Reactions to Comfort Women exhibition in Tokyo

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A few quickly made translations of reactions to the Comfort Women exhibition in Tokyo’s Kid Ailack Hall (organized by the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM). From the Guest book:

“I would like to apologize to those women as one of the women who was born and is living in Japan. Truly, truly, I am sorry. Each person’s photo and sad and harsh experiences made me cry. I never forget the cruel thing that Japan has done. Facing the truth, I would like to raise my voice so that no other women or girls in the world be victimized this way. Thank you very much for surviving, telling the harsh experiences, and accepting to be photographed. The face of each person is so beautiful: beautiful eyes. I felt … sorrow, anger, strength, hope. I will buy a book and will look at each woman once in a while. I never forget each person, I reflect my own life. I will make effort that people will know and acknowledge, as many as possible.”
– 32 years old, women, nursery/ housewife

“I am glad I could know a little something about something I did not know before. I realize I need to know not only something to glorify when Japan was stronger but also what Japan has done before.
Education is very important and difficult thing, but we have to change it for the future.
I would like to send messages something familiar. Thank you so much!!”

“Seeing these pictures I felt like being thrown into the battle field at that time. These face of the women showed me the image of Japan in history.”

“There are too few places in Japan where we can learn about the Japanese aggression. I am interested in education the most: we need to teach about it in Japan. I am going to become a teacher and I myself will definitively teach about it. Thank you.”

“The photograph of the women on the poster (Wainem) was so powerful that I felt the pain of the raped women. What terrible things the Japanese military did! Probably it was due to the military system at that time, but victims are always the weak, women, especially girls. Such culture is still alive in Japan. We, women should be more angry about it.”

“I knew a Dutch lady, who was in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation, and who came, lived and died in Japan. She told me that her brother was killed by Japanese soldiers. She thought that Japanese men were lecherous (horny), and she didn’t like them to come close to her. I missed the chance to learn about the details, but it is not hard to imagine what she went through. It was not her idea to come to Japan. Luckily her daughter was always kind to her until she passed away. For the memory of this Dutch lady I came today to see the exhibition.”

“The words of the woman saying “I don’t want to remember that” made me realise how deep their pain and suffering is. I wonder how I should respond to their words, and how we can pass their stories on to our children, who will have nothing to do with them. I am sorry that my son, a university student, won’t come here.”

“To my shame I didn’t know anything about Comfort Women in Indonesia. The faces of these women appealed to me strongly: their anger, sadness, suffering, and long history. They made me cry.I hated white Americans because they discriminated native Americans, but Japan did the same.Jan said in a symposium that one woman told him ‘Take my photograph, I am the living proof’, although many others refused to talk due to their trauma. I was impressed by her courage.”

“I was overwhelmed and could not hold back my tears.”

“I knew about these Indonesian ladies thanks to the TBS (Japanese tv) documentary broadcast on tv (in which Hilde interviewed some of the women). But I felt like being electrified when I saw these photographs and read their stories. There was one women who was born in 1928. This Indonesian lady is as old as my mother and she went through such hardship. That was the moment when the history was connected to my own life.”

“I was impressed by the personal stories of all these women. It was good that they could overcome the past when the women were abused by Japanese soldiers, and that they could raise a family of their own. But it could be that they were the lucky ones.”

“Abe’s statement ‘we make peace by wars’ is a lie.”

“It is a nice exhibition, which really suits the gallery space. I thought about the dignity of each woman and the cruelty of violence which has harmed them.I came after I gave a lecture about the Comfort Women and the Nanking massacre at Meiji university. I thank Mr. Banning and the organizer for their efforts.”Kozo Nagata [ex-producer of NHK, who made a documentary of Comfort Women in 2005, which was seemingly sabotaged by Abe, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary at that time, a few days before the broadcast. Kozo left NHK and became a professor].

“Once in the gallery, in a quiet atmosphere, I am almost shuddered by the gaze of the old ladies who were made into “comfort women”. I am not sure of what their eyes are trying to convey, whether sorrow or anger. I felt they were appealing “please understand/know about us”.

“The existence of each person here are all true.
I think this is reality and they are testifiers of history.
I have not even tried to notice before.
‘But it is true.’
‘This is a true story.’
I felt like each person was talking to me.
I would like more and more people to see (the exhibition/photos).”

Thanks to WAM’s Mina Watanabe and to Fumi Hoshino who translated the reactions of the exhibition guestbook.
Thanks to Yamamoto Munesuke and to Ahn Sehong (last photo) for the use of their photos.

The exhibition was held in the Kid Ailack Hall (Oct 10-25, 2015) and organized by the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM).