Japan’s surrender made public

Japan’s surrender made public

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In what later became known as Victory Day, an official announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies is made public to the world on August 14, 1945.

Even though Japan’s War Council, urged by Emperor Hirohito, had already submitted a formal declaration of surrender to the Allies, via ambassadors, on August 10, fighting continued between the Japanese and the Soviets in Manchuria and between the Japanese and the United States in the South Pacific. In fact, two days after the Council agreed to surrender, a Japanese submarine attacked the Oak Hill, an American landing ship, and the Thomas F. Nickel, an American destroyer, both east of Okinawa.

WATCH: The full special Hiroshima: 75 Years Later online now.

On the afternoon of August 14 (August 15 in Japan, because of time-zone differences), Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was soon to be made, accepting the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. That proclamation had already been recorded by the emperor. The news did not go over well, as more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers stormed the Imperial Palace in an attempt to find the proclamation and prevent its being transmitted to the Allies. Soldiers still loyal to Emperor Hirohito repulsed the attackers.

That evening, General Anami, the member of the War Council most adamant against surrender, committed suicide. His reason: to atone for the Japanese army’s defeat, and to be spared having to hear his emperor speak the words of surrender.

At the White House, U.S. president Harry S. Truman relayed the news to the American people; celebrations broke out in Washington, D.C. and across the country.

READ MORE: Why WWII Soldiers Mutinied After V-J Day

International Military Tribunal for the Far East

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trial or the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, was a military trial convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for joint conspiracy to start and wage war (categorized as "Class A" crimes), conventional war crimes (Class B), and crimes against humanity (Class C). [1]

Eleven countries (Australia, Canada, China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) provided judges and prosecutors for the court. The defense comprised Japanese and American lawyers.

Twenty-eight Japanese military and political leaders were charged with fifty-five separate counts encompassing the waging of aggressive war, murder and conventional war crimes committed against prisoners-of-war, civilian internees, and the inhabitants of occupied territories. The defendants included former prime ministers, former foreign ministers, and former military commanders. In the course of the proceedings, the court ruled that 45 of the counts, including all the murder charges, were either redundant or not authorized under the IMTFE Charter.

Two defendants died during the proceedings and one was ruled unfit to stand trial. All remaining defendants were found guilty of at least one count. Sentences ranged from seven years' imprisonment to execution.

The tribunal was adjourned on November 12, 1948.

Potsdam Declaration

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Potsdam Declaration, ultimatum issued by the United States, Great Britain, and China on July 26, 1945, calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan. The declaration was made at the Potsdam Conference near the end of World War II.

Two months after Germany surrendered, Allied leaders gathered in Potsdam, Germany, to discuss peace settlements, among other issues. However, although the European phase of the conflict had ended, the war continued in the Pacific theatre as Japan remained committed to fighting. U.S. Pres. Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek thus drafted a declaration that defined the terms for Japan’s surrender and made dire warnings if the country failed to put down its weapons Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was not part of the ultimatum because his country had not yet declared war on Japan.

The declaration claimed that “unintelligent calculations” by Japan’s military advisers had brought the country to the “threshold of annihilation.” Hoping that the Japanese would “follow the path of reason,” the leaders outlined their terms of surrender, which included complete disarmament, occupation of certain areas, and the creation of a “responsible government.” However, it also promised that Japan would not “be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation.” The declaration ended by warning of “prompt and utter destruction” if Japan failed to unconditionally surrender.

The War Was Won Before Hiroshima—And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It

August 6, 2015

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Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum—America’s shrine to the technological leading edge of the military-industrial complex—hear a familiar narrative from the tour guides in front of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped an atomic weapon on the civilians of Hiroshima 70 years ago today. The bomb was dropped, they say, to save the lives of thousands of Americans who would otherwise have been killed in an invasion of Japan’s home islands. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were largely destroyed, and the lives of 135,000 to 300,000 mostly Japanese women, children, and old people were sacrificed—most young men were away at war—as the result of a terrible but morally just calculus aimed at bringing an intractable war to a close.

This story may assuage the conscience of the air museum visitor, but it is largely myth, fashioned to buttress our memories of the “good” war. By and large, the top generals and admirals who managed World War II knew better. Consider the small and little-noticed plaque hanging in the National Museum of the US Navy that accompanies the replica of “Little Boy,” the weapon used against the people of Hiroshima: In its one paragraph, it makes clear that Truman’s political advisers overruled the military in determining how the end of the war with Japan would be approached. Furthermore, contrary to the popular myths around the atomic bomb’s nearly magical power to end the war, the Navy Museum’s explication of the history clearly indicates that “the vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.”

Indeed, it would have been surprising if they had: Despite the terrible concentrated power of atomic weapons, the firebombing of Tokyo earlier in 1945 and the destruction of numerous Japanese cities by conventional bombing killed far more people. The Navy Museum acknowledges what many historians have long known: It was only with the entry of the Soviet Union’s Red Army into the war two days after the bombing of Hiroshima that the Japanese moved to finally surrender. Japan was used to losing cities to American bombing what their military leaders feared more was the destruction of the country’s military by an all-out Red Army assault.

&ldquoThe use of this barbarous weapon&hellipwas of no material assistance in our war against Japan.&rdquo &mdashAdm. William Leahy, Truman's Chief of Staff

The top American military leaders who fought World War II, much to the surprise of many who are not aware of the record, were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and—for many—that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Most were also conservatives, not liberals. Adm. William Leahy, Truman’s chief of staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir I Was There that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… In being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The commanding general of the US Army Air Forces, Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement 11 days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that “the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.”

&ldquoIt was a mistake. [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it.&rdquo &mdashAdm. William &ldquoBull&rdquo Halsey

Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, stated in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings that “the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.” Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., the commander of the US Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946 that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…. It was a mistake to ever drop it…. [The scientists] had this toy, and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it…”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” He later publicly declared, “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Even the famous hawk Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, the head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

The record is quite clear: From the perspective of an overwhelming number of key contemporary leaders in the US military, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a matter of military necessity. American intelligence had broken the Japanese codes, knew the Japanese government was trying to negotiate surrender through Moscow, and had long advised that the expected early August Russian declaration of war, along with assurances that Japan’s emperor would be allowed to stay as a figurehead, would bring surrender long before the first step in a November US invasion could begin.


Historians still do not have a definitive answer to why the bombs were used. Given that US intelligence advised the war would likely end if Japan was given assurances regarding the emperor—and given that the US military knew it would have to keep the emperor to help control occupied Japan in any event—something else clearly seems to have been important. We know that some of Truman’s closest advisers viewed the bomb as a diplomatic and not simply a military weapon. Secretary of State James Byrnes, for instance, believed that the use of atomic weapons would help the United States more strongly dominate the postwar era. According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, who met with Byrnes on May 28, 1945, “[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior…[and thought] that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.”

History is rarely simple, and confronting it head-on, with critical honesty, is often quite painful. Myths, no matter how oversimplified or blatantly false, are too often far more likely to be embraced than inconvenient and unsettling truths. Even now, for instance, we see how difficult it is for the average US citizen to come to terms with the brutal record of slavery and white supremacy that underlies so much of our national story. Remaking our popular understanding of the “good” war’s climactic act is likely to be just as hard. But if the Confederate battle flag can come down in South Carolina, we can perhaps one day begin to ask ourselves more challenging questions about the nature of America’s global power and what is true and what is false about why we really dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.

Gar Alperovitz Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, is co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative and co-chair of its Next System Project.

Thank you!

TIME’s Jan. 25, 1960, cover story, which came out around the week that the U.S. and Japan signed the revised treaty (and which makes use of some national stereotypes from that era), focused on how Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi had played an important role in reconciling “Japan’s militarist, aggressive past and its democratic present.” (He was born to do it, TIME argued, reporting that the name Kishi, meaning “riverbank,” is used in a Japanese phrase that refers to “one who tries to keep a foot on both banks of the river.”) As the cover story detailed, not everyone was happy about the two nations’ growing closeness. But the forces behind the scenes &mdash especially the economic forces &mdash were stronger than any individual’s protests:

Prime Minister Kishi, 63, flew into Washington this week convinced that the logic of the world situation and the profit of Japan require his signature on the revision of the 1951 U.S.-Japanese Treaty. Not all his countrymen agree. In Tokyo 27,000 demonstrators battled police, and thousands of fanatical left-wing students made plain their feelings about the treaty by using the great doorway of the Japanese Diet for their own kind of public protest&mdasha mass urination…

Kishi’s diehard opponents protest that the treaty revision commits Japan to support all U.S. moves in the Pacific and may therefore “attract the lightning” of a Communist H-bomb attack. There are U.S. reservations about the treaty as well many Pentagon staff officers complain that it gives Japan what amounts to a veto over the movement of U.S. troops on the perimeter of the Asian mainland.

The treaty is to run for ten years, and its ten articles pledge that 1) both nations will take “action to counter the common danger” if the forces of either are attacked in Japan, though not elsewhere, 2) “prior consultation” will be held between the two before U.S. forces in Japan receive nuclear arms, 3) Japan is released from further contributions (now $30 million a year) for the support of U.S. troops in the islands. In Kishi’s words, the treaty will create an atmosphere of “mutual trust.” It inaugurates a “new era” of friendship with the U.S. and, most important, of independence for Japan.

Only 14 years ago such a treaty would have been unthinkable, and that it would be signed for Japan by Kishi, inconceivable. Then, Japan was a nation in ruins: a third of its factories had been leveled by U.S. bombers eight of every ten ships in its merchant fleet lay at the bottom of the ocean its exhausted population faced starvation…

Yet Japan, going into the 1960s, has risen phoenix-like from the ashes. The Japanese people are 25% better off than they were before the war, even though 20 million more of them are crowded into an area 52% smaller than their old territory. Japan’s industrial growth has soared to its highest rate ever, enough to double the national income every ten years. Its tiny farms (average size: 2½ acres) are so intensely cultivated that they have one of the world’s highest yields. Nearly every Japanese family owns a radio, one in every four, a TV set more newspapers are sold per capita than in the U.S. The people of Japan are incomparably the best fed, clothed and housed in all Asia…

Japan did not lift itself by its own sandal straps. Since the war U.S. aid has averaged $178 million a year a serious business recession was eased by the 1950 Korean war, which poured vast sums into the Japanese economy war reparations in kind to Southeast Asia have kept factories humming and the very high rate of capital investment is possible since Japan spends little on armaments. But major credit belongs to the Japanese themselves. In a typically Japanese swing from one extreme to another, they shook off the apathy of defeat, and with skill, hard work and enthusiasm began rebuilding at home and recapturing markets abroad.

In contrast, Kishi could see, the U.S. was supplying economic aid and buying more Japanese goods than any other single country &mdash particularly the fine-quality consumer items that are too expensive for the rest of Asia. The U.S., moreover, is the guarantor of Japan’s security in the shadow of the two Red giants of China and the Soviet Union. Moved by pragmatism, not pro-Americanism, Kishi realizes that his nation’s best and most vital interests are served by close cooperation with the U.S. both in trade and defense.

That said, U.S.-Japan relations would be tested again, during the protectionist movement of the 󈨊s and 󈨔s.

Case in point: the car industry. “After two oil crises in the 󈨊s [and] Vietnam, which cost the U.S. a great deal, the [American] economy wasn&rsquot as strong as it once was. Smaller, cheaper, fuel-efficient Japanese cars were a better option,” says Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Japan’s New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance. With this shift in consumer preferences, Japan grew wealthier. By the 1980s, it had become the second largest economy. But, as the Japanese grew wealthier, Americans blamed them for the loss of American jobs, especially in the auto and textile industries in extreme cases, they reacted by destroying Japanese cars and attacking Asian-Americans. Some Americans thought the Japanese were “cheating” somehow and questioned whether this richer Japan was “not pulling its weight in defense spending,” says Smith.

“During the trade friction in the 󈨔s, there was a lot of mistrust between the U.S. and Japan, and a lot of people thought the reconciliation process would fall apart because we were becoming economic adversaries,” says Green. “The reason the reconciliation process didn’t break down was in part because, in 1985, the U.S. and the world pressured Japan to bring up the value of the yen. Exports were too cheap, not fair. [After the shift] it cost almost twice as much to buy Japanese goods that were exported, and it actually incentivized Japan to invest in factories in the U.S. and employ Americans”

The economic balance thus resettled. With the Cold War still top-of-mind for many people around the world &mdash and Japan positioning itself as a bulwark against the Soviets &mdash the reconciliation process proceeded once more.

