Rumiko Nishino: The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace: Its Role in Public Education

Roundup: Talking About History

[Nishino Rumiko is Director, Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, Tokyo.]

[Japan Focus Editor:] This is the second article of a three part series introducing historical museums in Japan and their role in public education on issues of war, peace, war crimes and reconciliation. The first article is Takashi Yoshida’s “Revising the Past, Complicating the Future: The Yushukan War Museum in Modern Japanese History.” The final article is by Mr. Kim Yeonghwan, the former associate director of Grassroots House Peace Museum who describes the peace and reconciliation programs that the Museum sponsors.

I. The “Comfort Women” Issue and the Origins of the Women’s ActiveMuseum (WAM)

What we euphemistically call the “comfort women” system was a violent system initiated by the Japanese state to coerce women into sexual slavery and deprive them inhumanely of bodily control, pride, security, future and hope. In August 2005, sixty years after Japan’s defeat, we opened the Women’s Active Museum (WAM) on War and Peace in Tokyo in order to preserve the history and memory of the wartime violence committed by the Japanese military against women. The museum is small, occupying only 1,238 square feet.

There were three reasons that we opened WAM. The first was to preserve records of the Women’s International Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (hereafter, the Women’s Tribunal), which was held in Tokyo in December 2000 with judges from five continents who specialize in international law.

The second was to honor the women of Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Burma, Papua New Guinea, Guam, and Japan who dealt with trauma, psychological suffering, and physical torment not only during the war, but also in the postwar period, as a result of their maltreatment. The third was to establish a base for peace and human rights activism in order to wipe out wartime violence against women and to promote a more trusting relationship between Japan and its neighbors in Asia....

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