Japanese Writers and their Take on Comfort Women Issues

Even if the war ended in the mid-1940s, it was only in the 1990s when the issue on Korean, Chinese, Filipino and Vietname Comfort Women was opened to the public. These women are females who were forced into sexual slavery that would serve the Japanese military during the Second World War. Though there were hundreds and thousands of women who suffered from this ordeal, the conservative nature of society during the time inculcated in them a hesitation to cry out for help.  It was only when the media started digging up dirt and took a serious look at this issue that tiny voices of women became larger than life and fought against this issue.

Comfort Women

The rising concern and anger regarding the issue has led to studies and researches regarding what truly happened to these Comfort Women and why it took decades before the issue started to come out. Literature experts, researchers, anthropologists, historians and all those concerned came from different corners of the world to make their own investigations regarding the matter. One by one, they started to uncover the truth.

There are even Japanese writers who made their own works regarding the matter. One particular writer, named Senda Kakou wrote a book entitled “Comfort Women” in 1973. Compared to other writers, Senda focused on the Japanese participants of what is then called as Comfort Stations. His work was the first post war piece that ever mentioned the idea of comfort women during the war. Not being able to believe his words, people, historians and the government accused his work to be distorted and fraudulent. With this he was widely criticized and the issue died down until activism on the issue sparked up again in the 90s.

Indonesian Comfort Woman, her testimony

In 1989, another Japanese journalist created his own testimony of the issue. He too was accused to be fraudulent. In 1996, he admitted that his testimony was fictional, though there is some degree of truth behind what he wrote, some parts of his memoir was mixed with a few of his own assumptions.

These two people are only some of those who were daring enough to write about their own accounts regarding what happened during the war before activism on the issue rose to popularity in the 90s, may it be based on what they saw or heard, nobody will ever truly know until the facts within these works are proven to be true.

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What it took to be a DiVA

It is common for large idol groups from Asia’s music industry to subdivide into smaller units to produce a separate brand or music. Often times, the large group and the subunit work simultaneously with releases from both groups without any conflict of interest. This is so that each member can get the exposure that they need and let the fans appreciate this greater exposure from their favourite talents.

DiVA, in particular, was a sub-unit of the most popular Female Japanese pop group called AKB48. It was formed originally in 2011. This subunit is consisted of Sakaya Akimoto, Ayaka Umeda, Yuka Masuda and Sae Miyazawa. They are supposedly the first “Dance and Vocal Unit from AKB48”, maximizing both singing and dancing talents to provide excitement and enjoyment to listeners and fans. Their fame was short lived; due to their very busy schedules and continuous performances with AKB48, they were only able to release two songs in 2011 and one single in 2012. One of the members, specifically Yuka Masuda left in 2013.  Meanwhile, Akimoto Sakaya also left AKB48 on August of 2013 but it was announced that she would still continue her work with DiVA.

After being in active since 2012, the group released a statement in 2014 that they will be able to release a new single in 2014. The group even promised that the Masuda, the member who left temporarily in 2013 is returning for this new single. However, the fans were soon disappointed as this uplifting news entailed the announcement that this new single is unfortunately their last. The group officially disbanded in their farewell concert on the 30th of November, 2014. For further sad news, by the time that DiVA disbanded, all members of the group left AKB48 as well and have already been transferred to different groups.

DiVA members

Though the concept of DiVA was promising, there were a lot of factors that hindered their success. For instance, all of them have performances with AKB48 which happen almost on a daily basis. Their very busy schedules, as well as their personal appointments and events have hindered them in meeting up and formulating their album. Though they were able to perform in various events, there were no major career launching debut that happened.

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Empress Jingu, the Legend of a Woman Leader

Though many people think it is uncommon, there are still a number of women in Japanese history that was able to rule the Chrysanthemum throne. One of the most legendary was Empress Regent Jingu.

She was a Japanese Empress, the consort of Emperor Chuai before the year 201. Upon the death of her husband she was made Empress Regent until their son, Emperor Ojin was the right age to become Emperor of Japan. In history, she used to be considered as the 15th Sovereign of Japan having ruled the country for a long time and according to the traditional order of succession. However, her name was removed from the list after a re-evaluation of historical records and the title of 15th Sovereign was given to her son, Emperor Ojin.