In the years since, anniversaries have several times provided occasions to observe the extent of that reconciliation, and where gaps remain. For example, on the 50th anniversary, American veterans’ groups protested plans for a Smithsonian exhibition that explained the destruction of the atomic bombings and its effect on Japanese victims, arguing it made Americans look like aggressors. Others felt that the perspective of U.S. veterans groups was consistently heard more than the perspective of that of the survivors of the atomic bombings. “Aware of lingering bitterness over their nation’s role in World War II, Japanese are disappointed but not surprised that U.S. veterans’ groups have forced the downscaling of a controversial exhibition commemorating the end of the conflict,” TIME reported back then, quoting Hiroshima survivor Koshiro Kondo as saying, “We had hoped that the feelings of the people of Hiroshima might have gotten through to the American people.”

Meanwhile, a historic display of reconciliation came in 2016, when President Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor seven months later. &ldquoThe two leaders&rsquo visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies,&rdquo the White House said in a statement.

Today, there are signs that the story is not yet complete. Surveys show that some people’s confidence in maintaining the strong relationship under President Donald Trump’s administration is waning. A poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 43% of Americans believe the U.S. should strengthen its alliance with Japan “as China becomes increasingly powerful in the region.” And yet, a 2017 Pew poll found that 41% of Japanese think U.S.-Japan relations will “get worse, not better” under Trump. Fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China and the war of words between the nations’ leaders exacerbate those feelings.

And the ethical debate over whether it was the right decision to use atomic bombs in 1945 &mdash or if it ever would be &mdash continues, too. Diplomatic relations may have been settled, says Smith, but “that moral question, I think, we&rsquoll never resolve.”


The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed the base in 1938 to house the 302nd Kokutai, one of the Navy's most formidable fighter squadrons during World War II. Aircraft based at Atsugi shot down more than 300 American bombers during the firebombings of 1945. [ citation needed ] After Japan's surrender, many of Atsugi's pilots refused to follow Hirohito's order to lay down their arms, and took to the skies to drop leaflets on Tokyo and Yokohama urging locals to resist the Americans. Eventually, these pilots gave up and left Atsugi.

General Douglas MacArthur arrived at Atsugi on 30 August to accept Japan's surrender. Shortly afterwards, elements of the USAAF 3d Bombardment Group moved in about 8 September, being replaced by the USAAF 49th Fighter Group on 15 September which handled the initial cleanup of the heavily damaged airfield along with the 1539th Army Air Forces Base Unit to provide station facilities. Minimal flight operations were restored by October which allowed the P-61 Black Widow-equipped 418th Night Fighter Squadron to operate from the airfield to provide air defense over the area, along with the P-38 Lightnings of the 49th FG. The 49th moved to Chitose Airfield on Hokkaido in mid February 1946, the 418th NFS to Okinawa in June, and on 31 December 1946 the 1539th AAFBU moved to Haneda Airfield.

During the occupation, the base housed the overflow from nearby Camp Zama it was not refurbished to handle military air traffic until the Korean War. The Seabees (Navy construction battalions) came to the base in 1950 and prepared it for re-opening that December as Naval Air Station Atsugi.

NAF Atsugi was a major naval air base during both the Korean War and Vietnam War, serving fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft.

One of the aircraft based at Atsugi at least since 1957 [4] was the U-2 spy plane. The plane made local Japanese headlines when it ran low on fuel and made an emergency landing at a glider-club landing strip. This same plane was piloted by Gary Powers, which provoked an international incident when it was downed over the Soviet Union. [5]

Lee Harvey Oswald was based at Atsugi during his time in the United States Marines. He was a radar operator assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 1. [6] [7] [8] He was stationed there from September 1957 to November 1958. [9]

In 1964 a United States Marine Corps F8U-2 Crusader based at the airfield crashed in nearby Machida, Tokyo. The pilot ejected and was not seriously injured, but the crash killed four and injured 32 people on the ground and destroyed seven houses. [10]

In 1969 an EC-121 aircraft of VQ-1 that took off from Atsugi on a reconnaissance mission near North Korea was shot down by a North Korean MiG-21. This led then-president Nixon to order a tactical nuclear strike on North Korea, which ultimately did not take place. [11] The reconnaissance flights resumed a week later.

In 1972, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to share ownership of the base, after which the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force began operating from there.

In 1973 Yokosuka became the home port of the carrier USS Midway. As a consequence CVW-5, the carrier's air wing was based at Atsugi. [12] [13] [14]

On 2 November 1976, a US Navy Grumman C-1 Trader, piloted by Lt. Laury K. Backman, suffered a mechanical failure of the aileron system while maneuvering to land on runway 01, and crashed short of the runway. All six aboard were killed. [15]

In 1977, a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II based at the facility suffered a mechanical failure and crashed into a residential neighborhood in nearby Yokohama. The crew ejected and survived, but two young boys, aged 1 and 3, were killed and 7 others injured. [16]

Elements of the Naval Security Group and rotational squadrons of EP-3 Aries that are now stationed at Misawa Air Base were formerly stationed at Atsugi until the 1990s.

On 9 February 1999 a fire broke out at a terminal, no injuries were reported. [17]

On 3 April 2003 a faction of the leftist group Kakurōkyō attacked the facility with improvised mortar fire. Around the same time the same group also attacked Yokota Air Base and the National Defence Agency. [18]

In 2004 a McDonnell Douglas MD 900 Explorer operated by Aero Asahi made a crash-landing at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. There were no fatalities. [19] [20]

On 14 November 2009 a fire in Hangar 183 at the base injured three Japanese employees of Obayashi Corporation. The fire was reported at 11:55 a.m. and was extinguished by 12:45 p.m. The hangar was moderately damaged. [21]

In December 2009, Atsugi was again attacked, this time by Kakurōkyō members via improvised mortar barrages. [22]

Personnel and aircraft from the base assisted with Operation Tomodachi following and during the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima I nuclear accidents. During the crisis, around 2,000 American family members voluntarily departed the base for locations outside Japan. [23]

On 16 December 2013 a MH-60S Knighthawk of CVW-5 crashed in Miura city due to a tail jam. The aircraft was written off and two of the four occupants were injured. [24] [25]

On 15 February 2014 three US Navy P-3 Orions were crushed "beyond repair" when their hangar was destroyed due to a massive snow storm. [26] [27]

In December 2016 police arrested a Kawasaki man for pointing a laser pointer at JMSDF aircraft in July of the same year. It was reported that in 2016 there had been about 30 reports of laser pointers being directed at Japanese and US aircraft. [28]

A Grumman C-2A Greyhound assigned to VRC-30 aboard the USS Ronald Reagan was lost in an accident at sea on 22 November 2017. Three of the personnel on board were lost. [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] After this a detachment of 4-6 US Marine Corps Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft were deployed to Atsugi for a week to fly supplies to the USS Ronald Reagan. [36] [37]

Atsugi is named after the nearby city of Atsugi despite not actually being in Atsugi (it is separated from Atsugi by two other cities).

The name was chosen because Atsugi was the only large town in the area as of 1950, and the three farming villages surrounding the base at that time—Yamato Village, Ayase Village and Shibuya Village—shared names with better-known areas elsewhere in Japan. Yamato is an alternative name for the Nara region, Ayase is generally associated with the area around Ayase Station in northeast Tokyo, and Shibuya is generally associated with the ward of Shibuya in central Tokyo.

The Jinkanpo Incinerator Edit

NAF Atsugi and the people stationed there gained notoriety in the 1990s (stemming from near-daily reports in the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper) due to their proximity to the Jinkanpo Atsugi Incinerator, which blew toxic and cancerous emissions over the high-rise buildings in its immediate vicinity. The incinerator's owners, arrested and jailed for charges of tax evasion, neglected the maintenance of the facility. The pollution had become so much of a health problem for residents that if they showed signs of adverse health effects, the base allowed them to leave early (usually servicemembers are stationed at the base for a tour of three years). Many servicemembers reported sickness and a few died from cancer shortly after moving back to the United States. [38] For a time, the base required servicemembers to undergo medical screenings before being stationed at the base in order to ensure that their bodies could handle the poor air quality. In spite of this, servicemembers still developed health problems, such as acute cases of asthma.

The US government's Department of Justice sued the incinerator operators. [39] In May 2001, just before the court was to hand down its decision, the Japanese government purchased the plant for nearly 40 million dollars and shut it down. Dismantling was completed by the end of that year. [40]

Noise lawsuits Edit

Since 1976 there have been a number of lawsuits with local residents sued the Japanese government over noise from the base, [41] and in October 2002 the Yokohama district court ruled that the government should pay 2.75 billion yen in compensation. Both the plaintiffs and the government appealed the case and in July 2006 the Tokyo High Court ordered the government to pay 4.04 billion yen to 4,865 people living near the base. [42]

The fourth lawsuit over noise was filed in 2007 in the Yokohama District Court. In May 2014 the court ruled that the SDF should not operate its aircraft between 10pm to 6am and that the government should pay ¥7 billion yen in damages. It was the first lawsuit to request the grounding of US military aircraft. This request was rejected by the court. [43]

The ruling was appealed, and in its July 2015 ruling the Tokyo High Court gave ¥9.4 billion to around 6,900 residents from eight cities, increasing the payout from the ¥7 billion yen ordered by the Yokohama district court. The Tokyo court also rejected calls to forbid night flights by US aircraft, arguing that the Japan-US security treaty is beyond the government's jurisdiction. In this it was following a Supreme Court ruling on the 1976 case, where the court ruled that the Japanese government has no power to regulate the activities of US forces in the country. [44] [45]

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and in December 2016 Japan's Supreme Court overturned the ban on SDF night flights. It upheld the damages awarded by the Tokyo High Court. The plaintiffs planned to file a fifth lawsuit as soon as February 2017. [46]

Organizing by residents continued [47] and in July 2017 it was reported that there were plans for around 6,000 local people to launch the fifth lawsuit against the government regarding noise from the base. Shuji Onami, leader of the plaintiffs, stated "Our lives are disrupted and are even put at risk whenever we are hit with booming noise (from aircraft) overhead. We will never accept the reality of the Atsugi base-related flights." It was also reported that 2,000 to 3,000 additional residents may also join the action at a later time. [48]

As of August 2017 6,063 nearby residents had joined the lawsuit. [49]

In addition to the lawsuits over noise there have been a number of protests regarding the base. In July 1988 20,000 people made a human chain around the base to protest noisy night landings at the base. [50] [51]

In 2005 Yamato city officials protested noisy night landings from F/A-18 Hornet training. [52]

In 2007 the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) protested F-16 and F/A-18 exercises at the base and asked that they be stopped. [53]

In 2013 the JCP also protested after a USN MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from Atsugi crashed in Miura city, and asked that Bell Boeing V-22 Ospreys not be deployed to Atsugi. [54] When Ospreys were sent to the base for training this also caused local protests. [55]

There were complaints in 2017 after children were allowed to touch machine guns on US helicopters during the May 2017 open day at Atsugi. City authorities from Ayase and Yamato cities complained, after which the machine guns were quickly removed. [56]

During Spring Atsugi holds an open day. Non-Japanese visitors may be turned away from the gates for security reasons. Prospective attendees who are neither Japanese or American should bring identification and also consult the Third Country National list to see if they require special approval to enter the base.

There was an "Atsugi WINGS" air show held until the year 2000, featuring the "diamond of diamonds" display by formations of US Navy aircraft. [57] [58] This was last held in the year 2000. There were many complaints about aircraft noise and low-flying planes, and from 2001 onwards full-fledged flying displays were not held during the open day. [59] Currently there is a ground display of US Navy and JMSDF aircraft, as well as take-offs and landings by various aircraft, including touch-and-go landing practice.

Atsugi hosts part of Carrier Air Wing Five, part of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan's air component. The wing includes about 70 aircraft and 2,000 military personnel who are stationed at Atsugi when the carrier is in port at Yokosuka. On 9 May 2008 the wing commander, Captain Michael P. McNellis, was relieved of command by Rear Admiral Richard B. Wren, commander of Commander Task Force 70, after the admiral said he lost confidence in McNellis' ability to command. McNellis was replaced by Captain Michael S. White. [60] [61] In 2012 the squadrons of CVW 5 completed their transition to variants of the Super Hornet/Growler, making it the first air wing without legacy Hornets. [62]

Relocation to Iwakuni Edit

Since at least 2005 there have been plans to relocate Carrier Air Wing Five's approximately 60 fixed wing aircraft from Atsugi to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. [63] Yamaguchi governor Sekinari Nii said there was "no way" Yamaguchi prefecture would accept this. [64] In 2006 Iwakuni voters rejected the plan in a plebiscite [65] and Iwakuni mayor Katsusuke Ihara urged Tokyo to drop the plan. [66] In 2007 the Japanese government passed legislation to prepare for the relocation of US Forces in Japan including subsidies for local affected areas. [67]

The move was planned to have been done in 2014, but after construction delays the move was delayed by three years, to 2017. [68] [69] [44]

The plan was for the move to take place in stages and be completed in May 2018. [70] The move did not include the wing's approximately 20 helicopters.

