JAPAN: Miki Dezaki set out to understand why a network of powerful people find it so important to shut up the women who demand justice for the sexual labour they were coerced into during WWII.
Nina Trige Andersen
Nina Trige Andersen is a historian and freelance journalist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 18, 2019

«The Comfort Women issue is not resolved,» director Miki Dezaki carves in stone from the opening of his documentary. That occupying forces use local women for sexual labour is a phenomenon known from many war contexts. What is referred to by the term «comfort women issue» is a system set up by the Japanese army in the 1940s when Japan occupied large parts of East and Southeast Asia, including Korea, the Philippines and the former French Indochina.

No longer quiet

Though most of those who were put to work as comfort women for the Japanese soldiers have obviously passed away, some are still alive, and so is their demand for recognition and compensation. Japan refused for many years to even speak of the issue and denied that any such thing as a comfort women system had ever been put in place.

Many of the women had already kept quiet for most of their lives, hiding their past in fear of how they would be judged. However, since the 1990s recognition of the comfort women issue, and the demand that Japan take formal responsibility for it, has grown into a political movement.

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Now the neo-nationalist movement in Japan – and its political allies in the US – are striking back. With Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe and his conservative party’s firm grip on power, the neo-nationalists and their ideology of restoring glory to Japan’s military past have gained traction.

Who are these people

Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki got caught in the crossfire himself when he started posting videos on his YouTube channel about contemporary Japanese society, including the comfort women issue. An American known as Texas Daddy started attacking him online, and while trying to figure out who this guy was and why he and many others were vehemently fighting to delegitimise the testimonies of the former comfort women, Dezaki unravelled a global web of revisionist misogynist and racist neo-nationalists working together to revise history textbooks as a central part of their claim to contemporary political power.

«Japan denied that any such thing as a comfort women system had been put in place.»

What began as a …

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