Historians of today have found very limited evidence of her existence in historical literature and other primary sources of information. This led them to consider her as “semi-legendary” since it is difficult to prove that she did exist as a ruler of Japan during the earlier times. Though her existence was somehow real for she there were a few written records of her entitled as the consort of Emperor Chuai and the mother of Emperor Ojin, there were even more limited records of her actually ruling the country. This is the reason why she was re-evaluated and removed from the traditional order of succession.

Historical Portrait of Empress Jingu

What made her truly historical is the idea that it was her that begun Japan’s conquest in Korea. As the story goes, she led an army to invade Korea and returned to Japan after three years with victory. What makes her existence quite controversial is the fact that there were no records in Korea about her and her army. What was even more fantastic was that her son Ojin was born after her return and his father, the late Emperor Chuai, died before Empress Jingu journeyed to Korea. Since records in history are quite confusing with regards to date, it is unclear how the “three years” truly lasted in today’s time.

Whether or not her leadership was fictitious or not, her story still serves as an inspiring one. Being among the women who made their name in Historical Japan, she was still a legendary warrior.

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The Poisonous Wife

Not many know that a number of Japan’s most notorious murderers were women. This is because during the earlier times, with poison as their weapon and their accessibility to anything a person can consume (being an active participant in the comings and goings of a household), they can easily and quietly slip in quiet down someone using beverage or food. During the earlier times, even sometimes at this time and day, Japanese murderesses are referred to as dokufu which translates to the poisonous wife (even the mode of murder is not through poisoning). The most popular and the most studied poisonous wife is Takahashi Oden.

Oden was a beautiful woman, especially when she was young, leading her to marry at a young age to a man named Naminosuke. With their young and quite luxurious lifestyle, Oden and Naminosuke gambled away all their money. To the stroke of even more misfortune, the young Naminosuke got leprosy. They had nothing but with her husband’s illness, there are bills still to be paid and medical attention is greatly needed. To make ends meet she prostituted herself to foreigners. Through all the difficulties, her husband met his end. Some literature claims that Oden herself killed her husband by poisoning him, as she was tired of taking care of him and his health. She might have ended his life to free herself of Naminosuke. To validate this claim, she soon fell in love with some rogue, a man named Ichitaro Ogawa.

Portrait of Oden

Sick of her job as a prostitute and wanting more money to fend for themselves, they decided to rob one of Oden’s rich customers. While the man was asleep she slit his throat with a razor and left a fake suicide note by his body. However, it is not the perfect crime that she had planned for the police soon tracked her down. When she was captured, she was convicted of her crimes and was sentenced to death. She is known in history to be the last woman in Japan to be executed through beheading.

Though there were other women like her, who committed crimes for money and wealth, Oden was one of the most popular where her stories were written in history books and other literary works. She was even used as an inspiration at times for characters in a number of Japanese period films.

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Neon Genesis Evangelion

The manga and animates series entitled Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the best animated series of all time. Thought the series was made entirely for the younger audiences, the themes, symbolisms and morale of the plot is impressively deep. It has a lot of influences and symbolisms with a variety of religions including Islam, Christianity and Shinto.

The Neon Genesis Evangelion falls under the mecha category and is a post-apocalyptic story of how mankind survived the worldwide cataclysm. The manga and the series are both set about 15 years after the disaster. The story tells the journey of a young teenage boy named Shinji Ikari in saving the world from another possible disaster that could potentially kill all of mankind. His father, the head of a special force team called NERVE was the one who summoned Shinji to the mission. NERV is a special paramilitary force who creates giant Evangelion Bio-machines (giant robots controlled by man). It is called as such because it is synchronized to the nervous systems of their pilots. This shows how man struggles to keep ‘Angels’ from annihilating all of humanity.

Shinji Akari

The main character, Shinji, is a boy troubled and traumatized by life’s unfair events. Totally withdrawn from the world, he feels that he is “unnecessary” in the world and agreed to join the dangerous mission. This is on top of the fact that he was afraid of rejection from his estranged father that abandoned him when Shinji’s mother died.

The anime was greatly followed and a lot of people are truly influenced by the lessons taught by the film. It was made even more famous because of the very controversial ending which led to two different movies. The movies each provided an alternate ending based on the abstract and psychological analysis of the characters. It is rumoured that the films were made because so many were appalled by the original ending that lots of fans wrote to the creator, Hideaki Anno; some (the creator jokingly shared) expressed so much anger that the letters seemed similar to death threats. By 2013, largely attributed to its influence outside of Japan, all merchandise under this animated franchise grossed a record breaking 150 Billion Yen.