The move began in August 2017 with the five E-2D Hawkeye aircraft of VAW-125 relocating to Iwakuni after the USS Ronald Reagan ' s summer 2017 patrol. Around 3800 personnel are expected to move to Iwakuni. [71]

By 28 November three more squadrons relocated after the Ronald Reagan ' s second patrol of 2017. The new squadrons were the F/A-18E Super Hornet-equipped VFA-115 [72] and VFA-195 and the EA-18G Growler-equipped VAQ-141. [73] Fleet Logistics Support Squadron VRC-30 also relocated to MCASI by December 2017.

In March 2018 strike fighter squadrons VFA-27 and VFA-102 arrived at MCAS Iwakuni, completing the move of CVW-5's fixed-wing aircraft squadrons. [74]


The historical state is frequently referred to as the "Empire of Japan", the "Japanese Empire", or "Imperial Japan" in English. In Japanese it is referred to as Dai Nippon Teikoku ( 大日本帝国 ) , [11] which translates to "Empire of Great Japan" (Dai "Great", Nippon "Japanese", Teikoku "Empire"). Teikoku is itself composed of the nouns Tei "referring to an emperor" and -koku "nation, state", so literally "Imperial State" or "Imperial Realm" (compare the German Kaiserreich).

This meaning is significant in terms of geography, encompassing Japan, and its surrounding areas. The nomenclature Empire of Japan had existed since the anti-Tokugawa domains, Satsuma and Chōshū, which founded their new government during the Meiji Restoration, with the intention of forming a modern state to resist Western domination. Later the Empire emerged as a major colonial power in the world.

Due to its name in kanji characters and its flag, it was also given the exonym "Empire of the Sun".

Background Edit

After two centuries, the seclusion policy, or sakoku, under the shōguns of the Edo period came to an end when the country was forced open to trade by the Convention of Kanagawa which came when Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan in 1854. Thus, the period known as Bakumatsu began.

The following years saw increased foreign trade and interaction commercial treaties between the Tokugawa shogunate and Western countries were signed. In large part due to the humiliating terms of these unequal treaties, the shogunate soon faced internal hostility, which materialized into a radical, xenophobic movement, the sonnō jōi (literally "Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians"). [15]

In March 1863, the Emperor issued the "order to expel barbarians." Although the shogunate had no intention of enforcing the order, it nevertheless inspired attacks against the shogunate itself and against foreigners in Japan. The Namamugi Incident during 1862 led to the murder of an Englishman, Charles Lennox Richardson, by a party of samurai from Satsuma. The British demanded reparations but were denied. While attempting to exact payment, the Royal Navy was fired on from coastal batteries near the town of Kagoshima. They responded by bombarding the port of Kagoshima in 1863. The Tokugawa government agreed to pay an indemnity for Richardson's death. [16] Shelling of foreign shipping in Shimonoseki and attacks against foreign property led to the bombardment of Shimonoseki by a multinational force in 1864. [17] The Chōshū clan also launched the failed coup known as the Kinmon incident. The Satsuma-Chōshū alliance was established in 1866 to combine their efforts to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu. In early 1867, Emperor Kōmei died of smallpox and was replaced by his son, Crown Prince Mutsuhito (Meiji).

On November 9, 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned from his post and authorities to the Emperor, agreeing to "be the instrument for carrying out" imperial orders, [18] leading to the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. [19] [20] However, while Yoshinobu's resignation had created a nominal void at the highest level of government, his apparatus of state continued to exist. Moreover, the shogunal government, the Tokugawa family in particular, remained a prominent force in the evolving political order and retained many executive powers, [21] a prospect hard-liners from Satsuma and Chōshū found intolerable. [22]

On January 3, 1868, Satsuma-Chōshū forces seized the imperial palace in Kyoto, and the following day had the fifteen-year-old Emperor Meiji declare his own restoration to full power. Although the majority of the imperial consultative assembly was happy with the formal declaration of direct rule by the court and tended to support a continued collaboration with the Tokugawa, Saigō Takamori, leader of the Satsuma clan, threatened the assembly into abolishing the title shōgun and ordered the confiscation of Yoshinobu's lands. [23]

On January 17, 1868, Yoshinobu declared "that he would not be bound by the proclamation of the Restoration and called on the court to rescind it". [24] On January 24, Yoshinobu decided to prepare an attack on Kyoto, occupied by Satsuma and Chōshū forces. This decision was prompted by his learning of a series of arson attacks in Edo, starting with the burning of the outworks of Edo Castle, the main Tokugawa residence.

Boshin War Edit

The Boshin War ( 戊辰戦争 , Boshin Sensō) was fought between January 1868 and May 1869. The alliance of samurai from southern and western domains and court officials had now secured the cooperation of the young Emperor Meiji, who ordered the dissolution of the two-hundred-year-old Tokugawa shogunate. Tokugawa Yoshinobu launched a military campaign to seize the emperor's court at Kyoto. However, the tide rapidly turned in favor of the smaller but relatively modernized imperial faction and resulted in defections of many daimyōs to the Imperial side. The Battle of Toba–Fushimi was a decisive victory in which a combined army from Chōshū, Tosa, and Satsuma domains defeated the Tokugawa army. [25] A series of battles were then fought in pursuit of supporters of the Shogunate Edo surrendered to the Imperial forces and afterwards Yoshinobu personally surrendered. Yoshinobu was stripped of all his power by Emperor Meiji and most of Japan accepted the emperor's rule.

Pro-Tokugawa remnants, however, then retreated to northern Honshū (Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei) and later to Ezo (present-day Hokkaidō), where they established the breakaway Republic of Ezo. An expeditionary force was dispatched by the new government and the Ezo Republic forces were overwhelmed. The siege of Hakodate came to an end in May 1869 and the remaining forces surrendered. [25]

Meiji era (1868–1912) Edit

The Charter Oath was made public at the enthronement of Emperor Meiji of Japan on April 7, 1868. The Oath outlined the main aims and the course of action to be followed during Emperor Meiji's reign, setting the legal stage for Japan's modernization. [26] The Meiji leaders also aimed to boost morale and win financial support for the new government.

Japan dispatched the Iwakura Mission in 1871. The mission traveled the world in order to renegotiate the unequal treaties with the United States and European countries that Japan had been forced into during the Tokugawa shogunate, and to gather information on western social and economic systems, in order to effect the modernization of Japan. Renegotiation of the unequal treaties was universally unsuccessful, but close observation of the American and European systems inspired members on their return to bring about modernization initiatives in Japan. Japan made a territorial delimitation treaty with Russia in 1875, gaining all the Kuril islands in exchange for Sakhalin island. [27]

The Japanese government sent observers to Western countries to observe and learn their practices, and also paid "foreign advisors" in a variety of fields to come to Japan to educate the populace. For instance, the judicial system and constitution were modeled after Prussia, described by Saburō Ienaga as "an attempt to control popular thought with a blend of Confucianism and German conservatism." [28] The government also outlawed customs linked to Japan's feudal past, such as publicly displaying and wearing katana and the top knot, both of which were characteristic of the samurai class, which was abolished together with the caste system. This would later bring the Meiji government into conflict with the samurai.

Several writers, under the constant threat of assassination from their political foes, were influential in winning Japanese support for westernization. One such writer was Fukuzawa Yukichi, whose works included "Conditions in the West," "Leaving Asia", and "An Outline of a Theory of Civilization," which detailed Western society and his own philosophies. In the Meiji Restoration period, military and economic power was emphasized. Military strength became the means for national development and stability. Imperial Japan became the only non-Western world power and a major force in East Asia in about 25 years as a result of industrialization and economic development.

As writer Albrecht Fürst von Urach comments in his booklet "The Secret of Japan's Strength," published in 1942, during the Axis powers period:

The rise of Japan to a world power during the past 80 years is the greatest miracle in world history. The mighty empires of antiquity, the major political institutions of the Middle Ages and the early modern era, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire, all needed centuries to achieve their full strength. Japan's rise has been meteoric. After only 80 years, it is one of the few great powers that determine the fate of the world. [29]

Transposition in social order Edit

In the 1860s, Japan began to experience great social turmoil and rapid modernization. The feudal caste system in Japan formally ended in 1869 with the Meiji restoration. In 1871, the newly formed Meiji government issued a decree called Senmin Haishirei (賤民廃止令 Edict Abolishing Ignoble Classes) giving outcasts equal legal status. It is currently better known as the Kaihōrei (解放令 Emancipation Edict). However, the elimination of their economic monopolies over certain occupations actually led to a decline in their general living standards, while social discrimination simply continued. For example, the ban on consumption of meat from livestock was lifted in 1871, and many former eta moved on to work in abattoirs and as butchers. However, slow-changing social attitudes, especially in the countryside, meant that abattoirs and workers were met with hostility from local residents. Continued ostracism as well as the decline in living standards led to former eta communities turning into slum areas.

The social tension continued to grow during the Meiji period, affecting religious practices and institutions. Conversion from traditional faith was no longer legally forbidden, officials lifted the 250-year ban on Christianity, and missionaries of established Christian churches reentered Japan. The traditional syncreticism between Shinto and Buddhism ended. Losing the protection of the Japanese government which Buddhism had enjoyed for centuries, Buddhist monks faced radical difficulties in sustaining their institutions, but their activities also became less restrained by governmental policies and restrictions. As social conflicts emerged in this last decade of the Edo period, some new religious movements appeared, which were directly influenced by shamanism and Shinto.

Emperor Ogimachi issued edicts to ban Catholicism in 1565 and 1568, but to little effect. Beginning in 1587 with imperial regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi's ban on Jesuit missionaries, Christianity was repressed as a threat to national unity. Under Hideyoshi and the succeeding Tokugawa shogunate, Catholic Christianity was repressed and adherents were persecuted. After the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity in 1620, it ceased to exist publicly. Many Catholics went underground, becoming hidden Christians ( 隠れキリシタン , kakure kirishitan) , while others lost their lives. After Japan was opened to foreign powers in 1853, many Christian clergymen were sent from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches, though proselytism was still banned. Only after the Meiji Restoration, was Christianity re-established in Japan. Freedom of religion was introduced in 1871, giving all Christian communities the right to legal existence and preaching.

Eastern Orthodoxy was brought to Japan in the 19th century by St. Nicholas (baptized as Ivan Dmitrievich Kasatkin), [30] who was sent in 1861 by the Russian Orthodox Church to Hakodate, Hokkaidō as priest to a chapel of the Russian Consulate. [31] St. Nicholas of Japan made his own translation of the New Testament and some other religious books (Lenten Triodion, Pentecostarion, Feast Services, Book of Psalms, Irmologion) into Japanese. [32] Nicholas has since been canonized as a saint by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1970, and is now recognized as St. Nicholas, Equal-to-the-Apostles to Japan. His commemoration day is February 16. Andronic Nikolsky, appointed the first Bishop of Kyoto and later martyred as the archbishop of Perm during the Russian Revolution, was also canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a Saint and Martyr in the year 2000.

Divie Bethune McCartee was the first ordained Presbyterian minister missionary to visit Japan, in 1861–1862. His gospel tract translated into Japanese was among the first Protestant literature in Japan. In 1865, McCartee moved back to Ningbo, China, but others have followed in his footsteps. There was a burst of growth of Christianity in the late 19th century when Japan re-opened its doors to the West. Protestant church growth slowed dramatically in the early 20th century under the influence of the military government during the Shōwa period.

During the early 20th century, the government was suspicious towards a number of unauthorized religious movements and periodically made attempts to suppress them. Government suppression was especially severe from the 1930s until the early 1940s, when the growth of Japanese nationalism and State Shinto were closely linked. Under the Meiji regime lèse majesté prohibited insults against the Emperor and his Imperial House, and also against some major Shinto shrines which were believed to be tied strongly to the Emperor. The government strengthened its control over religious institutions that were considered to undermine State Shinto or nationalism.

Political reform Edit

The idea of a written constitution had been a subject of heated debate within and outside of the government since the beginnings of the Meiji government. The conservative Meiji oligarchy viewed anything resembling democracy or republicanism with suspicion and trepidation, and favored a gradualist approach. The Freedom and People's Rights Movement demanded the immediate establishment of an elected national assembly, and the promulgation of a constitution.

The constitution recognized the need for change and modernization after removal of the shogunate:

We, the Successor to the prosperous Throne of Our Predecessors, do humbly and solemnly swear to the Imperial Founder of Our House and to Our other Imperial Ancestors that, in pursuance of a great policy co-extensive with the Heavens and with the Earth, We shall maintain and secure from decline the ancient form of government. . In consideration of the progressive tendency of the course of human affairs and in parallel with the advance of civilization, We deem it expedient, in order to give clearness and distinctness to the instructions bequeathed by the Imperial Founder of Our House and by Our other Imperial Ancestors, to establish fundamental laws. .

