New Museum to Focus on Sexual Slavery

The Japan Times reports that there is to be a new museum, opening next month, which will focus on wartime sexual slavery. The museum is called “The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace” (Anyone have links to Japanese news reports on this?) and will display materials and videos related to the issue in time for the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

This comes on the heels of the latest embarrassing contribution to the controversy by 中山成彬 (Nakayama, Nariaki). He is the current Minister of Education and famous for a number of disturbing statements and his support for the removal of discussion of the issue in Japanese textbooks. In his most recent speech on the issue to make news, he spent some nine minutes reading out an email he received from a female Japanese graduate student studying in Canada. It seems that he wanted to emphasize that she agrees that the word now commonly used for comfort women, or 従軍慰安婦 didn’t exist at the time. Even the minister is not stupid enough to deny that there were comfort women at all, but to claim that this term didn’t exist is perhaps somehow supposed to support his crusade against teaching about sexual slavery during the war. You can find articles on this in the Japanese media online: Asahi, Yomiuri, Sankei.

Notice the different emphases in each article reporting on this. Asahi includes, and is the only one of the three newspapers to include this somewhat disturbing quote from the email:


The student apparently wants the comfort women, and thus presumably also the sexual slaves (意に反して売春させられた) among them, to take pride in their work providing “comfort” for the unsettled hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield. Yomiuri notes her denial that the term now common existed at the time and adds this quote:


I am not entirely clear on how exactly having some other name for massive institutionalized prostitution which included sexual slavery will somehow create a less evil image. True to form, Sankei dwells on this issue a little more, including the aforementioned quote and adding a few more, including:


Here Sankei is adding her thoughts on the reaction of China and Korea, playing the history card to serve their own national interests, and criticizing Japanese politicians who refuse to be defiant. Providing some additional context, Sankei adds that Nakayama said in June that he was glad that comfort women had been removed from the textbooks since the word didn’t exist at the time. While I’m not sure what terms were or were not used during the war, note the connection being made between a squabble about the term – and discussion in textbooks of the important issue to which this term refers (according to various reports, the issue has made a mass disappearance from many if not all the major textbooks that are coming out this year).


  1. I think you’re pointing to one of the main tactics used by revisionist historians: nitpick and disprove one particular detail in order to deny the existence of an entire historical event. This trite debate over the term seems very similar.

  2. It would have been quite astonishing that her email should get national news coverage if it weren’t for the even more bizarre (and shameful) fact that the Education Minister should use her remarks in defense of his revisionist views. Where are the historians of Japan?

  3. Yeah, I wonder where this 20 something women student is studying? Which school? I second CP’s injunction: Where are the Japan historians?

    And why is a Minister quoting a graduate student anyway?

    I think graduate students (both Japanese and non) reading this should start a letter campaign to Nakayama. What do you think? I can probably get someone to draft something in Japanese and we call all sign.

  4. Tak, wonderful! This is the way grass roots movements get started…it would be wonderful if this could get support amongst Japanese…where the campaign would have more effect. However, I would be happy to sign a letter.

  5. Update on that page, for those interested. I’ve moved it to this url on blogspot and called it:

    中山成彬文科大臣にメールを送ろう! Let’s Email Nakayama Nariaki a History Lesson!

    Its a long title. And here’s the description.


    In the next few days I’ll announced more publicly on my site, but for now, I’ve recruited a few friends and we’re slowly building the site.

  6. ここって歴史ブログなのか政治ブログなのか、はたまた学生運動ブログなのかはっきりさせてください。

  7. Hi there ひとこと君, this is indeed a history blog, and history is full of issues which is deeply important today. Indeed, that is often what motivates people to study history. The politics of history is something that simply cannot be ignored. I’m sorry that you don’t understand that.

  8. >従軍慰安婦という言葉は)一部の日本人が自虐的にも戦後に作った。


    1) この問題に火を付けたのが、吉田清治の著書「私の戦争犯罪・朝鮮人連行強制記録」でした。しかし、千葉大学教授の秦郁彦氏が済州島に行って実際に調査したところ、吉田氏が慰安婦にするための女性を1000人近く徴用したとう事実はないことが判明しました。それに現地の新聞がすでに「吉田証言に該当する事実はない」と報道していたのです。

    2) 自ら名乗り出た慰安婦について:この女性、金学順は「女子挺身隊」として連行などされていない事を、8月14日の記者会見で自ら暴露した。実際は、生活苦から義父によって民間の置屋に売られたという、ただの身内による身売りというのが実態であったことが判明。国家による組織的な強制連行とは関係ない。

  9. Comment Deleted from ボヤッキー Reason: For irrelevant insult of the Frog in a Well blog.

    ボヤッキー: Critical comments are welcome when relevant to the posting or issues discussed. In answer to a question you posed elsewhere, this weblog has moderated comments due to spam and offensive or completely irrelevant postings. This is not a public bathroom wall. We welcome your critical comments (such as your last comment) even when we disagree with their contents.

  10. In response to your comment above ボヤッキー I’m sorry that I can’t respond to the technical and detailed issue of the term and the controversy around it, I hope others can address the specific debate you are bringing up. However, I will reiterate the fact that the squabble over the term is being used to question the existence of a hugely important issue, that of comfort women (with whatever word you would like to use). I for one, am not prepared to ignore the oral testimony of many women to attest to being coerced into working as comfort women, even though many revisionists in Japan seem perfectly willing to believe that they are all inventing their stories of sexual slavery.

    The issue of coercion, however, is merely one part of this tragic story, as I suggest. There are other important issues of the relationship between sex and war which deserve careful consideration.

  11. “Critical comments are welcome ”

    “I’m sorry that I can’t respond to the technical and detailed issue”


    “am not prepared to ignore the oral testimony of many women ”


  12. ひとつ訂正です。




    previous postの自ら名乗り出た慰安婦、金学順さんの証言。


  13. 慰安婦なんて只の売春婦! なにがSEX SLAVEだ! ふざけるな!!
     慰安婦をリクリートしていたのは、朝鮮人だ! この募集広告に連絡先“許”氏って書いてあるだろ!

  14. zubuzubu: No one denies that Korean and Japanese private recruiters were involved. Also many women were recruited, especially in the earlier period, as “comfort women” and knew what kind of work this might entail.

    It was still a form of sexual slavery since we have many documented cases of women being chased down or punished for attempting to escape the stations.

    The fact that many 1) The Japanese military or others working on the instructions of the Japanese military were involved in many cases there is evidence for 2) many women were deceived when they were recruited, let to believe they were being recruited for factory and other work etc. 3) Many women were rounded up in press-gang style raids all make this atrocious system worth remembering and figures into the broader study of the relationship between sex, gender, and war.

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