It is well known that after the defeat, the forces occupying Japan (Allied Powers, consisting mainly of the U.S. military), made use of a recreation facility called Tokushu ian shisetsu kyokai (which means “Special Comfort Facility Association”, although its English name was the “Recreation and Amusement Association”, or “R.A.A”, as it will be described here below). Some people argue that the occupation forces required the Japanese government to establish it. This is the kind of lie they trot out to evade the Japanese military’s responsibility in establishing comfort stations, by claiming it wasn’t alone in such activity. Let us examine the truth of their assertions.
Request to Provide Recreation Facilities Made by the Japanese Government
The story begins with the formation of the Higashikuni Cabinet on August 17 1945, two days after Japan’s defeat. Former Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro had joined the new Cabinet as a Minister of State, and on August 17 or 18 he called on Superintendent-General of the Metropolitan Police Saka Nobuyoshi to take measures to deal with the “women issue”: the government feared that the huge number of foreign troops who would be occupying their country might engage in sexual violence.
On August 18, the Home Ministry’s Police Bureau Chief, who controlled the police across Japan, issued a notification to all local leaders (prefectural governors and police chiefs), the content of which pertained to “recreation facilities for foreign militaries stationed in Japan.” It ordered the establishment of “sexual recreation facilities,” and it was given not only in Tokyo, but to the governors and chiefs of police across the entire country.
Ordered by Konoe, Saka gave the task to the Economic Police Department of the Metropolitan Police Department, within which it was handled by the department’s Safety Division. Leaders of the Tokyo Food and Restaurant Association suddenly found themselves summoned, appearing on August 18 (or possibly 19). The Chief of the Safety Division told them, “It was decided at the Cabinet Meeting to establish various facilities to give comfort to the Allied soldiers who are soon to occupy Japan. We want the private sector to be in charge, but the government will support you as much as we can.”
Police Made the Request of Local Business Leaders ・ Funds Too Were Arranged by the Government
On August 21, the Metropolitan Police Department summoned 15 leaders of several Service Industry Associations and officially asked them to establish facilities. And on August 23 the Recreation and Amusement Association was established in the presence of the parties concerned including the Chief of the Safety Division. On August 28 all officers of the Association gathered in front of the Imperial Palace and held a swearing-in ceremony for the implementation of the project. Funds were borrowed from the Nippon Kangyo Bank, Ltd. through an arrangement with the Home Ministry (Police) and the Ministry of the Treasury.
The Recreation and Amusement Association provided restaurants, cabarets and various amusements (golf and tennis, etc.). The “Comfort Department” enlisted women for prostitution and between August and September established comfort stations where they began entertaining U.S. soldiers all across Japan.
The Stationing of the Allied Forces in Japan
Let’s take a brief look at the history around when the Allied Powers first began their occupation of Mainland Japan. On August 19, a Japanese delegation that included Lieutenant General Kawabe Torashiro (Vice Chief of Army General Staff) visited Manila to make arrangements for the occupation, and consulted with MacArthur Headquarters on August 20, returning to Tokyo on August 21. It was decided that an advance unit of the Occupation Forces would come to Atsugi on August 26 and the main force would arrive on August 28. Shortly after returning to Japan, Lieutenant Torashiro apparently reported to Hosokawa Morisada, a close aide to Konoe. He said among other things that, “as the U.S. military flatly refused French authorities’ offer to provide recreation facilities, perhaps we shouldn’t offer them ourselves” (Hosokawa Morisada, “Hosokawa Diary,” August 21). In other words, Torashiro apparently made the recommendation that even if Japan were to offer “recreation facilities” to the U.S. military, they were unlikely to accept, hence Japan shouldn’t offer them.
Next, the advance unit’s arrival was put off to August 28 because of a typhoon. Full-scale occupation began on August 30. MacArthur arrived at Atsugi at 2 p.m. and immediately entered headquarters in Yokohama. As for the Navy, the 3rd fleet had entered Tokyo Bay on August 29 while Marines began landing at Yokosuka on August 30. The signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was held on the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2 and Japan officially surrendered.
As we can see, it wasn’t the occupation forces (the U.S. military) that made the request to establish comfort stations. Before making contact with the U.S. military, the Japanese government (Home Ministry) had already taken measures to establish comfort stations for the occupation forces.