Imperial Japan was founded, de jure, after the 1889 signing of Constitution of the Empire of Japan. The constitution formalized much of the Empire's political structure and gave many responsibilities and powers to the Emperor.

  • Article 4. The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution.
  • Article 6. The Emperor gives sanction to laws, and orders them to be promulgated and executed.
  • Article 11. The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and Navy. [33]

In 1890, the Imperial Diet was established in response to the Meiji Constitution. The Diet consisted of the House of Representatives of Japan and the House of Peers. Both houses opened seats for colonial people as well as Japanese. The Imperial Diet continued until 1947. [6]

Economic development Edit

The process of modernization was closely monitored and heavily subsidized by the Meiji government in close connection with a powerful clique of companies known as zaibatsu (e.g.: Mitsui and Mitsubishi). Borrowing and adapting technology from the West, Japan gradually took control of much of Asia's market for manufactured goods, beginning with textiles. The economic structure became very mercantilistic, importing raw materials and exporting finished products — a reflection of Japan's relative scarcity of raw materials.

Economic reforms included a unified modern currency based on the yen, banking, commercial and tax laws, stock exchanges, and a communications network. The government was initially involved in economic modernization, providing a number of "model factories" to facilitate the transition to the modern period. The transition took time. By the 1890s, however, the Meiji had successfully established a modern institutional framework that would transform Japan into an advanced capitalist economy. By this time, the government had largely relinquished direct control of the modernization process, primarily for budgetary reasons. Many of the former daimyōs, whose pensions had been paid in a lump sum, benefited greatly through investments they made in emerging industries.

Japan emerged from the Tokugawa-Meiji transition as an industrialized nation. From the onset, the Meiji rulers embraced the concept of a market economy and adopted British and North American forms of free enterprise capitalism. Rapid growth and structural change characterized Japan's two periods of economic development after 1868. Initially, the economy grew only moderately and relied heavily on traditional Japanese agriculture to finance modern industrial infrastructure. By the time the Russo-Japanese War began in 1904, 65% of employment and 38% of the gross domestic product (GDP) were still based on agriculture, but modern industry had begun to expand substantially. By the late 1920s, manufacturing and mining amounted to 34% of GDP, compared with 20% for all of agriculture. [34] Transportation and communications developed to sustain heavy industrial development.

From 1894, Japan built an extensive empire that included Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of northern China. The Japanese regarded this sphere of influence as a political and economic necessity, which prevented foreign states from strangling Japan by blocking its access to raw materials and crucial sea-lanes. Japan's large military force was regarded as essential to the empire's defense and prosperity by obtaining natural resources that the Japanese islands lacked.

First Sino-Japanese War Edit

The First Sino-Japanese War, fought in 1894 and 1895, revolved around the issue of control and influence over Korea under the rule of the Joseon Dynasty. Korea had traditionally been a tributary state of China's Qing Empire, which exerted large influence over the conservative Korean officials who gathered around the royal family of the Joseon kingdom. On February 27, 1876, after several confrontations between Korean isolationists and Japanese, Japan imposed the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, forcing Korea open to Japanese trade. The act blocks any other power from dominating Korea, resolving to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty.

On June 4, 1894, Korea requested aid from the Qing Empire in suppressing the Donghak Rebellion. The Qing government sent 2,800 troops to Korea. The Japanese countered by sending an 8,000-troop expeditionary force (the Oshima Composite Brigade) to Korea. The first 400 troops arrived on June 9 en route to Seoul, and 3,000 landed at Incheon on June 12. [35] The Qing government turned down Japan's suggestion for Japan and China to cooperate to reform the Korean government. When Korea demanded that Japan withdraw its troops from Korea, the Japanese refused. In early June 1894, the 8,000 Japanese troops captured the Korean king Gojong, occupied the Royal Palace in Seoul and, by June 25, installed a puppet government in Seoul. The new pro-Japanese Korean government granted Japan the right to expel Qing forces while Japan dispatched more troops to Korea.

China objected and war ensued. Japanese ground troops routed the Chinese forces on the Liaodong Peninsula, and nearly destroyed the Chinese navy in the Battle of the Yalu River. The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed between Japan and China, which ceded the Liaodong Peninsula and the island of Taiwan to Japan. After the peace treaty, Russia, Germany, and France forced Japan to withdraw from Liaodong Peninsula. Soon afterwards Russia occupied the Liaodong Peninsula, built the Port Arthur fortress, and based the Russian Pacific Fleet in the port. Germany occupied Jiaozhou Bay, built Tsingtao fortress and based the German East Asia Squadron in this port.

Boxer Rebellion Edit

In 1900, Japan joined an international military coalition set up in response to the Boxer Rebellion in the Qing Empire of China. Japan provided the largest contingent of troops: 20,840, as well as 18 warships. Of the total, 20,300 were Imperial Japanese Army troops of the 5th Infantry Division under Lt. General Yamaguchi Motoomi the remainder were 540 naval rikusentai (marines) from the Imperial Japanese Navy. [ citation needed ]

At the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion the Japanese only had 215 troops in northern China stationed at Tientsin nearly all of them were naval rikusentai from the Kasagi and the Atago, under the command of Captain Shimamura Hayao. [36] The Japanese were able to contribute 52 men to the Seymour Expedition. [36] On June 12, 1900, the advance of the Seymour Expedition was halted some 50 kilometers (30 mi) from the capital, by mixed Boxer and Chinese regular army forces. The vastly outnumbered allies withdrew to the vicinity of Tianjin, having suffered more than 300 casualties. [37] The army general staff in Tokyo had become aware of the worsening conditions in China and had drafted ambitious contingency plans, [38] but in the wake of the Triple Intervention five years before, the government refused to deploy large numbers of troops unless requested by the western powers. [38] However three days later, a provisional force of 1,300 troops commanded by Major General Fukushima Yasumasa was to be deployed to northern China. Fukushima was chosen because he spoke fluent English which enabled him to communicate with the British commander. The force landed near Tianjin on July 5. [38]

On June 17, 1900, naval Rikusentai from the Kasagi and Atago had joined British, Russian, and German sailors to seize the Dagu forts near Tianjin. [38] In light of the precarious situation, the British were compelled to ask Japan for additional reinforcements, as the Japanese had the only readily available forces in the region. [38] Britain at the time was heavily engaged in the Boer War, so a large part of the British army was tied down in South Africa. Further, deploying large numbers of troops from its garrisons in India would take too much time and weaken internal security there. [38] Overriding personal doubts, Foreign Minister Aoki Shūzō calculated that the advantages of participating in an allied coalition were too attractive to ignore. Prime Minister Yamagata agreed, but others in the cabinet demanded that there be guarantees from the British in return for the risks and costs of the major deployment of Japanese troops. [38] On July 6, 1900, the 5th Infantry Division was alerted for possible deployment to China, but no timetable was set for this. Two days later, with more ground troops urgently needed to lift the siege of the foreign legations at Peking, the British ambassador offered the Japanese government one million British pounds in exchange for Japanese participation. [38]

Shortly afterward, advance units of the 5th Division departed for China, bringing Japanese strength to 3,800 personnel out of the 17,000 of allied forces. [38] The commander of the 5th Division, Lt. General Yamaguchi Motoomi, had taken operational control from Fukushima. Japanese troops were involved in the storming of Tianjin on July 14, [38] after which the allies consolidated and awaited the remainder of the 5th Division and other coalition reinforcements. By the time the siege of legations was lifted on August 14, 1900, the Japanese force of 13,000 was the largest single contingent and made up about 40% of the approximately 33,000 strong allied expeditionary force. [38] Japanese troops involved in the fighting had acquitted themselves well, although a British military observer felt their aggressiveness, densely-packed formations, and over-willingness to attack cost them excessive and disproportionate casualties. [39] For example, during the Tianjin fighting, the Japanese suffered more than half of the allied casualties (400 out of 730) but comprised less than one quarter (3,800) of the force of 17,000. [39] Similarly at Beijing, the Japanese accounted for almost two-thirds of the losses (280 of 453) even though they constituted slightly less than half of the assault force. [39]

After the uprising, Japan and the Western countries signed the Boxer Protocol with China, which permitted them to station troops on Chinese soil to protect their citizens. After the treaty, Russia continued to occupy all of Manchuria.


Establishment by Japanese military

Prostitution in Japan was well-organized, and the Japanese government and military developed a similar program to provide sexual services to Japanese Armed Forces. [23] Military correspondence within the Imperial Japanese Army shows that there were a number of the aims for facilitating comfort stations: to reduce or prevent rape crimes by Japanese army personnel in an effort to prevent a worsening of anti-Japanese sentiment, to reduce venereal diseases among Japanese troops, and to prevent leakage of military secrets by civilians who were in contact with Japanese officers. [24] Carmen Argibay, a former member of the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice, states that the Japanese government aimed to prevent atrocities like the Rape of Nanking by confining rape and sexual abuse to military-controlled facilities, or stop incidents from leaking to the international press should they occur. [25] She also states that the government wanted to minimize medical expenses on treating venereal diseases that the soldiers acquired from frequent and widespread rape, which hindered Japan's military capacity. [26] Comfort women lived in sordid conditions, and were called "public toilets" by the Japanese. [27] Yuki Tanaka suggests that local brothels outside of the military's reach had issues of security since there were possibilities of spies disguised as workers of such private facilities. [28] Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi further states that the Japanese military used comfort women to satisfy disgruntled soldiers during World War II and prevent military revolt. [29] He also asserts that, despite the goal of reducing rape and venereal disease, the comfort stations did the opposite—aggravating rape and increasing the spread of venereal disease. [29]


In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Japan's military closely regulated privately-operated brothels in Manchuria. [30]

The first comfort station was established [ by whom? ] in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932. Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service. However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to local populations - abducting or coercing women into serving in the comfort stations. [31] [32] Many women responded to calls to work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery. [33]

In the early stages of the war [ which? ] , Japanese authorities recruited prostitutes through conventional means. In urban areas, conventional advertising through middlemen was used alongside kidnapping. Middlemen advertised in newspapers circulating in Japan and in the Japanese colonies of Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China. These sources soon dried up, especially in metropolitan Japan. [34] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs resisted further issuance of travel visas for Japanese prostitutes, feeling it tarnished the image of the Japanese Empire. [35] The military turned to acquiring comfort women outside mainland Japan, mostly from Korea and from occupied China. An existing system of licensed prostitution within Korea made it easy for Japan to recruit females in large numbers. [28]

Many women were tricked or defrauded into joining the military brothels. [36] Based on false characterizations and payments - by Japanese or by local recruitment agents - which could help relieve family debts, many Korean girls enlisted to take the job. Furthermore, the South East Asia Translation and Interrogation Center (SEATIC) Psychological Warfare Interrogation Bulletin No.2 states that a Japanese facility-manager purchased Korean women for 300 to 1000 yen depending on their physical characteristics, who then became his property and were not released even after completing the servitude terms specified in the contract. [37] In northern Hebei province of China Hui Muslim girls were recruited to "Huimin Girls' school" to be trained as entertainers, but then forced to serve as sex slaves. [38] The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote that a major issue that no historian has examined whether the soldiers of the Indian National Army had used comfort women, there had been no investigation for it. Lebra wrote "None of those have written on Bose's Indian national army has investigated whether, while trained by the Japanese army, they were permitted to share in the 'comfort' provided by thousands of kidnapped Korean young women held as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army at its camps. This might have provided them with some insight into the nature of Japanese, as opposed to British, colonial rule, as well what might be in store for their sisters and daughters." [39]

Under the strain of the war effort, the military became unable to provide enough supplies to Japanese units in response, the units made up the difference by demanding or looting supplies from the locals. The military often directly demanded that local leaders procure women for the brothels along the front lines, especially in the countryside where middlemen were rare. When the locals were considered hostile in China, Japanese soldiers carried out the "Three Alls Policy" ("kill all, burn all, loot all") which included indiscriminately kidnapping and raping local civilians. [40] [41] [42]

Later archives

On April 17, 2007, Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Hirofumi Hayashi announced the discovery of seven official documents in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, suggesting that Imperial military forces – such as the Tokkeitai (Naval military police) – forced women whose fathers attacked the Kenpeitai (Army military police) to work in front-line brothels in China, Indochina, and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing to having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokkeitai members having arrested women on the streets and putting them in brothels after enforced medical examinations. [14]

On May 12, 2007, journalist Taichiro Kajimura announced the discovery of 30 Dutch government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced mass prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang. [43]

The South Korean government designated Bae Jeong-ja as a pro-Japanese collaborator (chinilpa) in September 2007 for recruiting comfort women. [44] [45]

In 2014, China produced almost 90 documents from the archives of the Kwantung Army on the issue. According to China, the documents provide ironclad proof that the Japanese military forced Asian women to work in front-line brothels before and during World War II. [46]

In June 2014, more official documents were made public from the government of Japan's archives, documenting sexual violence and women forced into sexual slavery, committed by Imperial Japanese soldiers in French Indochina and Indonesia. [47]

A 2015 study examined archival data which was previously difficult to access, partly due to the China-Japan Joint Communiqué of 1972 in which the Chinese government agreed not to seek any restitution for wartime crimes and incidents. New documents discovered in China shed light on facilities inside comfort stations operated within a Japanese army compound, and the conditions of the Korean comfort women. Documents were discovered verifying the Japanese Army as the funding agency for purchasing some comfort women.

