San Francisco Not Swayed by Japan's Sex Slave Apologist Toru Hashimoto

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Right-wing politicians don't do well in San Francisco. And particularly not when they defend the use of sex slaves (outside of the friendly confines of The Armory, at least).

Once a rising star in Japanese politics, Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto is now an international pariah for saying in May that "comfort women" -- the euphemism given to women forced to sexually service Japanese soldiers in army brothels during World War II -- were a "necessity." This resonated in San Francisco, where in June Supervisor Jane Kim authored a resolution condemning Hashimoto's statements. That led to the Japanese leader to cancel a visit to San Francisco that month.

Now Hashimoto is on an apology tour... sort of. In a letter dated Aug. 13, he asked San Francisco to take back the condemnation. Kim's response? No way.

For those familiar with the Board of Supervisors, the Board's nonbinding resolutions are pure formalities, mostly -- putting the Board on record as opposing human rights abuses, Israel intercepting the Gaza flotilla, or the Grammys -- that some see as an utter waste of elected officials' time. Who cares what the Board thinks about international affairs, anyway?

Hashimoto, for one. In his letter, he informs the Board that their dislike of him is based on "misunderstandings," according to the Japan Times.

Still, there's an air of defiance about Hashimoto. While he said he had "no intention to trivialize" what happened to the women impressed into sexual servitude during the war, Japan had no monopoly on wartime crimes, he said. What's more, he said, he's a bit of a feminist after all.

"My statements on (the) comfort women have always been consistent with my concern for the protection and enhancement of women's dignity and human rights," he claimed.

The mayor said "the recent tendency of exaggeration" of the comfort women issue lies behind "misunderstandings" of the San Francisco board.

Hashimoto said the condemnation of Japan over the issue "often contains rootless and exaggerated claims. It is "simply a baseless statement" that all or most comfort women were abducted systematically by Japanese authorities, he added.

Hashimoto, the Japan Times reported, canceled his visit to San Francisco after receiving a letter from a "senior San Francisco official" urging him to stay far, far away.

It's not said who that official is, but it could easily be Kim. Kim is of Korean descent -- which is important, considering scholarly research contends that a significant portion of comfort women were Korean.

At any rate, Hashimoto will have to wait until the Board returns to business Sept. 1 before the meaningless resolution blasting his inflammatory comments can be rescinded -- and he may have to wait even longer than that.

We asked a Kim aide if there were any plans to acquiese to international pressure and withdraw the resolution. The answer: "No."




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