Friday, August 3, 2012

Structure of Japanese Imperial Government involved in Military Comfort Women System  Hayashi Hirofumi

Structure of Japanese Imperial Government involved in Military Comfort Women System
Hayashi Hirofumi

International Conference on Japanese Crimes Against Humanity:
Sexual Slavery and Forced Labor
November 28-30, 2001
University of California, Riverside

This paper was presented at the conference mentioned above on 28 November, 2001. uploaded on 29 January, 2002

1 Japanese Government, Organisation of the Japanese Military, Chain of Command
2 Spread of comfort stations and characteristics of sexual violence in different regions
3 Concrete examples to show the state’s involvement
4 The documents that show the use of comfort stations by businessmen


I deal here with the structure of Japanese Imperial Government involved in the system of Japanese military comfort women and introduce you new documents that show the use of comfort stations by Japanese businessmen.

1 Japanese Government, Organisation of the Japanese Military, Chain of Command

In pre-war Japan, the Emperor was the head of state and had the authority to oversee the government. The competence of the cabinet was considerably limited by the fact that the prerogative of supreme command rested with the Emperor. The military had considerable political power and the Emperor himself played an important role in the actual process of politics and decision-making.

There are several studies that prove clearly in detail the role of the Emperor, such as works of Professor Yamada Akira and Hervard P. Bix. I will only give a short explanation here.

After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, in July 1937 the Government-Military Liaison Conference was set up and became the organ to decide on important matters of state politics. Matters of particular importance were decided in the Imperial Conference at which the Emperor himself was present. As for the composition of these councils, only part of the Cabinet ministers attended. The Imperial Conference composed of the Emperor, the military and the leading Cabinet ministers was an organ that had no basis in the Constitution, but came to act as the main decision-making body of the state.

As for the army, the question of who had the command over the expeditionary troops, the Chief of Army General Staff and the Minister of War were to some degree authorized to act on behalf of the Emperor. The former attended to military matters like military operations, and the latter was in charge of the state affairs like the budget. However, orders for important military operations and appointment of high-ranking personnel were still issued by the Emperor.

I will give below a short explanation of the organization of the army. In peacetime, the uppermost unit in the hierarchy was Division, but during the wartime Army was established as unit above Division, and if necessary Area Army as unit above Army. At the time of the outbreak of the Pacific War, for example, the China Expeditionary Army, the Southern army and the Kwantung army were under the command of the Imperial General Headquarters. The Southern army, in charge of the occupation of Southeast Asia, was divided into four Armies: the 14th, the 15th, the 16th and the 25th Army, and each of the Army was composed of several Divisions. The China Expeditionary Army was composed of the North China Area Army, the 11th Army, the 13th Army and the 23rd Army and the North China Area Army subdivided into the 1st Army, the 12th Army and others.

The hierarchical organization of the army therefore presents us with a structure that placed the Emperor at the top, followed by the Imperial General Headquarters ®Area Army ® Army ® Division ® (Brigade) ® Regiment ® Battalion ® Company.

It goes without saying that the military was one of the most important factors in warfare, but total war is not only a matter of the military. Rather we find nationwide full mobilization that involved the economy, labor, education facilities, local government bodies and other institutions. If we look at local government bodies, the prefecture governor was appointed from among the ranks of Home Ministry officials and key positions in prefecture administration were also appointed from Home Ministry bureaucrats. The Police Bureau of the Home Ministry had full control over the administration of the police in the prefectures. It is important to keep in mind that the war was not conducted only through military means, but involved full mobilization of administrative organs on the national and local level.

2 Spread of comfort stations and characteristics of sexual violence in different regions

The first comfort stations were set up in Shanghai, when Japan began its invasion into China following the Manchuria Incident in 1931. From 1937 on, when Japan had entered into full-fledged war with China and continuously expanded its occupied territories, the Japanese army set up comfort stations in different parts of China. In 1940 when Japanese troops advanced into Indochina, the first comfort stations in Southeast Asia were established. The landing of Japanese troops on the Malay peninsula in December 1941 marks the outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War. In the following year, in May 1942, the advancing military operations were completed and the territories occupied by the Japanese had reached their maximum extension. With Burma and the Andaman and Nikobar isles, Indian possessions in the West, the Indonesian isles facing Australia in the South, and the Solomon and Marshall isles group in the East, large parts of the Pacific isles were brought under Japanese rule.

