Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II

Overview

Available for the first time in English, this is the definitive account of the practice of sexual slavery the Japanese military perpetrated during World War II by the researcher principally responsible for exposing the Japanese government's responsibility for these atrocities. The large scale imprisonment and rape of thousands of women, who were euphemistically called "comfort women" by the Japanese military, first seized public attention in 1991 when three Korean women filed suit in a Toyko District Court ...

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Overview

Available for the first time in English, this is the definitive account of the practice of sexual slavery the Japanese military perpetrated during World War II by the researcher principally responsible for exposing the Japanese government's responsibility for these atrocities. The large scale imprisonment and rape of thousands of women, who were euphemistically called "comfort women" by the Japanese military, first seized public attention in 1991 when three Korean women filed suit in a Toyko District Court stating that they had been forced into sexual servitude and demanding compensation. Since then the comfort stations and their significance have been the subject of ongoing debate and intense activism in Japan, much if it inspired by Yoshimi's investigations. How large a role did the military, and by extension the government, play in setting up and administering these camps? What type of compensation, if any, are the victimized women due? These issues figure prominently in the current Japanese focus on public memory and arguments about the teaching and writing of history and are central to efforts to transform Japanese ways of remembering the war.

Yoshimi Yoshiaki provides a wealth of documentation and testimony to prove the existence of some 2,000 centers where as many as 200,000 Korean, Filipina, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Burmese, Dutch, Australian, and some Japanese women were restrained for months and forced to engage in sexual activity with Japanese military personnel. Many of the women were teenagers, some as young as fourteen. To date, the Japanese government has neither admitted responsibility for creating the comfort station system nor given compensation directly to former comfort women.

This English edition updates the Japanese edition originally published in 1995 and includes introductions by both the author and the translator placing the story in context for American readers.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Yoshimi, a reputable historian/scholar... has meticulously sleuthed out chronological data, exposing from its bitter outset that sordid, endless business of sexual slavery. Yoshimi's account extends to the essence of feminist political purpose... The book makes solid headway toward legitimizing his demands for public access to still-secret documents; acknowledging and apologizing for all violations of international law and war crimes and for failure to punish guilty parties; rehabilitating and compensating victims... A vigorous work, enhanced by a precise, graceful translation.

The Nation - Katha Pollitt

Crucial reading.

Los Angeles Times Book Review - Georgette Fleischer

Comfort Women's command of documentary materials makes it a landmark for historians, human rights activists and general readers.

Korean Quarterly - Martha Vickery

As a piece of historical literature, Comfort Women is interesting as an in-depth look at the politics and psychology of a particular time, as much as it is a chronology of what happened to the comfort women and why they were forgotten. One of the most interesting things about it, however, is its unique place in history as the virtual smoking gun that supplied the damning evidence the world needed to hear in order to fully understand and come to grips with this issue....A convincing writer and powerful advocate, Yoshimi has shown by words and actions his willingness to campaign not only as an intellectual who loves the truth, but as a person of tough moral fiber who will stand up for human rights, even as a majority of one.

Asian Studies Review - Wendy Anderson

it is necessary and compelling reading...invaluable addition...fascinating

The Nation
Crucial reading.

— Katha Pollitt

Choice

Yoshimi, a reputable historian/scholar... has meticulously sleuthed out chronological data, exposing from its bitter outset that sordid, endless business of sexual slavery. Yoshimi's account extends to the essence of feminist political purpose... The book makes solid headway toward legitimizing his demands for public access to still-secret documents; acknowledging and apologizing for all violations of international law and war crimes and for failure to punish guilty parties; rehabilitating and compensating victims... A vigorous work, enhanced by a precise, graceful translation.

Los Angeles Times Book Review
Comfort Women's command of documentary materials makes it a landmark for historians, human rights activists and general readers.

— Georgette Fleischer

Korean Quarterly
As a piece of historical literature, Comfort Women is interesting as an in-depth look at the politics and psychology of a particular time, as much as it is a chronology of what happened to the comfort women and why they were forgotten. One of the most interesting things about it, however, is its unique place in history as the virtual smoking gun that supplied the damning evidence the world needed to hear in order to fully understand and come to grips with this issue....A convincing writer and powerful advocate, Yoshimi has shown by words and actions his willingness to campaign not only as an intellectual who loves the truth, but as a person of tough moral fiber who will stand up for human rights, even as a majority of one.

— Martha Vickery

Asian Studies Review
it is necessary and compelling reading...invaluable addition...fascinating

— Wendy Anderson

Library Journal
During the Asia Pacific War (1931-45), the Japanese government forced up to 200,000 Korean, Taiwanese, Indonesian, and other young Asian women to work as so-called comfort women, providing sexual services for the armed forces of Imperial Japan. Yoshiaki's invaluable study explodes the claims of right-wing Japanese nationalists that comfort women were merely wartime prostitutes. Citing official military records and correspondence, the author proves beyond a doubt that the victims of this monstrous system were actually sex slaves who were subjected to repetitive rape and violence. Often kidnapped or tricked by false promises of legitimate employment, the comfort women were trebly exploited as colonial subjects, members of the rural and urban poor, and women. Yoshiaki, a politically engaged scholar, analyzes the comfort-women issue against the background of Japan's prewar system of licensed prostitution and contemporary Asian sex tourism, where Japanese men continue to exploit the women of neighboring Asian countries. The translator's introduction illuminates the Japanese debate over comfort women, to which this book is an indispensable contribution. Steven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
This is the first English publication of a Japanese book about the forced sexual slavery of the so-called comfort women of World War II. Rarely discussed in recent history until three Korean women came forward in 1991, the Japanese Army systematically rounded up mostly foreign women (some estimates put the number at 200,000) during the war, imprisoned them in "comfort houses" and forced them to engage in sexual activities with Japanese military personnel. This book is a discussion of the phenomenon, and examines the process by which women were taken, transported, and enslaved. A leading theme is the on-going debate over the extent of the Japanese government's involvement in providing comfort women for their soldiers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Yoshimi Yoshiaki is professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo, and a founding member of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan's War Responsibility.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Translator's IntroductionAuthor's Introduction to the English EditionThe Emergence of the Issue1. The Course and Conditions of the Establishment of the Military Comfort Station System: From the First Shanghai Incident to the Start of All-Out War in China2. Expansion Into Southeast Asia and the Pacific: The Period of the Asia Pacific War3. How Were the Women Rounded Up? Comfort Women's Testimonies and Soldiers' Recollections4. The Lives Comfort Women Were Forced to Lead5. Violations of International Law and War Crime Trials6. Conditions After the DefeatConclusionEpilogueNotesBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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