Documents were found in Shanghai that showed details of how the Japanese Army went about opening comfort stations for Japanese troops in occupied Shanghai. Documents included the Tianjin Municipal Archives from the archival files of the Japanese government and the Japanese police during the periods of the occupation in World War II. Municipal archives from Shanghai and Nanjing were also examined. One conclusion reached was that the relevant archives in Korea are distorted. A conclusion of the study was that the Japanese Imperial government, and the colonial government in Korea, tried to avoid recording the illegal mobilization of comfort women. It was concluded that they burned most of the records immediately before the surrender but, the study confirmed that some documents and records survived. [48]

Number of comfort women

Professor Su Jiliang concludes that during the seven-year period from 1938 to 1945, "comfort women" in the territory occupied by the Japanese numbered 360,000 to 410,000, among whom the Chinese were the largest group, about 200,000. [49] Lack of official documentation has made estimating the total number of comfort women difficult. Vast amounts of material pertaining to war crimes, and the responsibility of the nation's highest leaders, were destroyed on the orders of the Japanese government at the end of the war. [50] Historians have arrived at various estimates by looking at surviving documentation, which indicates the ratio of soldiers in a particular area to the number of women, and replacement rates of the women. [51] Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who conducted the first academic study on the topic and brought the issue out into the open, estimated the number to be between 50,000 and 200,000. [8]

Most academic researchers and media typically point to Yoshiaki’s estimate as the most probable range of the numbers of women involved. This figure contrasts with the inscriptions on monuments in the United States such as those in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and California, which state the number of comfort women as “more than 200,000.” [52]

The BBC quotes "200,000 to 300,000", and the International Commission of Jurists quotes "estimates of historians of 100,000 to 200,000 women." [53] However, the Government of Japan conducted a study in 1991 that considered historical documentation from Japan, Korea, and the United States National Archives, as well as testimonies of former comfort women, military personnel, officials of Korea’s government, operators of comfort stations, residents in the areas of the comfort stations, and history researchers. The study concluded that it is impossible to establish the number of comfort women, as no document has been found which either indicates their total number or provides enough ground to make an estimate. [54]

Countries of origin

According to State University of New York at Buffalo professor Yoshiko Nozaki and other sources, the majority of the women were from Korea and China. [56] [57] Chuo University professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi states there were about 2,000 centers where as many as 200,000 Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Taiwanese, Burmese, Indonesian, Dutch and Australian women were interned. [58] According to Qiu Peipei of Vassar College, comfort women were replaced with other women at a rapid rate, making her estimates of 200,000-400,000 comfort women plausible, with the majority being Chinese women. [59] [60] Ikuhiko Hata, a professor of Nihon University, estimated the number of women working in the licensed pleasure quarter was fewer than 20,000 and that they were 40% Japanese, 20% Koreans, 10% Chinese, with others making up the remaining 30%. According to Hata, the total number of government-regulated prostitutes in Japan was only 170,000 during World War II. [61] Others came from the Philippines, Taiwan, the Dutch East Indies, and other Japanese-occupied countries and regions. [62] Some Dutch women, captured in Dutch colonies in Asia, were also forced into sexual slavery. [63]

In further analysis of the Imperial Army medical records for venereal disease treatment from 1940, Yoshimi concluded that if the percentages of women treated reflected the general makeup of the total comfort women population, Korean women made up 51.8 percent, Chinese 36 percent and Japanese 12.2 percent. [29]

In 1997, Bruce Cumings, a historian of Korea, wrote that Japan had forced quotas to supply the comfort women program, and that Korean men helped recruit the victims. Cumings stated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Korean girls and women were recruited. [64] In Korea, the daughters of the gentry and the bureaucracy were spared from being sent into the "comfort women corps" unless they or their families showed signs of pro-independence tendencies, and the overwhelming majority of the Korean girls taken into the "comfort women corps" came from the poor. [65] The Army and Navy often subcontracted the work of taking girls into the "comfort women corps" in Korea to contractors, who were usually associated in some way with organized crime groups, who were paid for girls they presented. [65] Though a substantial minority of the contractors in Korea were Japanese, the majority were Korean. [65]

A Dutch government study described how the Japanese military itself seized the women by force in the Dutch East Indies. [66] It concluded that among the 200 to 300 European women found in the Japanese military brothels, "some sixty five were most certainly forced into prostitution". [67] Others, faced with starvation in the refugee camps, agreed to offers of food and payment for work, the nature of which was not completely revealed to them. [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] Some of the women also volunteered in hopes protecting the younger ones. The women forced into prostitution may therefore be much higher than the Dutch record have previously indicated. The number of Dutch women that were sexually assaulted or molested were also largely ignored. [73] As well as being raped and sexually assaulted every day and night, the Dutch girls lived in constant fear of beatings and other physical violence. [74]

J.F. van Wagtendonk and the Dutch Broadcast Foundation estimated a total number of 400 Dutch girls were taken from the camps to become comfort women. [75] [76]

Besides Dutch women, many Javanese were also recruited from Indonesia as comfort women including around 1000 East Timorese women and girls who also used as sexual slaves. [77] Most were adolescent girls aged 14–19 who had completed some education and were deceived through promises of higher education in Tokyo or Singapore. Common destinations of comfort women from Java included Burma, Thailand, and Eastern Indonesia. Interviews conducted with former comfort women also suggest that some women came from the island of Flores. After the war, many Javanese comfort women who survived stayed in the locations where they had been trafficked to and became integrated into local populations. [78]

Melanesian women from New Guinea were also used as comfort women. Local women were recruited from Rabaul as comfort women, along with some number of mixed Japanese-Papuan women born to Japanese fathers and Papuan mothers. [15] One Australian Captain, David Hutchinson-Smith, also mentioned of some mixed-race, young Japanese-Papuan girls who were also conscripted as comfort women. [79]

To date, only one Japanese woman has published her testimony. This was done in 1971, when a former comfort woman forced to work for Showa soldiers in Taiwan published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota. [80]

More than 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military, as of 2020 only two were still believed to be alive. [81]

Treatment of comfort women

Based on a statement made by Representative Seijuro Arahune of the Japanese Diet in 1975 in which he claimed to cite numbers provided by Korean authorities during the 1965 Korea-Japan Treaty negotiations, [82] as many as three-fourths of Korean comfort women may have died during the war, although the validity of this statement has since been brought into question as the number does not seem to be based on an actual investigation on the matter. [83] Some sources further purport that most survivors were left infertile after the war, although it is unclear where this notion originated, as little in the way of a statistical study seems to have been conducted on the incidence of infertility among former comfort women. [84] [ better source needed ]

Contrarily, reports based on interrogation of Korean comfort women captured after the Siege of Myitkyina in Burma indicated that they lived comparatively well, received many gifts, and were paid wages while they were in Burma. [1]

According to an account by a survivor, she was beaten when she attempted to resist being raped. [85] The women who were not prostitutes prior to joining the "comfort women corps", especially those taken in by force, were normally "broken in" by being raped. [86] One Korean woman, Kim Hak-sun stated in a 1991 interview about how she was drafted into the "comfort women corps" in 1941: "When I was 17 years old, the Japanese soldiers came along in a truck, beat us [her and a friend], and then dragged us into the back. I was told if I were drafted, I could earn lots of money in a textile factory. The first day I was raped and the rapes never stopped. I was born a woman but never lived as a woman. I feel sick when I come close to a man. Not just Japanese men, but all men-even my own husband who saved me from the brothel. I shiver whenever I see a Japanese flag. Why should I feel ashamed? I don't have to feel ashamed." [87] Kim stated that she was raped 30–40 times a day, everyday of the year during her time as a "comfort woman". [88] Reflecting their dehumanized status, Army and Navy records where referring to the movement of "comfort women" always used the term "units of war supplies". [89] One Japanese Army doctor, Asō Tetsuo testified that the "comfort women" were seen as "female ammunition" and as "public toilets", as literally just things to be used and abused, with some "comfort women" being forced to donate blood for the treatment of wounded soldiers. [88] At least 80% of the "comfort women" were Korean, who were assigned to the lower ranks while Japanese and European women went to the officers. For example, Dutch women captured in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) were reserved exclusively for the officers. [90] Korea is a Confucian country where premarital sex was widely disapproved of, and since the Korean teenagers taken into the "comfort women corps" were almost always virgins, it was felt that this was the best way to limit the spread of venereal diseases that would otherwise incapacitate soldiers and sailors. [91]

Ten Dutch women were taken by force from prison camps in Java by officers of the Imperial Japanese Army to become forced sex slaves in February 1944. They were systematically beaten and raped day and night. [85] [93] As a victim of the incident, in 1990, Jan Ruff-O'Herne testified to a U.S. 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. [85] [93]

In their first morning at the brothel, photographs of Ruff-O'Herne and the others were taken and placed on the veranda which was used as a reception area for the Japanese personnel who would choose from these photographs. Over the following four months the girls were raped and beaten day and night, with those who became pregnant forced to have abortions. After four harrowing months, the girls were moved to a camp at Bogor, in West Java, where they were reunited with their families. This camp was exclusively for women who had been put into military brothels, and the Japanese warned the inmates that if anyone told what had happened to them, they and their family members would be killed. Several months later the O'Hernes were transferred to a camp at Batavia, which was liberated on August 15, 1945. [92] [94] [95]

Suki Falconberg, a comfort women survivor, shared her experiences:

Serial penetration by many men is not a mild form of torture. Just the tears at the vaginal opening feel like fire applied to a cut. Your genitals swell and bruise. Damage to the womb and other internal organs can also be tremendous … [B]eing used as a public dumping ground by those men left me with deep shame that I still feel in the pit of my stomach – it’s like a hard, heavy, sick feeling that never entirely goes away. They saw not just my completely helpless, naked body, but they heard me beg, and cry. They reduced me to something low and disgusting that suffered miserably in front of them … Even years later, it has taken tremendous courage for me to put these words on the page, so deep is the cultural shame … [96]

At Blora, twenty European women and girls were imprisoned in two houses. Over a period of three weeks, as Japanese units passed by the houses, the women and their daughters were brutally and repeatedly raped. [74]

In the Bangka Island, most of the Australian nurses captured were raped before they were murdered. [97]

The Japanese officers involved received some punishment by Japanese authorities at the end of the war. [98] After the end of the war, 11 Japanese officers were found guilty with one soldier being sentenced to death by the Batavia War Criminal Court. [98] The court decision found that the charge violated was the Army's order to hire only voluntary women. [98] Victims from East Timor testified they were forced into slavery even when they were not old enough to have started menstruating. The court testimonies state that these prepubescent girls were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers [99] while those who refused to comply were killed. [100] [101]

Hank Nelson, emeritus professor at the Australian National University's Asia Pacific Research Division, has written about the brothels run by the Japanese military in Rabaul, in what is now Papua New Guinea during WWII. He quotes from the diary of Gordon Thomas, a POW in Rabaul. Thomas writes that the women working at the brothels "most likely served 25 to 35 men a day" and that they were "victims of the yellow slave trade". [102] Nelson also quotes from Kentaro Igusa, a Japanese naval surgeon who was stationed in Rabaul. Igusa wrote in his memoirs that the women continued to work through infection and severe discomfort, though they "cried and begged for help". [102]