Incidentally, some leaders of the U.S. military did actively support the establishment of comfort stations or the resurrection of a licensed prostitution system. Colonel Sams (later Brigadier General), the Chief of the Public Health and Welfare Section of GHQ, and some in the U.S. Eighth and Sixth Armies didn’t agree with the policy of the Department of War to suppress prostitution, and advocated reestablishing a licensed prostitution system, requesting Japan to do so. In October 1945, Chief Sams criticized the Commanders-in-Chief for making brothels off-limits. He made a proposal that since making them off-limits only resulted in the spread of unlicensed prostitutes, the practical and urgent response should be to extend and strictly implement existing Japanese laws and procedures to control prostitution. The same month, Brigadier General Luis, medical officer of the Eighth Army, suggested that Japan establish “Amusement Houses” in which soldiers could have intercourse with hostesses. So it is a fact that some military leaders made requests of the establishment of such recreation facilities. There are such examples in testimony in Japan from people who were involved.
However, they made such requests after the RAA had already been established. So it wasn’t at the request of the U.S. military that RAA was established.
What about the notification issued on August 22 1945 by the Police Bureau of the Home Ministry entitled “Matters Related to the Allied Occupation of Japan”? This states at the end that, “the Allied Powers have required us to arrange lodgings, transportation facilities (cars and trucks, etc.), as well as comfort stations, etc. in their occupation of Japan.”
When we look at the historical record, the requirements the Japanese delegation received in Manila from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers included lodging and transportation, but there was no mention of “comfort stations” or any equivalent facilities. Since the Police Bureau of the Home Ministry didn’t negotiate directly with the U.S. military (the Allied Powers), it might not have been a direct demand by the U.S. military. It cannot be confirmed whether they were told to do so by any other parties.
Judging from the description of the Hosokawa Diary stated above, we can guess that there might have been a discussion about such recreation facilities (or their equivalent facilities) between the delegation of Japan and the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers, but it seems reasonable to conclude that the U.S. military responded negatively if such a conversation ever took place. Since the Police Bureau of the Home Ministry had already requested and taken measures to establish comfort stations for the Occupation Forces, it is possible that Japan (the Police Bureau of the Home Ministry) inserted this phrase at its own discretion.
Even if the U.S. military made such demands, since the Japanese government had already taken measures to establish comfort stations, it still means that the recreation facilities weren’t established at the behest of the U.S. military. For more regarding this point, please refer to the following blog (Japanese only): http://tarari1036.hatenablog.com/entry/2013/05/23/160941
Please see Hayashi Hirofumi’s Amerika-gun no sei taisaku no rekishi (A Historical Study of the US Military’s Policy toward Prostitution – Through the 1950s), The Journal of the Association for Research on the Impacts of War and Military Bases on Women’s Human Rights. Vol.7, Kohrosha.
The Fate of the RAA
The U.S. military couldn’t have made a formal request to establish comfort stations since both the Army and Navy had a formal policy of suppressing prostitution and they couldn’t officially allow U.S. soldiers to use brothels (or comfort stations).
For one example, on November 5, 1945, the 5th Air Force Command asked the Army Pacific Command to request that the Japanese government eliminate prostitutes from the area within 5 miles radius of the bases. It emphasized that the only effective way to control sexual-transmitted diseases is to suppress prostitution, a policy of the Department of War. It also made the complaint that since the Army didn’t make brothels off-limits, the Air Force (precisely speaking, it was still the Army Air Corps at that time) had trouble making them off-limits. The Air Force Far East Command also agreed to this request.
Chaplains in Japan also criticized the policy to officially accept prostitution in various ways. A chaplain of the U.S. Army 41st Infantry Division called the problem to the attention of the Chief of the Division, but there was no sign of improvement. So he appealed to the Chief of Chaplains of the Department of War in Washington D.C. The Chief of Chaplains made a report to the Chief of the Personnel Section of the Department of War. Some soldiers in Japan wrote letters to their families or to the Secretary of War through their Senators, describing what was going on.
Back home in the U.S., Newsweek reported on the issue. On October 22, 1945, 5 photographs were published of U.S. soldiers dancing with so-called “geisha girls”. On October 29, it wrote about the RAA, calling it the “Recreation Association” and carried a story that the U.S. soldiers in Tokyo would soon receive a hearty welcome from 5,000 new “geisha girls”. The story didn’t refer to prostitution. However, on November 12, it carried a full-page story entitled Sailors and Sex: Prostitution Flourishes in Japan. The source of the story seemed to be the letter a chaplain of the Navy in Japan wrote to Newsweek. In other words, chaplains concerned about the U.S. military’s official acceptance of prostitution in Japan could appeal to their country by using the media.