If one compares a map of the geographical distribution of comfort stations with the territories occupied by Japan, it becomes immediately clear that the comfort stations set up by the Japanese military covered more or less the whole area of occupied territories. Towards the end of the war, when Japan started to prepare herself for a decisive battle in the homeland against counter offensives of the Allied forces and Japanese troops were stationed on the Japanese isles, ‘comfort stations’ were set up in Okinawa and other parts of Japan as well.

We can make out different patterns in the acts of sexual violence committed by the Japanese military in different regions. If we take China as an example, the first type is illustrated by the systematic establishment of comfort stations in urban areas. Women from Korea, Taiwan, Japan and other places were sent as comfort women to these stations, which were set up by quartermaster corps. Type 1 was most common in areas where Japanese military rule was at least to some extent established and the rape of local women was kept in check by the military police in order to win the support of the local population.

Type 2 was mostly found in rural areas where strong anti-Japanese resistance was present and the local population as a whole was considered Anti-Japanese by the Japanese Army. In these areas the army not only committed massacres, ill-treating and looting but the rape of local women by soldiers went unchecked. The appalling acts of sexual violence the Japanese army perpetrated in Shanxi Province can be regarded as representative for this pattern. In these regions Japanese troops forcibly abducted women, confined them and raped them over and over again. In addition, it happened frequently that Japanese troops forced the village leaders to provide them with women. The overwhelming majority of the victims in this latter case were local Chinese women. In practice, we very often encounter a mixture of the two types mentioned above. The soldiers of the Imperial army, while making use of comfort stations in the relatively stable urban areas, committed a series of atrocities ranging from massacres to rape when sent on punitive operations to areas where strong resistance against Japanese rule existed. In other words, sexual violence against the women at the comfort stations existed alongside with rape of local women.

The situation in the various Southeast Asian regions was essentially the same as in China, but different regions had their specific characteristics. In the Philippines we encounter mostly the second type, since the local guerilla put up a strong Anti-Japanese resistance and the isles had become the seat of war due to the counteroffensive of the US forces. If we take a look at the stories of the victims of sexual violence from the Philippines, we find that reports of women being abducted and raped while being confined outweigh the cases of women forced to work in the systematized comfort stations.

On the Malay peninsula, on the other hand, the situation was comparatively stable and up to the end of the war no counter attacks of the Allied forces took place. The comfort stations run by the military administration were kept up until the very end, and even though several cases of Type 2 were reported, it seems that sexual violence of Type 1 was the most frequently committed.

Both the Home Ministry and other Ministries dispatched their officials to the military administration and there can be no doubt that government officials had an important role to play in the military occupation, and that Japanese occupation of Asian territories was not conducted only by the military. It is no exaggeration to say that government officials were actively involved in the administration of the comfort stations.

The acts of sexual violence perpetrated by the Imperial military covered the whole of the occupied territories, ranging from cases of women who were forced by various means to be ‘comfort women’ at the comfort stations, to those of women who were raped while being confined. The victims of this sexual violence were women from the Japanese colonies, Korea and Taiwan, Japanese women and women from China, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. The extent and systematic character of the sexual violence committed by the Japanese military makes it impossible to explain these acts as transgression committed by a handful of inhumane criminals. They give proof of the fact that both the Japanese military and organs of the Japanese government, in other words the Japanese state as a whole was actively involved in these atrocities.

3 Concrete examples to show the state’s involvement

I will here present two concrete examples to show the state’s involvement in the crime. The first is 1938 Home Ministry document regarding dispatch of a staff officer of the 21st Army stationed in the Southern part of China to Tokyo in order to recruit comfort women. This staff officer accompanied by a section chief of the Ministry of War requested the Police Bureau of the Home Ministry to recruit women. The Police Bureau then notified in the name of the Chief of the Bureau to prefecture governors to select appropriate managers for the recruitment and to offer assistance to them in this matter. The Office of Army General Staff itself was also deeply involved in this operation. Each prefecture accordingly selected appropriate managers to gather women, who would have to be issued necessary identification papers before they were sent to China. These tasks were carried out by the police. So the order came down from the governor to the chief of police bureau and then to chiefs of police stations that mobilized a number of police officers.

