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Comfort Woman: A Filipina's Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military (Asian Voices)

Comfort Woman: A Filipina's Story of Prostitution and Slavery under the Japanese Military (Asian Voices) [Kindle Edition]

Maria Rosa Henson
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


Henson's book is different for two reasons: she experienced the tragedy firsthand and therefore speaks with authority; but she also speaks with the voice of healing, since she has lived with her nightmare for decades and survived, both physically and spiritually. Another amazing aspect of this book is that despite its title, it does not focus naroowly on the sex-slave controversy. Henson died in August 1997, but her words live on. Her example is unforgettable... The Japan Times This book makes clear that what the Japanese army did was only the worst example of oppression against women in the long history of colonialism and imperialism in the Philippines. It serves a corroborative text for historians, a call to arms for feminists and human rights activists, and, finally, a life-affirming reminder of the indomitability of the human spirit for all readers. Persimmon Maria Rosa Henson's Comfort Woman is a straightforward, painful account, simply told. A powerful account of a woman's life controlled by men, both Filipino and Japanese. Feminist Formations Serves as a good introduction to readers who may be approaching the subject of 'comfort women' for the first time...Henson's autobiography becomes more than just the telling of the untold but ultimately the revealing of the unseen and the unsaid. [She] is not only able to recount the nightmare of her abduction and confinement in a 'comfort station,' but she articulates the day to day degradation and hardship that women are subjected to long before and after the war is over. Pilipinas A compelling and moving account of one Filipina's ordeal under the Japanese military. It is also a story of survival, and of a lifelong quest for healing and for justice. Maria Rosa Henson deserves praise for her honesty and courage. By revealing to us her painful experiences, Mrs. Henson broke a fifty-year silence and made the world aware of the brutality of war and its savageness to women. We are greatly enriched by this story and inspired by how one woman can overcome such epic suffering and still have such compassion and such faith. -- Corazon C. Aquino Henson's book is different for two reasons: she experienced the tragedy firsthand and therefore speaks with authority; but she also speaks with the voice of healing, since she has lived with her nightmare for decades and survived, both physically and spiritually. Another amazing aspect of this book is that despite its title, it does not focus naroowly on the sex-slave controversy. Henson died in August 1997, but her words live on. Her example is unforgettable. The Japan Times

Product Description

From Comfort Woman: 'We began the day with breakfast, after which we swept and cleaned our rooms. Then we went to the bathroom downstairs to wash the only dress we had and to bathe. The bathroom did not even have a door, so the soldiers watched us. We were all naked, and they laughed at us, especially me and the other young girl who did not have any pubic hair.O OAt two, the soldiers came. My work began, and I lay down as one by one the soldiers raped me. Everyday, anywhere from twelve to over twenty soldiers assaulted me. There were times when there were as many as thirty; they came to the garrison in truckloads.O OI lay on the bed with my knees up and my feet on the mat, as if I were giving birth. Whenever the soldiers did not feel satisfied, they vented their anger on me. Every day, there were incidents of violence and humiliation. When the soldiers raped me, I felt like a pig. Sometimes they tied up my right leg with a waist band or a belt and hung it on a nail in the wall as they violated me.O OI shook all over. I felt my blood turn white. I heard that there was a group called the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women looking for women like me. I could not forget the words that blared out of the radio that day: 'DonOt be ashamed, being a sex slave is not your fault. It is the responsibility of the Japanese Imperial Army. Stand up and fight for your rights.'O In April 1943, fifteen-year-old Maria Rosa Henson was taken by Japanese soldiers occupying the Philippines and forced into prostitution as a Ocomfort woman.O In this simply told yet powerfully moving autobiography, Rosa recalls her childhood as the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy landowner, her work for Huk guerrillas, her wartime ordeal, and her marriage to a rebel leader who left her to raise their children alone. Her triumph against all odds is embodied by her decision to go public with the secret she had held close for fifty years.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1325 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (1 Mar 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00260HL72
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #331,410 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story, But...... 10 May 2004
In rape cases, to point out some problematic facts in the story told by the plaintiff would often be branded as �gthe second rape�h.
Still, as a Japanese, I must stand up here and make the argument for the sake of the honors of our own grandfathers who may have been falsely accused for this disgusting crime of �gsex slavery�h because, in fact, there are lots of suspicious inconsistency in this auto-biographical account of Maria Rosa Henson.
The followings are only few examples of the small-but-cannot-plainly-be-ignored problems in Ms Henson�fs account;
<1> The �gcomfort station�h where Ms Henson was taken in and forced to be a �gcomfort woman�h was also the Japanese Army headquarters and garrison. To be precise, the downstairs was the headquarters (and bathroom?) and the upstairs was the �gcomfort station�h. But, that kind of arrangement is extremely odd for the Japanese Army who was renowned by their reputation of �gdecency�h, at least for the facade, I would moderately add.
<2> Ms Henson says that the Japanese soldiers would shout �gMiyo tokai [no] sora [akete]!�h as they do their daily exercise and when the routine was over, they shouted �gbanzai!�h three times. This is, again, very odd. The former is a song with nice melody that I don�ft think suits for exercise. And, although �gbanzai�h can be casually used like, say, �ghurrah!�h, it should be a special occasion when people shout it �gthree times�h. Similarly, the Japanese use the word �gbaka�h(stupid) with some kind of affection even when used with a punishment of slap. So, again, Ms Henson�fs claims that evil Japanese torturing people shouting �gBaka!�h seems quite odd.
<3> Ms Henson would ask herself: �gWhy did I not try to escape? Because they might kill me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
This is a good book as it illumiinates the horrors of war and the strength of human courage & dignity. Unfortunately, people such as 'Hiromi' who have reviewed it below, in typical right-wing Japanese fashion end up denying or trying to cast doubt on events that undoubtedly took place, but unfortunately there are still a fair number of Japanese who like to deny this, which is why there is still so much mistrust of Japanese in Asia even today. Read this book, it will give you an insight of the good & bad of human conduct in war.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War crimes 3 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
This is a very compelling story about the atrocities to which members of the Japanese army subjected a young Filipina girl. It is difficult, at times, to read and certainly not a book I would recommend for young readers. However, it definitely raised my awareness of the issue and the horrors experienced by these "comfort women". It also showed the resilience of women to love and survive again after such deplorable experiences.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Horrifying and Terribly Enlightening Account of Life in the Phillipines During WWII 14 Sep 2005
By Boiler Bro Joe - Published on
Hiromi's review of "Comfort Woman" is important to respond to because the book's importance comes from the fact that it is a true story. Not knowing anything about comfort women other than what was presented in the book itself, I believe I can still refute Hiromi's points:

