S.F. Official Tells Japanese Mayor Who Defended Wartime Sex Slavery He's Unwelcome Here
Update 4:18 p.m.: Mayor Ed Lee's spokeswoman, Christine Falvey, tells us that it was not Mayor Lee who told the Japanese mayor he was persona non grata in San Francisco. The mystery remains.
Not welcome in SF
Original Story 3 p.m.: Osaka, Japan Mayor Toru Hashimoto was scheduled to visit San Fransisco on July 11. The planned trip, however, drew much controversy because Hashimoto had recently said something horrible and stupid.
The remark involved "comfort women," the more than 200,000 people in Japan's occupied territory during WWII-- mostly Chinese, Korean, and Filipino-- who had been forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese military.
On May 13, Hashimoto said: "To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time. For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That's clear to anyone."
There was much furor in America over the comments. There were protests over the Osaka mayor's upcoming trip to the States. And on May 28, Hashimoto announced that the trip, which included a visit to New York City, was cancelled.
But, it turns out, Hashimoto was not simply facing pressure from the outraged American public. As The Japan Times reported today, a San Francisco city official had contacted Hashimoto a week before he announced itinerary change.
The message, which Osaka released to the paper this week, read in part: "The people of San Francisco do not, at present, welcome Hashimoto's trip to the U.S."
According to The Japan Times, in the message "the unnamed official said that, while it could not prevent a personal trip by Hashimoto, San Francisco would not treat it as an official visit and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee would not be hosting any reception for Hashimoto."
"Mayor Lee has been overwhelmed with protests from the Japanese-American community, as well as other ethnic and women's groups," the official stated. "Hashimoto would be surrounded by protesters at every place he visits."
SF Weekly has contacted Mayor Ed Lee's Office to confirm whether or not this missive came from him. We'll update this post when we hear back.
The official reportedly noted that Hashimoto's presence would draw negative attention to the city he represents, and that the demonstrations would cost SF a bunch of tax-payer dollars to increase security.
The anonymous official went further than just suggesting Hashimoto avoid San Francisco. The message explained that he wasn't welcome in New York City either: "Mayor Lee and Mayor Bloomberg are close, and Bloomberg can't think about meeting Hashimoto now."
Lee himself had faced pressure to reject Hashimoto's visit after word spread about the May 13 comments. For instance, several Filipino-American WWII veterans groups reached out to the Mayor's Office, urging him to reject the Osaka mayor.
"I am personally privy to the abduction of many beautiful young girls from our high school by military officers in my hometown in the Philippines," United Filipino and American World War II Veterans Inc. vice commander Franco Arcebal wrote in a letter to Lee, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "I could not stomach this forcible servitude of those innocent girls... [and] now the justification of an unrepentant leader in the person of Mayor Hashimoto."