In other words, the recruitment and transfer of those women was systematically organized not only through the expeditionary forces, the Office of Army General Staff in Tokyo but also administrative machinery. All levels of administrative structure, central as well as local, were involved in these operations. Incidentally, the Governor-General of Taiwan was also made a similar request, and no doubt the same kind of local prefectural and police network of authorities were utilized in a systematic way.

The second example is documents of the Taiwan Colonization Company regarding comfort stations in Hainan Island, China. These particular comfort stations were under the Navy’s control. The establishment of comfort stations in Hainan was planned in the joint meeting of the three ministries of the Army, Navy and the Foreign Ministry. They made a request through the Government-General of Taiwan to the Taiwan Colonization Company for the establishment of comfort stations and recruitment of comfort women. In April 1939, the Chief of the Research Section, Government-General of Taiwan asked the director of the Taiwan Colonization Company to dispatch 90 comfort women to Hainan Island. According to these documents, the Taiwan Colonization Company thought it inappropriate for the company itself to carry out the task, so it ordered its subsidiary Fukudai Company to do the job in its behalf. Accordingly, a contract was concluded between the two companies so that the Taiwan Colonization Company would supply funds to Fukudai Company in order for Fukudai to lend money to the proprietors of comfort stations. This contract was signed by the president of Taiwan Colonization Company KATO Kyohei, who had been one of high-rank executives of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu and was appointed the president of the Taiwan Colonization Company at the request of the then Prime Minister HIROTA Koki. The Taiwan Colonization Company was a semi-governmental company established with the help from the Government-General of Taiwan, the War and the Navy Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. This shows that the establishment of comfort stations involved not only the military but also the Foreign Ministry, the Governor-General of Taiwan and semi-governmental companies such as the Taiwan Colonization Company.

4 The documents that show the use of comfort stations by businessmen

Although mainly the military personnel used Japanese military comfort stations, they were not the only people who frequented these facilities. Those related to Japanese companies that advanced to the areas occupied by the Japanese military made use of those facilities as well. I will here show some documentations to attest to this fact.

The following is a collection of documents kept at the Department of Documents, the Imperial War Museum, London, UK. It is reasonable to presume that these documents were captured from Japanese troops by the British in the Burma Theatre.

The cover of this collection reads: "Rules and Regulations, Unit 3629, 1943". The "Unit 3629" mentioned here is the 51st Field Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, stationed at the time in the city of Mandalay in the central part of Burma. This collection is a bundle of documents that includes a variety of rules and regulations laid down by the Headquarters of Mandalay Garrison and others. Four of the documents are related to comfort stations. It is useful to note here that Mandalay, an important center of transportation in the area, served as a base for the accumulation and transport for the Japanese military. Troops in rear, including line of communication and supply units, were stationed there in Mandalay.

The most interesting document of the four is the "Regulations for the Garrison comfort stations" laid down by the Headquarters of the Mandalay Garrison on 26 May 1943. This set of regulations is marked by its affording exceptional facilities to the personnel of trading companies. I will introduce here the provisions particular to this concern:

Article 2: While the comfort stations are in principle for the Japanese military personnel and civilian employee of army, Japanese residents of Mandalay are, for the time being, allowed to visit these stations after 24:30, to the extent that they do not cause any hindrance to the use by the military personnel and civilian employee, and provided that they strictly observe the followings. For these purposes, they are strictly forbidden to enter before 24:30.

a. Do not disturb the amusements of the military personnel and civilian employee of army.
b. Observe the rules and do not act to disturb public morals
c. Booking prior to the time for entry is strictly forbidden.
d. The fee is according to that for officers.
e. Anyone who violates any of the above will be taken away his entry permit and be kept off ever after. The nature and extent of the violation may lead to, not only the ban on entry of any and all members of his trading company, but also of any and all Japanese residents. However, those who come from the hinterland and who can not come to the comfort station during regulated time will be permitted to enter comfort station on condition that the president of Japanese society issues the certificate.