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Eri Sato, the Face of Japan

Eri Sato, known by her stage name Rola, is famous for Japan for her beautiful face. It was said that she was approached by a talent scout when she was walking along the streets of Shibuya when she was just in high school. Her popularity really originated from her very exotic face – as her father was Bangladeshi and her mother a mix of Japanese and Russian descent. This made her appearance a fresh new look for the Japanese which immediately launched her into stardom.

The Beatufiul Rola

She is known as the Face of Japan because majority of her work on Television is for modelling. Her face is everywhere. There are ads of her on the subway, on television and even on places such as vending machines and buses. She was loved by the camera and her charming personality is even loved more by her fans. She is known best for her regular appearances for the Japanese fashion magazine called Vivi. After that she moved her career into even greater heights by being in mainstream fashion runways where her looks immediately sell to the audiences. Later on, in 2011, she ventured her career beyond pictures and commercials and starred in a television show (Shabekuri 007) as a Talent or a TV personality.

It seems that she wanted to expand her talents and test her versatility even more when she debuted as a musical artist in 2011 when she was featured on Issa and SoulJa’s song I Hate u. In 2012, she made her solo debut for a theme song in the film Kyurem vs. The Sacred Swordsman: Keldeo (Pokemon). This song was successful and even peaked at number 14 on the Oricon Chart on the first week of its release.

Though she was not a regular artist nor is she an actress, her following on media is very impressive. Evidence to this would be when she joined Twitter in 2012 and gained over 190,000 followers after the first three days. Only a few months later, she exceeded the 1 Million mark. Today, in 2014, she has the fourth highest following record for Japanese celebrities, and second among all Japanese female celebrities.

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The Success of JPOP

The Japanese Pop music industry, more commonly referred to as JPOP, is an international sensation. Its unique appeal is known throughout the world and makes even non-Japanese speakers sing along. It is a popular musical genre which started in Japan around the 1990s and are deeply rooted from and influenced by traditional Japanese music. However, even if it is influenced by traditional Japanese music, post war Japanese music has started being influenced by western music such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys. By the 1970s, prior being labelled as pop music, this genre was considered as “new wave” with strong accents of electronic beats and many more.

Back in the 1990s, boy bands and girl groups were very popular that a lot of groups started sprouting out of nowhere. However, as the world reached the new millennium music was significantly changed again. Members from old boy bands and girl groups started opting for solo careers and venturing into other genres of music. Surprisingly, it was in the late 2000s that girl groups and boy bands started going back to the music scene; this time bringing even more surprises and flavor. Most of these groups become ambassadors of fashion, where trends are newly set influencing not only the Japanese but neighboring countries as well.  Most often than not, these groups are not only talented in singing. Majority of members are also great dancers, actors and models. The JPOP artists of today are much more diverse and holistic  – venturing into different forms of media. A group normally have strong dancers, great voices and even rappers for many. They diversify not only their talents but the quality of their music as well. Singing ballads and love songs are not the only focus that they have.

ARASHI – Most popular Japanese male idol group

It was because of the appeal of the artists that attracted millions of fans all over the world. Non-Japanese singers become die-hard fans of these JPOP groups that they start learning the language through listening to the songs. The biggest competition of the JPOP would be their Korean counterparts, aptly called as KPOP music. JPOP, though its popularity has been challenged in the recent years still continue to flourish not only in Japan but throughout the globe.

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Top 3 Favorite Anime Couples

No story, whether its shoujo or shounen, will ever be complete without a little bit of romance. For the girls’ manga, it is quite expected that majority of the themes are comedic and romantic because this is the common nature of the commercialized Shoujo Manga. Even manga intended for male readers (Shounen manga) with their action packed scenes and thrilling events have their characters intertwined in a certain love affair at one point of the story. Almost all manga have a highlighted couple but there can only be three titled as among the most favourite.

  1. Naruto and Hinata

A lot of fans call this as the NaruHina couple and is widely popular for all readers and fans of the manga and animated series called Naruto. What is special about the two is that their love story is subtle but is clearly seen to grow through the very long series. The series started out with the young characters with their childish attitudes and personalities. In fact, Naruto was often seen commenting on how “weird” and “timid” Hinata was in the first episodes of the series. As the story progressed, it is seen that the characters also mature and grow older; as they do the love that they feel for each other (though not explicitly expressed) was growing deeply as well.