During the last stand of Japanese forces in 1944–45, "comfort women" were often forced to commit suicide or were killed. [103] At the Truk naval base, 70 "comfort women" were killed prior to the expected American assault as the Navy mistook the American air raid that destroyed Truk as the prelude to an American landing while during the Battle of Saipan "comfort women" were among those who committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs of Saipan. [103] The Japanese government had told the Japanese colonists on Saipan that the American "white devils" were cannibals, and so the Japanese population preferred suicide to falling into the hands of the American "white devils". In Burma, there were cases of Korean "comfort women" committing suicide by swallowing cyanide pills or being killed by having a hand grenade tossed into their dug-outs. [103] During the Battle of Manila, when Japanese sailors ran amok and simply killed everyone, there were cases of "comfort women" being killed, though there does not seem to have been any systematic policy of killing "comfort women". [103] Japanese propaganda had it that the Anglo-American "white devils" were cannibals whose favorite food were Asians, and it is possible that many of the Asian "comfort women" may have actually believed this, and so preferred suicide to the supposed horrors of being eaten alive by the "white devils". British soldiers fighting in Burma often reported that the Korean "comfort women" whom they captured were astonished to learn that the British were not going to eat them. [103] Ironically, given this claim, there were cases of starving Japanese troops cut off on remote Pacific islands or trapped in the jungles of Burma turning towards cannibalism, and there were at least several cases where "comfort women" in Burma and on Pacific islands were killed to provide protein for the Imperial Japanese Army. [103]

Sterility, abortion and reproduction

The Japanese Army and Navy went to great lengths to avoid venereal diseases with large numbers of condoms being handed out for free. [104] For example, documents show that in July 1943 the Army handed out 1,000 condoms for soldiers in Negri Sembilan and another 10,000 for soldiers in Perak. [104] The "comfort women" were usually injected with salvarsan, which together with damage to the vagina caused by rape or rough sex were the causes of unusually high rates of sterility among the "comfort women". [104] [105] As the war went on and as the shortages caused by the sinking of almost the entire Japanese merchant marine by American submarines kicked in, medical care for the "comfort women" declined as dwindling medical supplies were reserved for the servicemen. [104] As Japanese logistics broke down as the American submarines sank one Japanese ship after another, condoms had to be washed and reused, reducing their effectiveness. [104] In the Philippines, "comfort women" were billed by Japanese doctors if they required medical treatment. [103] In many cases, "comfort women" who were seriously ill were abandoned to die alone. [103]

The Survey of Korean Comfort Women Used by Japanese Soldiers said that 30% of the interviewed former Korean comfort women produced biological children and 20% adopted children after World War II. [106]

In 1944, Allied forces captured twenty Korean comfort women and two Japanese comfort station owners in Burma and issued a report, Japanese Prisoner of War Interrogation Report 49. According to the report, Korean women were deceived into being used as comfort women by the Japanese in 1942, there were about 800 women trafficked from Korea to Burma for this purpose, under the pretence of being recruited for work such as visiting the wounded in hospitals or rolling bandages. [107] [108] [109]

According to the report, the "house master" of the brothel received fifty to sixty percent of the women's gross earnings, depending on how much debt they had incurred when they signed their contracts. In an average month a woman would gross about fifteen hundred yen, and hence turn over about seven hundred and fifty to the "master". Their living conditions were relatively good, with food and other material not heavily rationed, but many "masters" charged the women high prices for them. [108]

In the latter part of 1943 the Japanese Army issued orders that certain women who had paid their debt could return home, and some of them did so return. [108]

In Confucian nations like Korea and China, where premarital sex is considered shameful, the subject of the "comfort women" was ignored for decades after 1945 as the victims were considered pariahs. [110] In Confucian cultures, traditionally an unmarried woman must value her chastity above her own life, and any women who loses her virginity before marriage for whatever reason is expected to commit suicide by choosing to live, the survivors made themselves into outcasts. [111]

In 1973, Kakou Senda wrote a book about the comfort women system that focused on Japanese participants. His book has been widely criticized as distorting the facts by both Japanese and South Korean historians. [112] This was the first postwar mention of the comfort women system and became an important source for 1990s activism on the issue. [113]

The first book written by a Korean on the subject of comfort women appeared in 1981. However, it was a plagiarism of a 1976 Japanese book by the zainichi author Kim Il-Myeon. [114] [115]

In 1989, the testimony of Seiji Yoshida was translated into Korean. His book was debunked as fraudulent by some Japanese and Korean journalists, and in May 1996 Yoshida admitted that his memoir was fictional, stating in an interview by Shūkan Shinchō that "There is no profit in writing the truth in books. Hiding the facts and mixing them with your own assertions is something that newspapers do all the time too". [116] [117] [118] In August 2014, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun also retracted articles that the paper had published based on or including information from Yoshida, in large part because of pressure from conservative activists and organizations. [119] [120] [121] Following the retraction, attacks from conservatives increased. Takashi Uemura, a journalist who wrote one of the retracted articles, was subject to similar attacks from conservatives, and his employer, Hokusei Gakuen University, was pressured to terminate his position. [122] Uemura sued for libel but lost his case against Professor Tsutomu Nishioka and Japanese news magazine Shūkan Bunshun. [123]

In 1993, following multiple testimonies, the Kono Statement (named after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono) was issued by Japanese Government confirming that coercion was involved in seizing the comfort women. [124] In 1999, the Japanese historian Kazuko Watanabe complained about a lack of sisterhood among Japanese women, citing a survey showing 50% of Japanese women did not believe in the stories of the "comfort women", charging that many Japanese simply regard other Asians as "others" whose feelings do not count. [87] In 2007, the Japanese government issued a response to questions which had been posed to Prime Minister Abe about his position on the issue, concluding that "No evidence was found that the Japanese army or the military officials seized the women by force." [125] [126] In 2014, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga formed a team to reexamine the background of the report. [127] The review brought to light coordination between Japan and South Korea in the process of composing the Kono Statement and concluded that, at the request of Seoul, Tokyo stipulated coercion was involved in recruiting the women. [128] After the review, Suga and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that Japan continues to uphold the Kono Statement.

In 2014, China released documents it said were "ironclad proof" that the comfort women were forced to work as prostitutes against their will, including documents from the Japanese Kwantung Army military police corps archives and documents from the national bank of Japan's puppet regime in Manchuria. [129]

In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan asserted officially the view that the expression “sex slaves” contradicts the facts and should not be used, noting that this point had been confirmed with South Korea in a Japan-South Korea agreement. [130]

Apologies and compensation 1951–2009

In 1951, at the start of negotiations, the South Korean government initially demanded $364 million in compensation for Koreans forced into labor and military service during the Japanese occupation: $200 per survivor, $1,650 per death and $2,000 per injured person. [131] In the final agreement reached in the 1965 treaty, Japan provided an $800 million aid and low-interest loan package over 10 years. Japan intended to directly compensate individuals, but the Korean government insisted on receiving the sum itself and "spent most of the money on economic development, focusing on infrastructure and the promotion of heavy industry". [ attribution needed ] [132]

In 1994, the Japanese government set up the public-private Asian Women's Fund (AWF) to distribute additional compensation to South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. [133] Sixty one Korean, 13 Taiwanese, 211 Filipino, and 79 Dutch former comfort women were provided with a signed apology from the then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, stating "As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women." [134] [135] Many former Korean comfort women rejected the compensations on principle – although the Asian Women's Fund was set up by the Japanese government, its money came not from the government but from private donations, hence the compensation was not "official". Eventually, 61 former Korean comfort women accepted 5 million yen (approx. $42,000 [137] ) per person from the AWF along with the signed apology, while 142 others received funds from the government of Korea. [138] [139] [140] The fund was dissolved on March 31, 2007. [135] [141]

Three South Korean women filed suit in Japan in December 1991, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, demanding compensation for forced prostitution. In 1992, documents which had been stored since 1958 when they were returned by United States troops and which indicated that the military had played a large role in operating what were euphemistically called "comfort stations" were found in the library of Japan's Self-Defense Agency. The Japanese Government admitted that the Imperial Japanese Army had forced tens of thousands of Korean women to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II. [142] On January 14, 1992, Japanese Chief Government Spokesman Koichi Kato issued an official apology saying, "We cannot deny that the former Japanese army played a role" in abducting and detaining the "comfort girls," and "We would like to express our apologies and contrition". [142] [143] [144] Three days later on January 17, 1992, at a dinner given by South Korean President Roh Tae Woo, the Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa told his host: "We Japanese should first and foremost recall the truth of that tragic period when Japanese actions inflicted suffering and sorrow upon your people. We should never forget our feelings of remorse over this. As Prime Minister of Japan, I would like to declare anew my remorse at these deeds and tender my apology to the people of the Republic of Korea." He apologized again the following day in a speech before South Korea's National Assembly. [145] [146] On April 28, 1998, the Japanese court ruled that the Government must compensate the women and awarded them US$2,300 (equivalent to $3,652 in 2020) each. [147]

In 2007, the surviving sex slaves wanted an apology from the Japanese government. Shinzō Abe, the prime minister at the time, stated on March 1, 2007, that there was no evidence that the Japanese government had kept sex slaves, even though the Japanese government had already admitted the use of coercion in 1993. On March 27 the Japanese parliament issued an official apology. [148]

Apologies and compensation since 2010

On February 20, 2014, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the Japanese government may reconsider the study and the apology. [149] However, Prime Minister Abe clarified on March 14, 2014, that he had no intention of renouncing or altering it. [150]

On December 28, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye reached a formal agreement to settle the dispute. Abe again expressed his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women and acknowledged that they had undergone immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women. [151] He stated that Japan continued to hold the position that issues relating to property and claims between Japan and the ROK, including the issue of comfort women, had been settled completely and finally by the Japan-ROK Claims Settlement and Economic Cooperation Agreement of 1965 and welcomed the fact that the issue of comfort women is resolved “finally and irreversibly” with this agreement. [151] [152] [153] [154] [155] Japan agreed to pay ¥1 billion (₩9.7 billion $8.3 million) to a fund supporting surviving victims while South Korea agreed to refrain from criticizing Japan regarding the issue and to work to remove a statue memorializing the victims from in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. [156] The announcement came after Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his counterpart Yun Byung-se in Seoul, and later Prime Minister Shinzo Abe phoned President Park Geun-hye to repeat an apology already offered by Kishida. The Korean government will administer the fund for the forty-six remaining elderly comfort women and will consider the matter "finally and irreversibly resolved". [157] However, one Korean news organization, Hankyoreh, said that it fails to include the request from the survivals of sexual slavery to state the Japanese government's legal responsibility for the state-level crime of enforcing a system of sexual slavery. The South Korean government did not attempt to collect the viewpoints on the issues from the women most directly affected by it—the survivors themselves. [158] Concerning the deal between two countries, [158] literally, Seoul and Tokyo failed to reach a breakthrough on the comfort women issue during the 11th round of Foreign Ministry director-general level talks on December 15, 2015. [159] Several comfort women protested the agreement as they claim they did not want money, but to see a sincere acknowledgement of the legal responsibility by the Japanese government. [160] [161] [162] The co-representative of a support group of the surviving women expressed that the settlement with Japan does not reflect the will of the comfort women, and they vowed to seek its invalidation by reviewing legal options. [161] [162]

On February 16, 2016, the United Nations' "Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women", Seventh and Eighth Periodic Reports, was held, with Shinsuke Sugiyama, Deputy Minister for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), reiterating the official and final agreement between Japan and South Korea to pay ¥1 billion. [163] [164] Sugiyama also restated the Japanese Government apology of that agreement: "The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities." [164]

In August 2016, twelve comfort women filed suit against the government of South Korea, declaring that the government had nullified the victims’ individual rights to claim damages from Japan by signing an agreement not to demand further legal responsibility without consulting with the victims themselves. The suit claimed the 2015 deal violated a 2011 Constitutional Court ruling that the South Korean government must “offer its cooperation and protection so that citizens whose human dignity and values have been violated through illegal actions perpetrated by Japan can invoke their rights to demand damages from Japan.” [165]

In, January 2018, South Korea's president Moon Jae-in called the 2015 agreement "undeniable" and that it "finally and irreversibly" is an official agreement between the two countrie, however when referring to aspects of the agreement he finds flawed, he said, "A knot wrongly tied should be untied." These remarks come a day after the government announced it would not seek to renew the 2015 aggreement, but that it wants Japan to do more to settle the issue. Moon said, "A real settlement would come if the victims can forgive, after Japan makes a sincere apology and takes other actions". [166] In March 2018, the Japanese government argued that the 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement confirmed that this issue was finally and irreversibly resolved and lodged a strong protest to South Korea through diplomatic channels, stating that "such a statement goes against the agreement and is therefore completely unacceptable and extremely regrettable". [167] [168]

On June 15, 2018, The 20th civil division of Seoul Central District Court dismissed the comfort women’s suit seeking damages against the South Korean government for signing the 2015 agreement with Japan. The court announced that the intergovernmental comfort women agreement “certainly lacked transparency or was deficient in recognizing ‘legal responsibility’ and on the nature of the one billion yen provided by the Japanese government”. However, "an examination of the process and content leading up to the agreement cannot be seen as discharging the plaintiffs’ right to claim damages.”. An attorney for the survivors said they would be appealing the decision on the basis that it recognizes the lawfulness of the 2015 Japan-South Korean agreement. [165]

