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Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II (Asia Perspectives: History, Society and Culture) Hardcover – 9 Jan 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (9 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023112032X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231120326
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.1 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,549,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Crucial reading." -- Katha Pollitt, The Nation "Yoshimi, a reputable historian/scholar... has meticulously sleuthed out chronological data, exposing from its bitter outset that sordid, endless business of sexual slavery. Yoshimi's account extends to the essence of feminist political purpose... The book makes solid headway toward legitimizing his demands for public access to still-secret documents; acknowledging and apologizing for all violations of international law and war crimes and for failure to punish guilty parties; rehabilitating and compensating victims... A vigorous work, enhanced by a precise, graceful translation." -- Choice " Comfort Women's command of documentary materials makes it a landmark for historians, human rights activists and general readers." -- Georgette Fleischer, Los Angeles Times Book Review "As a piece of historical literature, Comfort Women is interesting as an in-depth look at the politics and psychology of a particular time, as much as it is a chronology of what happened to the comfort women and why they were forgotten. One of the most interesting things about it, however, is its unique place in history as the virtual smoking gun that supplied the damning evidence the world needed to hear in order to fully understand and come to grips with this issue...A convincing writer and powerful advocate, Yoshimi has shown by words and actions his willingness to campaign not only as an intellectual who loves the truth, but as a person of tough moral fiber who will stand up for human rights, even as a majority of one." -- Martha Vickery, Korean Quarterly "Yoshiaki's invaluable study explodes the claims of Japanese right-wing nationalists that comfort women were merely wartime prostitutes... Citing official military records and correspondence, he proves beyond doubt that the victims of this monstrous system were actually sex slaves subjected to repetitive rape and violence... [this book] belongs in most libraries." -- Library Journal (starred review) "it is necessary and compelling reading...invaluable addition...fascinating" -- Wendy Anderson, Asian Studies Review

About the Author

Yoshimi Yoshiaki is professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo, and a founding member of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan's War Responsibility.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
For more than sixty years now, women enslaved by the Japanese military during the Asia Pacific War have paid a terrible price to ensure the comfort of Japanese people. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Eyal on 30 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
There is no question that Yoshiaki's book is one with a mission and, as such, is flawed: throughout, he maintains a hectoring style, very similar to the way one makes a speech to an audience of committed political activists, rather than how one should write a scholarly book. So, as another reviewer here has already mentioned, it is a "biased" work in every possible way.

Furthermore, while Yoshiaki claims to have consulted a "wealth of documentation and testimony" in order to make his case, he does not distinguish between the critical bits of information, and the accidental. So, we do not know if one document on which he bases an argument is as important as another. Frequently, a report from a low official in a Japanese consulate somewhere in Asia gets the same prominence as an American or British report compiled on the basis of investigations at the end of the Second World War. The author simply jumps from one scrap of evidence to another, leaving the reader with the impression that all have equal value, and that all point in a similar direction. We are never told whether other documents which may exist in the Japanese archives prove the opposite, although we are given the hint - on two occasions - that the high military command in Tokyo enquired about the organisation of the military brothels. This may suggest that either the Japanese government organised the entire affair, or that it merely tolerated a process which started on the ground, without official approval. Either way, the question needs a more thorough examination.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
But there is nothing comfortable about the way these women from all over Asia were used by the Japanese Military during the war, May I also add that it was not just WW2 but in their war against Korea and China before the war of the world ever came about. A cruel and bitter look into the sordid side of a war, especially where women and children are concerned. Brilliant book though the subject doesn't shine one bit.
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4 of 19 people found the following review helpful By shiragamihiromi on 15 Nov. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Yoshimi Yoshiaki publicly (in a debate programme on TV, 1997) admitted that he had no evidence that substansiates his argument on the kidnapping and forcing women to serve as "sex-slaves" for the Japanese Army. Still, he published this book in the U.S.A. after his argument was completely debunked in Japan.
He is a shameless anti-Japanese Japanese.
How so? Well, I make my point by translating one vital document that show you completely opposite view of the issue and that Yoshimi cowardly hid from English-speaking readers although he showed a tiny bit of this document to make good-natured people think that there are really some evidences (p42).
This document is titled "Matters Regarding the Recruitment of Women Workers for Military Comfort Stations". Because this is classified, many people may think something fishy contained.
There are not. My abridged translation of the document (quoted from "Comfort Women Documents" edited by Yoshimi himself) is following.
< There have been worrying reports that there are some wicked traders who deceive women saying they had military authorisation to recruit women for their own brothels and, in fact, there are some cases of kidnapping. It is aprehended that, because of those men, people would misunderstand the Army's intentions and the honor of the Japanese Imperial Army is disgraced. From now on, by working with the local police, strictly examine the background of the traders before let him work at a comfort station.>
It was this very document that the left-wing Asahi newspaper reported triumphantly that the hard evidence of the Army's "involvement" to kidnapping women was eventually found.
Yet, there are more contradictory evidences to Yoshimi's augument.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Witnesses to the crime 10 Aug. 2007
By Kevin W. - Published on
Format: Paperback
My father was an intelligence officer in the Navy during WWII and was involved with debriefing a number of fairly senior Japanese officers during the war because he spoke Japanese reasonably well. One of the things that came out time and again is how the military systematically destroyed records because they feared that members of the military would be turned over to Chinese and Korean forces for trial.

