Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, gained international attention after his controversial defense of Japan’s use of “comfort women,” or sex slaves from South Korea, during World War II. Hashimoto issued a statement to clarify his comments while also saying other nations had engaged in similar practices.
While Hashimoto was visiting a U.S. military base, he said that American soldiers should make use of Japan’s legal adult entertainment industry as one possible way to reduce sexual assault crimes committed on Japanese citizens, reports the Associated Press. In a statement, Hashimoto said, “I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of "the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan" should be considered as one of all the possible measures.”
In the statement, Hashimoto clarified his previous comments, saying he had not approved of soldiers using prostitutes, which is illegal in Japan. Hashimoto said, ‘In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark.” Hashimoto claimed that he was trying to figure out a way that could strengthen ties between the two countries while also attempting to reduce crimes committed by soldiers stationed in Okinawa. In the statement, Hashimoto understood that, while the adult entertainment industry is legal, it may not be morally acceptable and issued an apology. Hashimoto said, “I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology.”
In the statement to the media, Hashimoto further attempted to clarify his statement about Japan’s usage of sex slaves. According to Hashimoto, the usage of sex slaves was not exclusive to Japan and the practice must be examined in its historical context. Hashimoto said, “Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese Army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the U.K., France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.”
The Osaka mayor stated his comments were not meant to condone or approve of the practice. In the comments made two weeks ago, Hashimoto stated the practice was not sanctioned by the state, despite the 1993 apology that said the military had engaged in the practice, directly and indirectly, of forcing women into serving as prostitutes, reports AP. According to Hashimoto, “Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue.”
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Hashimoto had planned on a trip to the United States in mid-June, reports the Asahi Shimbun. The Osaka mayor was planning on visiting New York and San Francisco but has since canceled the trip.