The Last_ Naruto The Movie lNaruHinal by DarkAlx

NaruHina Couple

  1. Ichigo and Rukia

The series itself has never highlighted nor hinted that Ichigo and Rukia as a couple but Bleach fans will always want the two to be end up together. All of this rooted from the fact that the two has always saved each other’s lives a number of times throughout the entire series. Plus the fact that each of them seems to be hiding their feelings for each other as there are times they are depicted to be embarrassed and even cheering each other up.

  1. Kauru and Kenshin

Throughout the story, it may have been Kenshin’s first love that changed him into the gentle being that he is but it was Kauru who let him let go of his past and eventually forgive himself. Though Kauru found out who he used to be, she still accepted him and helped him through his personal ordeals – the past that keeps on haunting him. Their love for each other started with friendship which blossomed into a romantic and inspiring love story.

image by deviantart (Naruto: The Last, Movie)

Women Warriors from Historical Japan: the Onna Bugeisha

Even during the historical Japanese times, there were women who played roles of men. Despite what society has labelled them as, there were a lot of women who surpassed the stereotype and diversified their roles beyond the “house wife” image of ancient Japanese women. The primary role of women at the time was to protect their families – both their home and their honor. And this they did, but not as how most people expected them to.

The Onna Bugeisha were women warriors who belonged to the upper class of the Japanese society. As men of the family leave to perform their duties at war, it is the responsibility of the women who are left behind to protect their family and their homes. This is also true for communities who lack male fighters significantly in number. With this thinking, wives, widows, daughters and even rebels were trained to use weapons. They were taught different techniques of fighting, learning just like how Samurais at the time learned. Furthermore, there were some women who even fought alongside samurai men at war, which is why they are sometimes referred to as female samurai.

Woman Samurai

It is inspiring to learn about the existence of these women and how they played a role in social change of Japan. Some of these warrior women were even known to be the head of certain clans. The best example of the ideal Onna Bugeisha is Empress Jingu, who was taled to have led an invasion of Korea in 200 AD, led men towards victory without even a drop of blood. She was inspiring to all women and men alike, where she even became the first woman to become featured on a Japanese banknote (c. 1881).

Sadly, as Samurai men became less like warriors and more bureaucrats and politicians, the role of women in war also diminished. Soon, in the Edo Period, women became very important in many clans’ ambitions for power and wealth. With this image, women who were like Onna Bugeishas were strongly discouraged and frowned upon leading to the ideals of passiveness and civil obedience replacing the then old images of women warriors.

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Yukishiro Tomoe: Kenshin’s Mysterious Wife*

The series (Samurai X) largely focused on how Kenshin Himura  (the well-known Battousai) was a gentle being, a nomad and a traveller. However, as the storyline progresses the plot reveals that Kenshin Himura had a violent past. It is not until later that his change from The Battousai to the present day Kenshin Himura was influenced by a mysterious woman named Yukishiro Tomoe. As the series progresses it becomes clear that Tomoe has passed away and her death took a significant change and influence to the new Kenshin.

Tomoe Yukishiro

She is a young woman, a daughter of a Samurai. She was originally promised to marry a man from a family of the same rank. Wanting to impress his new wife, Kiyosato (Tomoe’s husband) left for Kyoto to join the Mimawarigumi. However, while at service he was killed by the famed assassin known as the Hitokiri Battousai. Angered by her husband’s death, Tomoe ran away from home and went to Kyoto in hopes of avenging her husband and putting an end to the Battousai’s life.

As the story goes, based on the manga and the animated series, when she ran away from home she was hired as a spy and her secret mission was to kill the Battousai. They were put in a pretentious circumstance where they are to travel together and act as husband and wife. Later on, it is revealed that the two fell in love with each other deeply and Tomoe had to confess her secret mission to her supposed victim. Fortunately, she was forgiven by Kenshin and they vowed to marry each other for real. In the unexpected turn of events, her failure in the mission has consequences that she has to pay for. The saddest thing was that she had to pay with her life – with her beloved as the one claiming it. The famous ‘X’ facial scar trademark was actually done to him by Kiyosato before his death and Tomoe the night she died. The two marks (done at different times) are quite symbolic of his (Kenshin’s) past and how much he regrets all that he did. After killing the love of his life with his own hands, he swore that he would atone for his sins and never kill again.

*Spoiler Alert

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