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Osaka mayor: Lack of sensitivity caused flap

By Mari Yamaguchi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:31 a.m. HST, May 16, 2013

TOKYO » An outspoken Japanese mayor who outraged many with remarks about Japan's wartime and modern sexual services stood by his comments Thursday (Wednesday in Hawaii), but said he may have lacked "international sensitivity."

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said his lack of sensitivity to America's perception of prostitution might have caused outrage to his suggestion earlier this week that U.S. troops based in southern Japan should patronize legal adult entertainment establishments to reduce sex crime there.

Hashimoto, co-leader of an emerging nationalist party, also has angered Japan's neighbors by saying the Japanese military's wartime practice of forcing Asian women into prostitution was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.

The practice was widely used by many other countries during the war, he said, adding that it was unfair that only Japan is accused of using "sex slaves."

His comments added to recent ire in neighboring countries that suffered from Japan's wartime aggression and have complained about the lack of atonement to atrocities committed during that time.

Hashimoto said Thursday that he had no intention of retracting any of his earlier comments. But he said his remarks might have seemed inappropriate to people outside Japan with different values.

"If there is one big mistake I made, that might have been my lack of understanding of culture behind the U.S. sex industry — if you mention adult entertainment in the U.S., everyone thinks of prostitution," Hashimoto said during a live TV talk show from Osaka, in western Japan. "I admit that my international sensitivity was quite poor when I had to operate beyond national borders."

The ruckus started Monday when Hashimoto commented on the wartime "comfort women" who had to provide sex to Japan'sImperial Army.

Hashimoto said Monday that on a recent visit to the southern island of Okinawa he suggested to the U.S. commander there that the troops make use of the legal sex industry.

More than half of about 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact are on Okinawa, where base-related crime has long triggered anti-U.S. military sentiment.

U.S. officials rejected his proposal. "That goes without saying," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Tuesday in Washington.

In a tweet Wednesday, Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat who has urged Japan to take responsibility for wartime sex slavery, called Hashimoto's remarks that comfort women were necessary "contemptible and repulsive," and demanded Japan'sgovernment "apologize for this atrocity."

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels.

Hashimoto's comments came amid continuing criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's earlier pledges to revise Japan's past apologies for wartime atrocities. Before he took office in December, Abe had advocated revising a 1993 statement by then-Prime Minister Yohei Kono acknowledging and expressing remorse for the suffering caused to the sex slaves.

Abe has acknowledged "comfort women" existed, but has denied they were coerced into prostitution, citing a lack of official evidence. He also said recently that the definition of "aggression" was still not established, inviting criticism from Japan'sneighbors.

On Monday, a photo published in Japanese newspapers showing Abe posing in a fighter jet with the number 731 — the number of a notorious Japanese unit that performed chemical and biological experiments on Chinese in World War II — caught attention in Beijing, triggering criticism about a lack of sensitivity.

"Japan's far-right politicians have lost their minds," South Korea's JoongAng Daily said in a Thursday editorial, saying Abe and Hashimoto "have unabashedly brought up the ghosts of Japan's wartime past and irked neighbors that still bear bitter memories of its military aggression."

"Their misbehavior resembles that of Nazi Germans who were swept up by militarist fervor under Adolf Hitler," the paper said.

Hashimoto's follow-up Thursday provided little help to relieve anger among women in Japan.

"(His comment) has violated women and our human rights, and tarnished Japan's image and national interest," said opposition lawmaker Makiko Kikuta, demanding Hashimoto retract what he said and apologize. "It's extremely regrettable."

Hashimoto, 43, is co-head of the newly formed Japan Restoration Party with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who is a strident nationalist.

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Publicbraddah wrote:
He's not a mayor. He's his town's village idiot. Every time this guy opens his mouth, he shows how disconnected he is with the human race.
on May 16,2013 | 06:43AM
false wrote:
He sees how saying stupid, provocative things has elevated Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, so he is hoping he can cash in as well.
on May 16,2013 | 06:22PM
sluggah wrote:
The guy is clueless.
on May 16,2013 | 06:53AM
cojef wrote:
He is from the lost generation that have lost moral guidance from their parents. Sad that these ideas still persist in the minds of modern man. This guy never experienced the tragic events of wars.
on May 16,2013 | 07:01AM
false wrote:
He is not clueless. He knows what he is saying and why. There has long been a "stridently nationalist" movement in Japan who thinks the Japanese cause in WWII was just. They are in the same quandary as many fans of Hitler. Just as some American and European fascists deny the mass extermination of Jews never happened, the Japanese ultra-nationalists claim the mass murder in China and Korea never happened.

Then, in the next breath, they say IF they happened, it was justified. Just as some rabid anti-semites say about the Shoah.

on May 16,2013 | 06:27PM
Anonymous wrote:
America wrote the history books, and as usual, whitewashed history to make WWII black and white, with the U.S. of course cast as "the good guys". Generations of Americans have unquestioningly swallowed that version, and so we hear grumblings of indignation every time it is challenged. The Chinese and Korean governments continually attempt to stir up nationalism by bemoaning Japanese aggression that happened 70 years ago, and they have perpetual inferiority complexes that color virtually all of their political interactions with Japan. Japan is moving beyond its post-war timidity and from behind the shadow of the U.S., and it is making other nations nervous. These are the real underlying issues- Hashimoto's comments are a sideshow.
on May 16,2013 | 08:17AM
entrkn wrote:
Sounds like they have a tea bag party in Japan now...
on May 16,2013 | 08:21AM
Mallory wrote:
At least he should then be the one japanese to understand why U.S. Marines do what they do in Okinawa... From his twisted way of thinking, its alllll good. OK marines, if you need ANYTHING go to Osaka and pick whatever women you wish to relieve war time stress
on May 16,2013 | 09:29AM
SueH wrote:
Now he's doing some serious back pedaling to get his foot out of his mouth.
on May 16,2013 | 10:40AM
CartwrightPark wrote:
Bruddah, get a clue.
on May 16,2013 | 12:03PM
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