母親を14歳のときに亡くし、その後、ろくでなしの父親に売り飛ばされて慰安所で下働きをさせられ、さらには慰安婦にされてアジア各地を転々としたのだそうです。同情されてしかるべき悲しい一生ですが、だからといって国家が一々責任を負えるのかというと、そうはできませんしね。Memoir of Japanese 'comfort woman' recounts 'this hell'
By ERIC TALMADGE
TATEYAMA, Chiba Pref. (AP) Sister Michiko Amaha leads the way down into the basement of a little hilltop chapel overlooking the grounds of a shelter for women who, for one reason or another, can't live on their own.
Sister Michiko Amaha looks at a photograph of a woman known by the pen name Suzuko Shirota, the only Japanese 'comfort woman' to have come forward and tell her story, in a chapel basement in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture
Sister Michiko Amaha looks at a photograph of a woman known by the pen name Suzuko Shirota, the only Japanese "comfort woman" to have come forward and tell her story, in a chapel basement in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, on May 24. AP PHOTO
Over the years, dozens of women have spent their final days here. Their ashes are stored behind stone markers under a simple altar. Amaha takes a photograph of one down from the wall in the ossuary, places it on the altar and lights a few candles.
The woman in the photo is smiling a bright smile, with bangs hanging down over her forehead like a little girl.
Her name ― or the name she is known by ― was Suzuko Shirota.
Sold by her father into prostitution at age 17, she followed Japan's troops around the Pacific during World War II. After the war she returned and U.S. troops became her clientele. She became a drug addict, was destitute and institutionalized for decades.
Supporters laud U.S. motion on 'comfort women' as first step
Though historians believe there were perhaps tens of thousands more Japanese like her, Shirota is the only Japanese "comfort woman" to have come forward and tell her story.
Now, the government is subtly trying to revise that story. Sixty-two years after Japan's surrender brought an end to the official sanction of thousands of frontline brothels, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has questioned a key element of a 1993 government apology to the women.
Abe and many conservatives claim that, "in the narrow sense," the women weren't coerced.
No one, for example, held a gun to Shirota's head. But, then again, no one needed to.
Shirota lived a relatively quiet life until she was 14 and her mother died in 1935. Her family bakery went bankrupt, and her father began gambling. To pay off his debts, he sold her to a brothel.
Prostitution was legal then, and Shirota's was a common fate. With no other choice, she accepted it with resignation.
At first, Shirota was an assistant, helping the older women with their clothes and makeup. But gradually, she was brought into the reality of the brothel. When she was 18, she was ordered to serve her first customer. Locked in a room, she was raped. She was bedridden for days, and was treated for syphilis.
Her father continued to gamble, and took out loans from the brothel.
A broker in Yokohama sold her to another brothel in Taiwan. By then, Japan was well down its path toward all-out war in Asia. Northern China, Taiwan and Korea were colonies. So was forced prostitution. Japan established its first "comfort stations" in China in 1932 to serve as a steam valve for the troops, preventing rapes that would generate local resentment and resistance, and to slow the spread of venereal diseases through medical supervision of the brothels.
The women ― Shirota recalls taking a boat to Taiwan with Koreans as well as other Japanese ― were closely controlled.
In Taiwan, Shirota was kept under lock and key. Though privately run, her brothel served Japan's military and the government was closely involved in keeping the women from escaping. Papers were required to leave the brothel, and police kept tabs on her movements.
"I became, in name and reality, a slave," she wrote in her little-known memoir, "In Praise of Mary." "On Saturdays and Sundays, there would be a line and men would compete to get in. It was a meat market, with no feeling or emotion. Each woman would have to take 10 or 15 men."
Shirota managed to con a customer into paying off her debt by promising to marry him. She returned to Japan but found that her family had scattered. With nowhere to turn, she borrowed enough money to go to Saipan, where a large number of Japanese troops were stationed. From there, she island-hopped to Truk and Palau, where she eventually found work keeping the books for a comfort station.
Narrowly escaping death when the island was bombed in 1945, she was repatriated to Japan, but again she had few alternatives. She bounced around from city to city, developing an addiction to methamphetamines. She found her way to the city of Fukuoka, and took up work at a brothel frequented by U.S. troops.
Here, too, there was no dearth of work. "It was like a war," she wrote of the crowds jostling for the women's services. "It was a whole new world for me."
She began living with an American soldier and started to have hopes of a future. But he left her behind.
She tried to kill herself as her life became more desperate. During a visit to her mother's grave, she learned that her sister had committed suicide.
Then she saw an article in a magazine about a shelter for women like herself. It was 1955, the year before prostitution was formally banned.
Using a pen name, Shirota broke her silence in 1971 with her memoir, which was published by the same Christian group that helps run the shelter in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, where she would spend more than two decades until her death. It is long out of print; even the publisher no longer has any copies.
A rare copy of the book, which has never been translated, was reviewed by The Associated Press at the National Diet Library.
Just before Shirota died in 1993, the "comfort women" tragedy became an international issue.
Some historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Asian, were forced to service millions of Japanese troops.
A Korean woman, outraged by Japanese claims that the wartime brothels were run not by the government but by private entrepreneurs, came forward in protest, claiming she was kidnapped from her home by Japanese soldiers and forced into a life of sexual slavery. Others have since followed and Japanese historians dug up documents indisputably proving government complicity. Tokyo came forth with the 1993 apology.
But years before, in 1984, Shirota had dealt with her own demons.
Tortured by nightmares of the cries of the women who worked with her, she wrote a letter to the Rev. Fumio Fukatsu, the Protestant minister who ran the shelter.
"Forty years have passed since the end of the war, but no voices have been raised anywhere in Japan. There are monuments to soldiers and civilians, but the girls who were offered for sex in China, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and the Aleutians, after being used freely, were just thrown away to wander in the freezing cold or become the food of dogs and wolves.
"Wherever the military went, there were comfort stations. . . . They lined up, we had no time to clean ourselves before they had us again, we felt the pain of death. How many times did I want to strangle them? I was half crazy. . . . If you died you were just thrown into a pit in the jungle. No one would tell your family. I saw this with my own eyes, this hell for women."
Fukatsu helped Shirota realize a long-held wish ― that a monument be built to the women.
At first, it was just a simple wooden marker erected on the hill near the chapel. Later, that was replaced by a proper stone monument. Sister Amaha, now in her 80s, makes the trip up the hill once a year for a small gathering on the anniversary of the day Japan surrendered.
Amaha, who was with Shirota when she died, said she doesn't expect others to come forward.
"There is an unspoken pressure not to come forward and bring shame on the nation. I think that is why none have spoken out. But she was the first to tell her story. It is proof, it is a challenge to the government. It took bravery."
The Japan Times: Monday, July 9, 2007http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/nn20070709a6.html