Skip to main content

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

By Jethro Mullen and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Mon May 27, 2013
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
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT