaker Honda visits N.J. ‘comfort woman’ memorial

PALISADES PARK, New Jersey (Kyodo) — Japanese American Congressman Mike Honda visited a New Jersey memorial June 7 that honors women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II.

“The ‘comfort woman’ issue is a shameful thing,” the California politician said. “It’s a shameful thing and it should be put in the past and put in a museum.”

Despite heavy rain, Honda, along with local politicians and community leaders, laid flowers at the monument, which sits outside a public library.

Honda introduced a resolution into the U.S. House of Representatives calling for a formal apology from Japan on the comfort women issue that passed unanimously in 2007. New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, who also attended the ceremony, co-sponsored the resolution.

The plaque, which was unveiled in 2010, refers to “more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan.”

The third-generation Japanese American urged the Japanese government, especially the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, to “mature and recognize the historic past.”

He also criticized the “unfortunate” comments made by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who last month said wartime military brothels were “necessary” to maintain discipline in the Imperial Japanese Army.

Honda, who was incarcerated along with other Japanese Americans in World War II, pointed to the U.S. government’s apology in 1988 for its incarceration policy as an example of current politicians taking responsibility for the past.

“Governments are living organs that are responsible for their own past, present and future,” he said, adding that the Japanese “people are victims too, because they are victims of non-information or misinformation.”

Last year, Japanese lawmakers requested that Palisades Park officials remove the memorial, which highlights a thorny diplomatic issue between Japan and South Korea, among other countries.
More than half of Palisades Park’s population of about 20,000 is of Korean descent.

It is the first of two memorials for “comfort women” in Bergen County, which sits directly across the Hudson River from New York. The second was dedicated in March in front of the county courthouse.

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