The position of the comfort station, and the "odd" use of the words banzai and baka are no evidence against the authenticity of the author's story. To put it bluntly, most of us were not living in Japan during the 1940s and even less of us were on the front lines. We cannot say with any conviction how odd Japanese behavior would have been in that time period and under those circumstances.

The point that Maria could have easily escaped cannot simply be proved by the fact that one guard stood outside her room. No matter how "nice" he was to her, it's unlikely he'd simply let her leave, and even if he did (or if he could be tricked as Hiromi suggests) it's not as if there was a route, free of Japanese soldiers, leading straight from the garrison to safety. Maria constantly refers to Japanese sentries and checkpoints throughout the region, not to mention guards *outside* the building.

The doubt concerning how many Japanese troops would be available to rape Maria doesn't seem to be well founded. The entire purpose of comfort stations was to increase morale, and a losing battle would require more "comfort". Certainly there were always large numbers of troops present at and around the garrison. If sexual services were considered routine for young men to receive, most of them could free up their schedules.

The "more serious doubts" do not hold any more water. The idea that Maria could not learn complex Japanese military terms from her captors is probably true. But it would be foolish to think that Maria did not hear any simple vernacular from the young soldiers reminiscing about homes and girlfriends in Japan. Besides, she did not claim to be able to speak more than a few words, and coming to understand a language is very possible - particularly under extenuating circumstances. She was completely surrounded by the Japanese language - not being able to speak to any of the other Filipino women - and her young mind would definitely be able to pick up a good deal of it.

The second point - that Maria's inability to admit she was a comfort woman indicates she was a "prostitute" - can be refuted simply by putting yourself into her shoes (as impossible as that must be). She told Domingo she had been raped, referring to the incidents out in the countryside. She never admitted to being a comfort woman because that implies that she was raped by a huge number of men while in captivity. Being raped once was shameful enough to Maria and she could not bring herself to inform Domingo just how frequent it had been. Besides, rape is any sex act that is unwilling on the part of one person. Whether we consider her a "prostitute" or not is irrelevant, because she was forced into it that prostitution.

Hiromi's final point - that comfort women were paid - I cannot argue against without more knowledge. What I do know however, is that many Japanese documents concerning troop activity in Asia were burned - including, undoubtedly, many that Yoshiaki Yoshimi would have found useful. Whether some comfort women in various locations were treated better is up for debate, but has no bearing on Maria's story.

I'm not going to claim like another reviewer that these arguments are simply the words of some right-wing ideologue. Detractors of comfort women's claims aren't saying that Japanese soldiers were right to rape women, they are doubting the severity of the acts. And that is exactly why this book is so important - because it offers a first hand account of just how terrible those acts were. Hiromi's doubt is probably the result of an education system, whether in Japan or America, that glosses over war crimes committed in Asia and one that accentuates the reform Japan underwent after the war's end. Hiromi should not feel a need to defend soldier's actions from sixty years ago just because they share the same ethnic background. The sins of our fathers are not our own. But we run the risk of letting them happen again if we refuse to accept that they happened in the first place.

The present day Japanese government did not commit war atrocities during WWI, and recent backlashes against Japanese citizens in Asia only serves to further intolerance and misunderstanding. However, modern Japan, being built from the wealth and infrastructure of an oppressive imperialist power, has a responsibility to do all they can to compensate those wronged by their predecessor, and to educate their own citizens of the truth. In 1999 this book was published and sold throughout Japan, making Maria's story known to the general public for the first time. It's a start.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tragic story, horrible translation 23 Jun 2012
By M. Larson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First of all, I don't doubt one word of this woman's story. The ability for people to persevere during war is truly remarkable, and Rosa's story is no different. The Japanese enslavement of comfort women is well documented.

However, the translation and Kindle edition is very difficult to read. Random sentences and non-paragraphs appear out of nowhere. Also, parts of the beginning of the book seem almost like they are out of chronological order. It's a shame that the book couldn't have been translated and written to better honor Rosa's story. I am unhappy to have spent the money on a book so poorly laid out. I would have rather got it at the library.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant Narrative of Truth Worth Reading 17 Aug 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This poignant memoir of a Filippino woman forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II is moving and touching in its simplicity of style. Maria Rosa Henson teaches us truth in these pages, truth which we need to understand. We must all do what we can to see that our country votes properly in the United Nations on this issue. So far the USA is the only nation within the General Assembly of the UN which has refused to uphold that reparations be paid to the thousands and millions of sexual slaves who have been tortured and abused worldwide by the war machine and the various militarists who destroy our humanity everywhere across the globe. The one who has written this book is her personal testitmony to help other survivors.Read this memoir and its introduction. It's worth your education.
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