These Newsweek stories were taken up by Congress and the U.S. military was criticized. As a result Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal announced that the Department of the Navy would adopt a consistent policy to suppress prostitution. He also issued a notification emphasizing that prostitution was unacceptable and must be suppressed.
In Japan, at a conference attended by 88 members of the Army and Navy Chaplain Association on January 8 1946, the Tokyo and Yokohama branch offices of the association discussed the issue, unanimously adopting a resolution to abolish the use of such brothels and suppress prostitution, and on January 11 they sent a letter to MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.
In response, the Department of War issued a notification to Army Pacific Commander MacArthur requesting a strict adherence to the policy of the Department of War that suppressed prostitution, and requesting that he meet with the Under Secretary of War and make a report of the situation on March 4, 1946. Shortly after that, the Under Secretary of War visited Japan, had a talk with MacArthur and made him promise to follow the Department of War’s policy that suppressed prostitution.
Following on this, the U.S. Eighth Army (in charge of the occupation of the whole of Japan) issued a notification to units that were under the command of the Army, requesting to make all brothels off-limits on March 18. Receiving this notification, the Chief of the U.S. Military Police Corps in Tokyo notified the Home Ministry to that effect on March 25 and RAA comfort stations were made off-limits.
As a result the U.S. soldiers didn’t use them, and they were forced to shut down. The RAA continued its activities and provided other recreations until May 1949.
This is how criticism by the U.S. military stationed in Japan and the Department of War caused the prohibition of the use of RAA comfort stations. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff of the Army, issued a notification to the entire Army on April 5, 1946. It strongly criticized the policy of officially accepting prostitution, saying that systematization of prostitution was neither the least bit effective in preventing sexually-transmitted diseases, nor was the idea itself medically sound and that the practice would in fact increase the spread of such diseases. He also said that it destroyed morals and was against the wishes of the U.S. people. Citing medical and social reasons such as these, he instructed that all brothels be put off limits and a policy of suppressing prostitution be adopted. (A similar notification was issued on February 4, 1945.)
In addition to Hayashi Hirofumi’s Amerika-gun no sei taisaku no rekishi (A Historical Study of the US Military’s Policy toward Prostitution – Through the 1950s), The Journal of the Association for Research on the Impacts of War and Military Bases on Women’s Human Rights. Vol.7, Kohrosha, please refer to Duus Masayo’s Haisha no okurimono (“Gifts from the Vanquished”) Publ. Kodansha, Inoue Setsuko’s Senryogun iansho: kokka ni yoru baishun shisetsu (“Comfort Stations for the Occupation Troops: Houses of Prostitution Operated by the State”) Publ. Shinhyoron,
Minna wa shiranai kokka baishun meirei (“The Hidden History of the Government’s Prostitution Decree”) Publ. Yuzankaku.
Incidentally, some people argue that the Occupation Forces asked the Japanese government to establish comfort stations “for the purpose of preventing U.S. soldiers from committing rape.” However, the U.S. military was interested in preventing the soldiers from being infected with sexually transmitted diseases and there is no description of a request made “for the purpose of preventing U.S. soldiers from committing rape” in any U.S. military documents. Those who argue this way haven’t presented any of the documents necessary to back up their arguments. Even if such documents were to be disclosed, we know the main purpose was to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, so it is incorrect to refer only to “the purpose of preventing U.S. soldiers from committing rape.”
As we have seen, recreation facilities for the Occupation Forces were not provided at the request of the U.S. military but they were arranged for and provided by the Japanese government itself.
Those who try to justify the Japanese military’s comfort women system argue that the women’s testimony isn’t reliable since it isn’t backed up by documents. However, even when they lack documents to support their own arguments, they go ahead and make up stories and spread them around.
We know that when the Economic Police Department Chief ordered the Safety Division Chief and other Chiefs to establish recreation facilities for the Occupation Forces, he reminded them “to give all orders orally” and “not to put them into writing.” It is common for bureaucratic organizations to avoid leaving behind a paper trail when they are committing injustices. Why do the people who lie about this history want so much to advocate for the actions of a bureaucracy?