On January 8, 2021, Seoul Central District Court ordered the government of Japan to pay reparations of 100 million won ($91,300) each to the families of the twelve women. [169] On the court case, referring to the principle of Sovereign immunity guaranteed by International law, the Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that "a sovereign state should not be put under the jurisdiction of foreign courts", claiming that the lawsuit should be rejected. And Suga stressed that the issue is already settled completely and finally, through the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation". [170] On the same day, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi also spoke about the lawsuit of a claim for damages against Japanese government consistently in Extraordinary Press Conference from Brazil. [171]


The novel My War Crime, written by Seiji Yoshida in 1983, which played a major role in publicizing the issue of comfort women, was later found to be mere fiction, causing the Asahi Shimbun newspaper to publish several retractions and apologies to its readers, as recently as 2014. [164]

A 2001 comic book, Neo Gomanism Manifesto Special – On Taiwan by Japanese author Yoshinori Kobayashi, depicts kimono-clad women lining up to sign up for duty before a Japanese soldier. Kobayashi's book contains an interview with Taiwanese industrialist Shi Wen-long, who stated that no women were forced to serve and that the women worked in more hygienic conditions compared to regular prostitutes because the use of condoms was mandatory. [172]

In early 2001, in a controversy involving national public broadcaster NHK, what was supposed to be coverage of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery was heavily edited to reflect revisionist views. [173] In 2014, the new president of NHK compared the wartime Japanese comfort women program to Asian brothels frequented by American troops, which western historians countered by pointing out the difference between the Japanese comfort stations, which forced women to have sex with Japanese troops, and Asian brothels, where women chose to be prostitutes for American troops. [174]

In publications around 2007, Japanese historian and Nihon University professor Ikuhiko Hata estimates the number of comfort women to have been more likely between 10,000 and 20,000. [9] Hata claims that "none of [the comfort women] were forcibly recruited". [175]

In 2012, the former mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, [176] [177] Tōru Hashimoto initially maintained that "there is no evidence that people called comfort women were taken away by violence or threat by the [Japanese] military". [178] He later modified his position, asserting that they became comfort women "against their will by any circumstances around them", [179] still justifying their role during World War II as "necessary", so that soldiers could "have a rest". [179]

In 2014, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone chaired a commission established to consider "concrete measures to restore Japan's honor with regard to the comfort women issue", despite his own father Yasuhiro Nakasone, having organized a "comfort station" in 1942 when he was a lieutenant paymaster in Japan's Imperial Navy. [180]

In 2018 the Japan Times changed its description of the terms 'comfort woman' and 'forced labourer' causing a controversy among staff and readers. [181]

On August 18, 2018, United Nations rights experts and UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed that Japan should do more for sufferers of wartime sexual slavery. Japan responded by stating it has already made numerous apologies and offered compensation to the victims. [182]

The Japanese government, and the mayor of Osaka, demanded the removal of comfort women monuments located in other countries, blatantly denying that women were coerced into sexual slavery during World War 2. [183] [184] They have demanded the removal of comfort women statues in Palisades Park, New Jersey, United States San Francisco, California, United States and Berlin, Germany, with each demand rejected by the relevant authorities. [185] [186]

Asahi Shimbun Third-Party Investigative Committee

In August 2014, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second largest newspaper in circulation, retracted 16 articles published between 1982 and 1997. The articles were concerned with former imperial army officer Seiji Yoshida, who claimed he had forcibly taken Korean women to wartime Japanese military brothels from the Jeju Island region in South Korea. Following the retraction of the articles, the newspaper also refused to publish an op-ed on the matter by Japanese journalist Akira Ikegami. The public response and criticism that ensued pushed the newspaper to nominate a third-party investigative committee headed by seven leading scholars, journalists and legal experts. The committee report dealt with the circumstances leading to the publication of Yoshida's false testimony and to the effect these publications had on Japan's image abroad and diplomatic relations with various countries. It found that the Asahi was negligent in publishing Yoshida's testimony, but that the reports on the testimony had "limited" effect on foreign media outlets and reports. On the other hand, the report found that Japanese officials’ comments on the issue had a far more detrimental effect on Japan's image and its diplomatic relations. [187]

Fraud accusations against support groups

In 2004, 13 former comfort women filed a complaint against the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery and the House of Sharing with the Seoul Western District Court to prevent these two organizations from profiting and exploiting the victims' past experiences to collect donations. The victims accused Shin Hye-Soo, head of the Korean Council at the time, and Song Hyun-Seob, Head of the House of Sharing, of using the women’s past experiences in videos and leaflets without their permission to solicit donations and then keeping the money instead of using it to help the victims. The complaint further stated that a significant number of victims did not receive compensation through the citizen-funded Asian Women's Fund established in 1995 by Japan due to the opposition from the organizations in 1998. In addition, they accused the institutions of recruiting six former comfort women survivors from China and paying them to get them to partake in weekly rallies. The complaint was dismissed by the court in May 2005. [188]

Again, in May 2020, Lee Yong-Soo, a comfort woman survivor and longtime activist for the victims, held a press conference and accused the Korean Council and its former head, Yoon Mee-hyang, of exploiting her and other survivors, politically and financially for decades, to obtain government funds and public donations through the protests while spending little money aiding them. [189]

Consequently, a civic group filed a complaint against Yoon Mee-hyang, a lawmaker-elect and former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. After an investigation, the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Yoon, on eight charges including fraud, embezzlement and breach of trust.

Among the charges, Yoon was indicted for is a count of quasi-fraud against Gil Won-ok, a 92-year-old survivor. The prosecution said Gil suffers from dementia and that Yoon had exploited her reduced physical and mental capacities and pressed her to donate a total of 79.2 million won ($67,102) to the Korean Council between November 2017 and January 2020.

Additionally, she was accused of fraud and embezzlement of almost half a million dollars from governmental organizations and private donors, which were used to buy properties and even pay tuition for her daughter’s education at the University of California.

In a forensic audit of the comfort women’s shelter controlled by Yoon’s group, it was found that barely 2.3% of its massive $7.5 million budget raised since 2015 was actually spent on supporting the living needs of surviving comfort women, many of whom live in cramped quarters, with substandard care, with few luxuries. [190] [191]

On September 2020, the Democratic Party (DP) suspended Yoon’s party membership due to the charges that she was facing. [192]

International support

The cause has long been supported beyond the victim nations, and associations like Amnesty International are campaigning in countries where governments have yet to support the cause, like in Australia, [193] or New Zealand. [194] Support in the United States continues to grow, particularly after the United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121 was passed on July 30, 2007, asking the Japanese government to redress the situation and to incorporate internationally accepted actual historical facts about this program into their educational system. In July 2012, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a strong advocate of the cause, denounced the use of the euphemism 'comfort women' for what should be referred to as 'enforced sex slaves'. [195] The Obama Administration also addressed the need for Japan to do more to address the issue. [196] In addition to calling attention to the issue, the American memorial statues erected in New Jersey in 2010 and California in 2013 show support for what has become an international cause. [197]

On December 13, 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on "Justice for the 'Comfort Women' (sex slaves in Asia before and during World War II)" calling on the Japanese government to apologise and accept legal responsibility for the coercion of young women into sexual slavery before and during WWII. [198]

In 2014, Pope Francis met with seven former comfort women in South Korea. [199] [200] Also in 2014, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for Japan to, as the committee's deputy head Anastasia Crickley put it, "conclude investigations into the violations of the rights of ‘comfort women’ by the military and to bring to justice those responsible and to pursue a comprehensive and lasting resolution to these issues". [201] U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay had also spoken out in support of comfort women several times. [201]

Health-related issues

In the aftermath of the war, the women recalled bouts of physical and mental abuse that they had experienced while working in military brothels. In the Rorschach test, the women showed distorted perceptions, difficulty in managing emotional reactions and internalized anger. [202] A 2011 clinical study found that comfort women are more prone to showing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even 60 years after the end of the war. [203]


The last surviving victims have become public figures in Korea, where they are referred to as "halmoni", the affectionate term for "grandmother". There is a nursing home, called House of Sharing, for former comfort women in South Korea. China remains more at the testimony collection stage, particularly through the China "Comfort Women" Issue Research Center at Shanghai Normal University, [204] sometimes in collaboration with Korean researchers. For other nations, the research and the interaction with victims is less advanced.

Despite the efforts at assigning responsibility and victims compensation, in the years after World War II, many former Korean comfort women were afraid to reveal their past, because they are afraid of being disowned or ostracized further. [205]


On December 1, 2015, the first memorial hall dedicated to Chinese comfort women was opened in Nanjing. It was built on the site of a former comfort station run by the invading Japanese troops during World War II. [206] The memorial hall stands next to the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders.

In June 2016, Research Center for Chinese Comfort Women was established at Shanghai Normal University. [207] It is a museum that exhibits photographs and various items related to comfort women in China.

South Korea

Wednesday demonstrations

Every Wednesday, living comfort women, women's organizations, socio-civic groups, religious groups, and a number of individuals participate in the Wednesday Demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, sponsored by “The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCWDMSS)”. It was first held on January 8, 1992, when Japan's Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa visited the South Korea. In December 2011, a statue of a young woman was erected in front of the Japanese Embassy to honor the comfort women on the 1,000th Wednesday Demonstration. The Japanese government has repeatedly asked the South Korean government to have the statue taken down, but it has not been removed.

On December 28, 2015, the Japanese government claimed that the Korean government agreed the removal of the statue. As of September 3, 2016, the statue was still in place due to a majority of the South Korean population being opposed to the agreement. On December 30, 2016, [208] another comfort woman statue identical to the one in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul was erected in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, South Korea. [209] As of January 6, 2017, the Japanese government is attempting to negotiate the removal of the statue. On May 11, 2017, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced the agreement would not be enacted in its current stage and that negotiations for a deal between Japan and South Korea over the comfort women dispute had to start over. [210]

On June 30, 2017, the local government of Busan enacted the legal foundation to protect the Statue of Peace by passing the relative ordinance. [211] By reason of this, it has become difficult to shift the site or demolish the statue.

On August 14, 2018, South Korea held an unveiling ceremony for a monument memorializing Korean women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military, as the nation observed its first official "comfort women" memorial day. [212]

On November 21, 2018, South Korea officially cancelled the 2015 agreement and shut down the Japan-funded comfort women foundation which was launched in July 2016 to finance the agreement's settlement to the victims. [213] [214] The settlement had received criticism from victims' groups. [210]

House of Sharing

The House of Sharing is a nursing home for living comfort women. The House of Sharing was founded in June 1992 through funds raised by Buddhist organizations and various socio-civic groups and it moved to Gyeonggi-do, South Korea in 1998. The House of Sharing includes “The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military” to spread the truth about the Japanese military's brutal abuse of comfort women and to educate descendants and the public. [215]

Archives by comfort women

Some of the survivors, Kang Duk-kyung, Kim Soon-duk and Lee Yong-Nyeo, preserved their personal history through their drawings as a visual archive. [216] Also, the director of the Center for Asian American Media, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, made a comfort women video archive, a documentary film for K–12 through college level students. Feminist visual and video archives have promoted a place for solidarity between the victims and the public. It has served as a living site for the teaching and learning of women's dignity and human rights by bringing people together despite age, gender, borders, nationality, and ideologies. [217]


Comfort women in the Philippines, called "Lolas" (grandmothers), formed different groups similar to the Korean survivors. One group, named "Lila Pilipina" (League of Filipino Women), started in 1992 and is member of GABRIELA, a feminist organization. [218] Together with the Malaya Lolas (Free grandmothers) they ask for a formal apology from the Japanese government, compensation, and the inclusion of the issue in the Japanese history textbooks. These groups also ask the Philippine government to back their claims against the Japanese government. [219] [220] These groups have taken legal actions against Japan. [221] As of August 2014 [update] , after failing in legal action against their own government to back their claims, they planned to take the case the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (CEDAW). [222]

These groups have made demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila on many occasions, [219] [223] and have given testimonies to Japanese tourists in Manila. [218]

Similar to the Korean grandmothers, Filipino "Lolas" have their own Grandmother house with a collection of their testimonies. Also two of them have published two autobiographic books: Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny by Rosa Henson and The Hidden Battle of Leyte: The Picture Diary of a Girl Taken by the Japanese Military by Remedios Felias. This second book was written in the 1990s, after Lila Filipina was formed.

In Bulacan, there is an empty villa house Bahay na Pula which was seized by Japanese soldiers during WWII and had been used as a comfort station where Filipino women were raped and held as comfort women. [224] The Bahay na Pula is seen as a memorial to the forgotten Filipino comfort women in the Philippines.

On December 8, 2017, the 'Filipina Comfort Women' statue by artist Jonas Roces was installed in Baywalk, Roxas Boulevard in Manila. About four months later, the statue was removed by government officials due to a "drainage improvement project" along the Baywalk, [225] and it has not been put back since.


