Last year, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors fought back against the mayor of an SF sister city in Japan who appeared to excuse wartime atrocities. Now that fight is entering another round.
In June of 2014, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said that "Comfort Women" — the sickening euphemism for the estimated 200,000 women and young girls from China and Korea who were enslaved and raped by Japan during WWII — were "necessary to maintain discipline" at the time.
For context, one victim of enslavement was Jan Ruff-O'Herne, a Dutch woman, who gave the following testimony to a US House of Representatives committee.
Many stories have been told about the horrors, brutalities, suffering and starvation of Dutch women in Japanese prison camps. But one story was never told, the most shameful story of the worst human rights abuse committed by the Japanese during World War II: The story of the “Comfort Women”, the jugun ianfu, and how these women were forcibly seized against their will, to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army. In the “comfort station” I was systematically beaten and raped day and night. Even the Japanese doctor raped me each time he visited the brothel to examine us for venereal disease.
As a result of Hashimoto's internationally criticized remarks and led by Supervisor Jane Kim, the Board of Supervisors passed a symbolic resolution condemning his words. The Osaka Mayor later sought to have that resolution retracted after he walked back some of his language according to Kyodo News International.
Hashimoto even canceled a trip to San Francisco in the wake of the controversy, and once again, it looks like the politician shouldn't schedule any Bay Area travel. Reigniting the feud last month, Supervisor Eric Mar introduced a resolution to create a "comfort women" memorial in San Francisco, as has been done in Glendale and Rohnert Park. That resolution, which received mixed support and objections (more on those later) during public comment, has been sent to committee.
So, in a predictable result, The Japan Times reports that Hashimoto has been speaking out against the proposed memorial. Yes, he's even threatening to write another angry letter. "It's true that women's human rights were abused during World War II, but it’s not fair to say only Japan did something special,” Hashimoto said at a news conference last month. His purported objections to a memorial also include the vague prediction that such a move could harm relations between the US and Japan as well as those between San Francisco and Osaka. But isn't he doing that single-handedly?
Perhaps not. The Japanese-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization writes that "Japanese right-wing activists are waging a mass email campaign in opposition to the resolution. They are also seeking their supporters in the area to show up and voice their opposition at the meeting." Of course the feminist group is in favor of the memorial, writing that it "applauds and supports San Francisco’s leadership in acknowledging and remembering the victims and survivors of “comfort women” system."