Skip to main content

Japanese mayor apologizes to U.S. over sex industry suggestion

By Jethro Mullen and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
May 27, 2013 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Toru Hashimoto doesn't apologize for his "comfort women" comments
  • He says they were taken out of context
  • He retracts a remark urging U.S. military personnel in Japan to use the sex industry more
  • His comments this month provoked international outrage

Tokyo (CNN) -- A controversial Japanese politician apologized Monday for suggesting that U.S. military service members should use the adult entertainment industry in Japan more often to relieve sexual frustration and reduce aggression.

But he didn't back down over comments he made about the Japanese military's use of forced prostitution during World War II.

Japanese politician calls wartime sex slaves 'necessary'

Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, stirred outrage in Japan and around the world with a series of comments this month about the treatment of women by the military.

Korean 'Comfort women' demand justice
2012: Ignoring Japan's comfort women

He had said May 13 that he had told a U.S. military commander during a trip to a base on the island of Okinawa that the adult entertainment business in Japan should be "utilized more" by U.S. personnel.

"I told him there are places that operate within the boundaries of the law which can be used for releasing sexual frustration, so they (the U.S. military) should fully utilize it or the Marines won't be able to control their aggressive sexual desires."

In a statement delivered Monday at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hashimoto acknowledged that his comment "could be construed as an insult to the U.S. forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate."

Hashimoto, who is also a co-leader of the nationalist Japan Restoration Party, said he retracted the remark and apologized for it.

He said it was prompted by "a strong sense of crisis" he felt in light of a series of recent sexual abuse cases involving U.S. service members in Japan.

Opinion: Japanese politicians still struggle with wartime past

'Comfort women' controversy

But he said comments attributed to him that described women forced to become prostitutes to entertain Japanese troops during World War II as "necessary" had been taken out of context.

On May 13, he said "anyone would understand" the role of "comfort women" when soldiers were risking their lives and you wanted to give them "a rest."

"Comfort women" is the term used for the 200,000 women whom historians estimate were forced to become sex slaves for Japan's former Imperial Army.

Hashimoto's comments about them had provoked an international outcry, especially in Asian countries occupied by Japan during the war, such as South Korea and China. The U.S. government called the words "outrageous and offensive."

Hashimoto didn't offer an apology Monday for those comments, claiming that he had been talking about sexual violations by military personnel in a more general sense.

He also disputed that forcible recruitment of women during the war was conducted as government policy.

"I stated that 'the armed forces of nations in the world' seemed to have needed women 'during the past wars,' " he said. "Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that 'I' tolerated it."

Japan not only culprit, mayor says

He repeated the assertion he made previously that "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 UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War II," he said.

"It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War," Hashimoto added, using the official name of South Korea.

"If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect," he said.

He did, however, recognize that the Japanese military had caused suffering to comfort women.

"We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women," he said.

In 1993, the Japanese government released a statement acknowledging the "immeasurable pain and suffering" endured by thousands of women forced into sex during World War II. It even vowed to include the comfort women issue in new junior high school textbooks for the first time.

Can 'womenomics' save Japan?

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki reported from Tokyo, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Tethered to an IV drip, 71-year-old Shin Young Ja lies under a thin fleece blanket, nursing a broken back and wracked with survivor's guilt.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
Family members of the missing passengers are pinning slim hopes on floundering air pockets.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
The Hadza are one of the last communities of hunter-gatherers in the world -- but losing their land.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
In choosing to change a traditional practice, Francis is being as radical as Jesus was in his own time.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Too weak. Can't handle pressure. Unattractive to sponsors. Susie Wolff has heard it all.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1028 GMT (1828 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
It's like finding a needle in a universe-wide haystack. Researchers have located a planet roughly the size of Earth that could be habitable.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
Dubai, long champion of all things biggest, longest and most expensive, will soon have some competition from a neighboring country.
ADVERTISEMENT