Since the 1990s, Taiwanese survivors have been bringing to light the comfort woman issue in Taiwanese society, and gaining support from women's rights activists and civil groups. Their testimony and memories have been documented by newspapers, books, and documentary films.

Survivors' claims against the Japan government have been backed by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF) a non-profit organization helping women against violence, and sexual violence. This organization gives legal and psychological support to Taiwanese comfort women, and also helps in the recording of testimony and doing scholarly research. In 2007, this organization was responsible for promoting awareness in society, by creating meetings in universities and high schools where survivors gave their testimonies to students and the general public. [226] TWRF has produced exhibitions that give survivors the opportunity to be heard in Taipei, and also in the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace, based in Tokyo. [227] [228]

Thanks to this increasing awareness in society, and with the help of TWRF, Taiwanese comfort women have gained the support their government, which on many occasions has asked the Japanese government for apologies and compensation. [229] [230]

In November 2014, "Song of the Reed", a documentary film directed by Wu Hsiu-ching and produced by TWRF, won the International Gold Panda documentary award. [231]

On August 14, 2018, the first 'comfort women' statue in Taiwan was unveiled in the city of Tainan. The statue symbolizes women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military. The bronze statue portrays a girl raising both hands to the sky to express her helpless resistance to suppression and silent protest, according to its creator. [232] In September 2018, Japanese right-wing activist Mitsuhiko Fujii [ja] kicked the statue and caused outrage in Taiwan. [233] [234] [235]

United States

In 2010, the first American monument dedicated to the comfort women was established in Palisades Park, New Jersey. [236]

In 2013, a "comfort women" memorial statue called Peace Monument of Glendale was established in Glendale, California. [197] The statue has been subject to multiple legal attempts to remove it. [237] A federal judge dismissed a 2014 lawsuit for the statue's removal. [238] [239] [240]

On May 30, 2014, a memorial was dedicated behind the Fairfax County Government Center in Virginia. [241]

On August 16, 2014, a new memorial statue honoring the comfort women was unveiled in Southfield, Michigan. [242] [243] [244]

In June 2017, Brookhaven, Georgia unveiled a statue memorializing the Comfort Women of World War II. [245]

On September 22, 2017, in an initiative led by the local Chinese-American community, San Francisco erected a privately funded San Francisco Comfort Women Memorial to the comfort women of World War II. [246] [247] Some Japanese and Japanese-American opponents of the initiative argue the statue would promote hatred and anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the community and object to the statue singling out Japan. [248] Tōru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, Japan, objected that the memorial should be "broadened to memorialize all the women who have been sexually assaulted and abused by soldiers of countries in the world". [249] Supporting the statue, Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed to the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial and the landmarked Japanese internment camps in California as evidence that Japan is "not being singled out". [250] In protest over the statue, Osaka ended the sister city relationship with San Francisco that had been established since 1957. [247] When the city accepted the statue as public property in 2018, the mayor of Osaka sent a 10-page letter to the mayor of San Francisco, complaining of inaccuracies and unfairly singling out Japan for criticism. [251]

A 2010 proposal to create a memorial in Koreatown, Fort Lee, New Jersey, has been controversial and as of 2017 [update] remains undecided. [252] On May 23, 2018, a comfort women memorial was installed in Constitution Park in Fort Lee, NJ. [253] Youth Council of Fort Lee, a student organization led by Korean American high school students in Fort Lee designed the memorial.

On March 8, 2013, Bergen County dedicated a comfort women memorial by the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, NJ. [254]


In March 2017, the first comfort women statue in Europe was elected in Wiesent, Bavaria, Germany. The statue was a replica of the bronze statue installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Another German city, Freiburg, had planned to set up a comfort woman statue there but it was scuttled due to “strong obstruction and pressure” by Japan. [255]


A comfort women statue was unveiled in Sydney in August 2016. The 1.5-metre statue imported from Korea was originally meant for a public park in Strathfield, but local council rejected it. Reverend Bill Crews then agreed to install the statue outside his church, Ashfield Uniting Church. He said,"It's finally found a home." [256]

A number of former comfort women had come forward and spoken out about their plight of being a comfort woman:

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How Did Japan's War End Play out In Domestic Politics ?

In regards to the atomic bombings and the decision to surrender unconditionally.

Did these issues come up often in Japanese domestic politics in the post war years ?

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Greetings! I shall treat your question in two key parts: firstly the actual end of the war itself for the Japanese people and government, and the the immediate (about 1945 - 1952) postwar feelings about the US Occupation and the state of domestic politics as a result of the end of the Second World War. The controversies of the war remain a strong topic in Japan and the historical academia to this day. I should note however, that a lot of my sourcing for this response is mostly secondary in nature, so if any contributors have any primary statements from government officials or even civilians regarding the end of the war and the national mood, feel free to add on as well. Let's begin.

The Cherry Blossom Falls

“Despite the best that has been done by everyone--the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.”

- Emperor Hirohito in the "Jewel Voice Broadcast" on August 15th, 1945.

When the Emperor took to the airwaves to announce the Japanese surrender to the Allies, it came like a "bolt from the blue", as many had been kept in the dark about the course of the war, and news of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not yet become nation-wide knowledge. The decision to surrender (according to the Emperor's speech) included the atomic bombings, and the general turning of the war's course against Japan's favour. When the news broke to the public, many were uncertain as to what would happen to Japan in the coming years, and what this surrender meant for the future of them and the country. Others however, claimed that the time had come for Japan's "rebirth", when it could shake off the authoritarian and militaristic "corruption" that had started the war and chart a bold new course in the postwar order. Historian Andrew Gordon on this mix of individual moods:

"Some of his stunned listeners would later recall that August noon as an instant of 'rebirth'. For these people, the surrender was a moment when past experience and values were rendered illegitimate. They decided to chart a totally new course, whether personal, on behalf of a national community, or both. Other listeners, already struggling to find food and shelter in bombed-out cities, fell into a condition of despair and passivity. Still others—especially those in positions of power—resolved to defend the world they knew. Despite the shared national experience of defeat, individual experience varied greatly."

For the military who had kept Japan's war machine turning throughout the long years of war and prior to it, the news of surrender was quite literally fatal. An estimated 350 officers committed suicide in the hours after the Jewel Voice broadcast, although they remained a very minor group in a sea of passive acceptors. The dark legacies of the war's impact played out in the days before the official Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri on September 2nd.

Bonfires around Tokyo destroyed any evidence of wartime activities which might be used against the government and military. The planning of official "comfort stations" began on August 18th, and by year's end thousands of women were serving Allied soldiers in "Recreation and Amusement Centers", in an effort to protect the "purity" of the Japanese race from foreign blood (the Occupation authorities outlawed these stations in January 1946, but permitted privately-licensed brothels to continue operations). The government feared that the imperial institutions which had shaped Japan into a modern state would be swept away by the occupying powers, replaced by "state socialism" akin to that which they believed was applied in the USSR (though in this instance, it was the US which they feared would be the revolutionary vanguard).

The late Japanese historian Mikiso Hane, in summarising the impact of the end of the Second World War on Japan, writes:

"[in 1945] all the beliefs and values [the Japanese] had been taught since childhood were shattered. The Japanese people were reduced to ground zero in their moral, intellectual, and spiritual life."

The Occupation and the Legacy of War

When Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) General Douglas MacArthur came ashore to begin the American Occupation of Japan, he represented the two key goals of the occupying forces: demilitarization and democratization. Under his direction, SCAP quickly got to work dismantling the old institutions and laying the foundations for a democratic Japan. The Japanese military was demobilised around 6.9 million soldiers and civilians in the former possessions of the Japanese Empire (China, Manchuria, Korea, the South Pacific) were sent back home by 1948. The experiences of these returning troops, coming home to a war-ravaged country and families, differed depending on their personal contexts, but in general they shared in the uncertainty of the future that their relatives had felt since the surrender in 1945. Gordon on this matter:

"Repatriates, both civilian and military, often felt out of place back “home,” regarded with a mixture of pity for their poverty and scorn for their role in pursuing what now appeared to have been a hopeless war."

Alongside this major demilitarization effort, SCAP was carrying out a purge of the government, bureaucracy, and businesses for anyone who they believed had played a leading role in the war. Around 200,000 officials, businessmen, and bureaucrats were removed from their posts and barred from ever holding public influence. The question which continued to play on the minds of both the occupying authorities and (to varying extents) the Japanese public however, was the question of the Emperor. Japanese-American historian Noriko Kawamura on this critical question:

"The center of the controversy lies in the question that haunted the Emperor since the days of the Tokyo war trials: if the emperor possessed the power to stop the war on August 15 in 1945, why did he permit the war to start in the first place?"

Some members of the public had already developed deep resent for Hirohito and his calls for their martyrdom at the end of the war. SCAP however, knew that the emperor remained an important figure in Japanese social and political unity. To that end, they did not put the Emperor on trial in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, shortened simply to the Tokyo Trial (from May 1946 to November 1948). Instead, the Emperor would remain a part of Japan's constitution, but he no longer represented the sovereignty of the state and had no role in politics. SCAP made Hirohito renounce his claim to divinity in 1947, and the new Japanese constitution (promulgated in May 1947), his status was laid out clearly in Article I of Chapter I (which dealt exclusively with "The Emperor"):

"The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power."

Alongside these reforms, the new Constitution also promised a wealth of new rights for the people of Japan. Women gained equal rights in the Constitution, and nowhere was this effect more pronounced than in politics. During the first postwar election in 1946, 13 million women voted for the first time in Japanese history, and elected 39 women to the Diet (the equivalent of a parliament or congress). The Land Reform Law of 1947 also introduced sweeping social changes to Japan. No longer did the rural countryside operate on the "tenant system" of land-lordship, and now farmers could own the land they sowed.

Education-wise, SCAP introduced reforms here as well. They increased the compulsory level of education to the ninth grade, purged professors with suspected political leanings, and outlawed censorship by the Japanese (though the Occupation authorities did engage in censorship itself to a lesser extent). The notorious businesses conglomerates known as the Zaibatsu were decentralised (though not entirely broken up), allowing new opportunities for entrepreneurs and smaller companies to rise in the postwar decades.

What was Japan's offer of conditional surrender to the allies?

I have heard that Japan offered the allies terms of conditional surrender before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but there are conflicting sources on what exactly was included in that offer. Some sources say Japan simply wanted to keep their emperor as the absolute ruler of Japan. Others say the offer was much more ridiculous, with Japan even asking to keep much of the territory gained by them during the war. Are either of these claims true, if not, what was Japan's offer of peace to the allies?

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The Japanese surrender offer of August 10th that was passed to the Americans was that:

The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on July 26, 1945, by the heads of the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and China, and later subscribed by the Soviet Government with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.

It's that "with the understanding" part that has the condition in it — what does "not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler" mean?

The Americans has a sense of what it meant because they had been monitoring Japanese foreign communications (the MAGIC decrypts) for some time, and understood that the Japanese were attempting to preserve their imperial system (the kokutai), which had been a sticking point with earlier deliberations about surrendering within the Japanese Supreme War Council. This issue had been understood and anticipated prior to the release of the Potsdam Declaration, and Truman had deliberately not clarified the US position on this.

But in any event: the Americans rejected this, and replied that:

"With regard to the Japanese Government's message accepting the terms of the Potsdam proclamation but containing the statement, 'with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler,' our position is as follows:

"From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms.

"The Emperor will be required to authorize and ensure the signature by the Government of Japan and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters of the surrender terms necessary to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration, and shall issue his commands to all the Japanese military, naval and air authorities and to all the forces under their control wherever located to cease active operations and to surrender their arms, and to issue such other orders as the Supreme Commander may require to give effect to the surrender terms.

"Immediately upon the surrender the Japanese Government shall transport prisoners of war and civilian internees to places of safety, as directed, where they can quickly be placed aboard Allied transports.

"The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.

"The armed forces of the Allied Powers will remain in Japan until the purposes set forth in the Potsdam Declaration are achieved."

Which was what the Japanese eventually accepted on August 14th without qualification.

It sounds like you are confusing two things: Japan's specific August 10th "conditional" surrender offer quoted above, and the Japanese "peace party's" earlier considerations about what kind of surrender they might be willing to negotiate prior to the atomic bombs/Soviet invasion. The latter were never finalized or offered up so we do not know what they might have asked for we only know that they were considering ways of ending the war and what terms they might find acceptable. At the core was always the preservation of the kokutai, but there were some who (delusionally) believed that they might press for more once they were at the negotiating table. None of the latter came to pass, in part because the imagined mediator of this negotiation — the then-neutral Soviet Union — rejected such overtures and declared war on the Japanese.

For an in-depth treatment of these events, see Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy.


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