The true depth of the abuses of the Japanese military vanished with those documents forcing us to use mostly oral sources to discover the truth. However the oral stories from around the Pacific Rim are largely the same: with a few notable exceptions young women were kidnapped and forced in to sex slavery.

Unlike the German government the Japanese government has never accepted their crimes. I suppose it's natural to be ashamed of so much cowardice and cruelty but it means that this wound will always blacken the whole nation of Japan, long after the criminals are all dead.

Why say all this? Because so much of this book relies on oral histories (even the best Japanese documents are often letters home that describe the brothels rather than official documents). The apologist cling to their desperate plea of "almost no official documents" as if somehow a government letterhead spelling out the crimes is better proof than a thousand tearful stories from a dozen nations that match so well that an organized system of sex slavery is clearly what existed.

Reading this is not easy and you may come away with a bias against the Japanese. Remember that many nations have committed dark acts and yet went on to do great and good things. It is not the purpose of this book to condemn a nation, merely to condemn the criminal cowardice of the Japanese Army of that time.

One day Japan will embrace that truth, and on that day they will have their honor back.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Engrossing and Intelligent 12 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is a delight to find a scholarly work that is so accessible to non-academics. This fascinating examination of "comfort women" should be read by every WWII scholar, feminist, historian, college student, and thinking person! Particularly of interest is the critical introduction; Ms. O'Brien (who translated the book from the Japanese) has provided an excellent overview that not only examines this work but demonstrates a wide comprehension of similar works by contemporary authors. Superb.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Upfront history education helps stop the ignorance & denial 13 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is books like these which are so important to educating those who are ignorant or in stubborn denial (like Unko Tamezou) of their past history. The history of the ianfu are just one of the many war crimes from the Pacific War that Japan continues to deny and/or treat lightly. Other countries, of course, are guilty of similar injustices to their own history, but Japan's is well-known and blatant. It is my hope that books and research like these as well as the gradual rise of Japanese witnesses to these war crimes continue to make the truth be heard so that defiantly nationalist people like Unko Tamezou may learn from the wrongs of her nation's past history and truly begin to understand why Japan sets itself up as a pacifist nation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
small font 27 Jun. 2013
By Raymond K. Wimer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found the font difficult to read. Perhaps others might like an electronic version where they might change the font and its size to suite their taste.
Must Read on this issue 9 May 2015
By T. Lee - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The seminal work that makes the case for the involvement of the Japanese government and military in the demand, setting up, and "staffing" of the comfort stations. Yoshimi has researched this well and carefully lays out his case. This book is a slam-dunk case and a must read.
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