Historian documents Japan's role in sex slavery
Instead of firing off a letter to a newspaper, though, Yoshimi went to the Defense Agency's library and combed through official documents from the 1930s. In just two days, he found a rare trove that uncovered the military's direct role in managing the brothels, including documents that carried the personal seals of high-ranking Imperial Army officers.
Faced with this smoking gun, a red-faced Japanese government immediately dropped its longstanding claim that only private businessmen had operated the brothels. A year later, in 1993, it acknowledged in a statement that the Japanese state itself had been responsible. In time, all government-approved junior high school textbooks carried passages on the history of Japan's military sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women.
"Back then, I was optimistic that this would effectively settle the issue," Yoshimi said. "But there was a fierce backlash."
The backlash came from young nationalist politicians led by Shinzo Abe, then a little-known lawmaker in the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party, who lobbied to rescind the 1993 admission of state responsibility. That long-cherished goal seemed close at hand after Abe became prime minister in September.
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