In Appendix I to these regulations are listed "timetable and fees for the use of comfort stations". Its "Remarks" reads "Trading company members must strictly observe article 2", indicating that the article was primarily meant for members of trading companies, rather than general members of the Japanese community in the region. There were many Japanese private companies in Mandalay, which served as the base for their activities in the mid-north regions of Burma. The proviso of this article 2 shows that the members of trading companies who came back from the back regions were given exceptional convenience, including access to the military comfort stations at hours usually not afforded to civilians. As such, this provision indicates how strong the ties between the Japanese troops and the trading companies must have been there then, in particular those between the quartermaster corps of the Mandalay Garrison and those trading companies, as this set of regulations was laid down by the quartermaster corps.

Burma was put under the Japanese military administration, and became "independent" in August 1943, while remaining under the de facto occupation by the Japanese army. Throughout these periods, Japanese companies advanced to the area under the protection of the Japanese army and played an important role in the military administration. When they occupied Burma, the Japanese military confiscated the properties of British and other Allied countries and their citizens, directly managed some of them and nominated several private companies to manage the others. Thus, Japanese private firms played a crucial role in maintaining the Japanese regime in the region.(See e.g. "History of Military Administration in Burma", and "Records of regional industries under the Southern Army Administration", at the Library of National Institute for Defense Studies, Defense Agency, Tokyo)

I would like to draw your attention to some examples of the kind of private activities based in Mandalay. Unfortunately there has not been sufficient documentation so far to identify which particular companies actually made use of the military comfort stations in Mandalay. Thus, the following is a research result about such private companies who had offices of resident representatives in Mandalay, which means a potential access to those facilities.

One example is the Burma Cooperative for Distributing Commodities, which handled such commodities as sugar, salt, coal, matches, tobacco, textiles and miscellaneous goods. At first, the organisation was formed by five different firms i.e. Mitsui-Bussan(Mitsui & Co.Ltd), Mitsubishi-Shoji(Mitsubishi Corp), Nihon-Menka (Nichimen Corp), Ataka-Sangyo, and Sanko. Later other six firms i.e. Tomen(Tomen Corp), Kosho, Senda-Shokai, Kanegafuchi-Shoji(Kanebo), Maruei, and Daimaru joined. Another eleven firms came under this organisation to carry out a wholesale trade. One of the branch offices of this organisation was in Mandalay.

The purchase, accumulation, storage and shipment of rice in the region was taken care of by Japan-Burma Cooperative for Rice which was established by Mitsui-Bussan, Mitsubishi-Shoji, and Nihon-Menka. The cultivation, accumulation of cotton and management of cotton factories were done by Japanese association for cotton composed of Nihon-Menka, Kosho, Fuji-Boseki(Fuji Spinning), and Chuo-Boseki. Here, the Mandalay area was taken care of by Chuo-Boseki. The timber industry was managed by Japan-Burma Cooperative for Timber, composed of Mitsui-Bussan, Mitsubishi-Shoji, Nihon-Menka, and Ataka-Shokai, which ran four sawmills in the Mandalay area.

Other companies in the Mandalay area included Takasago Beer which ran beer factory (later converted into miso and shoyu factory due to the shortage of materials) and Nichinan-Norin-Kogyo which ran match factory. Mitsubishi-Shoji took care of the purchase of tannic materials for tanneries in the area, and Kanematsu-Shoten took care of leather and sold them to Nihon-Genpi.

The Bordwin Mines, to the north-east of Mandalay, was an important mine with led, zinc, copper and others. It was officially under the direct control of the Japanese military, while in effect managed by Mitsui-Kozan(Mitsui Mining). There were many other mines, factories and others whose management was commissioned to various Japanese firms, but their details are not discussed here.

One can easily observe from the examples mentioned above that there are many Japanese companies, especially trading companies, involved in the purchase and distribution of materials and the management of different industies. In Burma, Mitsui-Bussan, Mitsubishi-Shoji, and Nihon-Menka seem to have had the closest relations with the army. Many of the employees of these companies who came to the mid-north region of Burma would have come to Mandalay. And they were in the position with the exceptional access to the military comfort stations according to the regulations as discussed above.

If Japanese companies took advantage of their relationship with the military and made use of their comfort stations, then they must also be held responsible for the comfort women system.


In concluding, I should emphasize that the establishment and development of military comfort women system by the Japanese was not only carried out by the total involvement of every section of the Military but also by administrative machinery at every level of Japanese state. In addition we should not overlook that Japanese companies were their accomplices.

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