South Korea Urges Japan to Apologize for Wartime Sex Slavery

South Korea’s first female president urges Japan to apologize for their use of wartime sex slavery

Over 200,000 women are reported to have been rounded up as sex slaves or comfort women by the Japanese during World War II. The ongoing debate about Japan’s involvement in the recruitment of comfort women has proven to be very controversial, especially with countries like South Korea, the United States, and China criticizing it.  Historians and official records have already established that various countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, China, and Taiwan have all confirmed about the use of their women as sex slaves during the war. Japan, however, denies it.

As Japan continues to deny responsibility over the issues, relations of the country with South Korea and China have been turning sour. Nationalist politicians and other citizens of the country have also been downplaying the severity of Japan’s involvement in the issue. With this, a Japanese Newspaper, Asahi, has been heavily criticized and has angered a lot of people because of its release of several articles regarding comfort women.

apan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe downplays Japanese government’s role in recruiting comfort women

Several articles on comfort women and sex slaves during World War II have been the center of Asahi’s recent downfall as Japan ”reliable” newspaper. Over 2,000 people are suing the newspaper demanding for an official and public apology for its coverage of wartime sex slavery. According to these people, it is Asahi’s fault that Japan has a stained reputation. The class action suit was filed at the Tokyo District Court and the suit demands for Asahi to pay 3 million yen in compensation and write apologies in their American and European newspapers.

On the other hand, mainstream Japan’s opinion towards the issue still seems to accept the responsibility of the Japanese government in the use of comfort women. This long-debated issue has definitely affected the lives of many comfort women from all parts of the world. However, not many seem to remember that it has also affected Japanese comfort women.

State Guest House for 2020 Olympics

Hamarikyu Gardens

Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens, today, is commonly known as a public park by the Sumida River where visitors can go have a walk and drink tea and have some sweets in a traditional tea ceremony style. It is a place where you can go back to nature and appreciate it for its beauty. However, not many visitors known that the ground they are walking on has a great deal of historical value. Before the park was opened in 1946, the land it is situated on used to house the villa of the Shogun Tokugawa family in the 17th century. Known as the Enryokan guest house, the building was initially built as a naval facility near the end of the Edo period. In the Meiji Period, the building served as the country’s state guest house until 1883. However, it was torn down in 1890 due to its age.

The historic value of the place is what convinced authorities to resurrect the original structure in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The building will recreate its first guest house to officially greet the foreign dignitaries of the Olympics. The Tokyo Metropolitan government also found it as a suitable venue because it could offer Japanese-style hospitality, and exudes the essence of the country’s traditional culture.

Aerial view of the lot

The Tokyo Metropolitan government also estimates to have a budget draft of 100 million yen for the onsite research. It will also fund the design of the building. To start researching on the design of the project, the local government still has to gain the approval from the commissioner for cultural affairs. Architectural designs for the Enryokan building are set to be made by the next fiscal year. The revival of the venue will surely have a lot of historical and cultural impact for the 2020 Olympics. It displays Japan’s efforts in making the event as meaningful as possible.

Photos from Japan Guide and Famous Wonders

Japan’s Comfort Women Issues

 

Japan outraged by McGraw Hill high school textbook piece on comfort women

Japan is a country with people who pride themselves over their nationality. Known all over the world as a very nationalistic people, the Japanese have showed the rest of world how much they value and honor being Japanese. In fact, the Japanese are so nationalistic that mixed race Japanese people, called hafus, in the country have often felt discriminated and isolated in society. The Japanese government itself has also been known to promote the integrity and reputation of the country. However, recently, the country’s nationalistic points-of-view and efforts have been criticized widely by the rest of the world. This is because Japan has been doing efforts to rewrite and whitewash its history of wartime atrocities during World War II.

Time and again, Japan has been downplaying its role in committing acts of violence and abuses during the Second World War. This includes its harsh treatments of other nationalities, and its forced recruitment of comfort women all over the world including South Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese comfort women. This is probably why a study conducted in Japan and South Korea show the gap between the youth’s knowledge of these issues. It showed that Japanese students believe that Japan has done enough to redeem itself, while South Korean students believe that Japan needs to do more.

Protesters hold pictures of comfort women

If anyone has seen the news lately, that person would notice how much the issue has come back to light. This most likely has to do with Japan’s unwillingness to take responsibility over the events of the past and to apologize for them. In a similar controversy, a US text book published by McGraw-Hill stated that Japan’s use of comfort women is a historical fact, to which Japanese officials have rebutted. The ongoing efforts of Japan to correct these so called factual errors have so far been dismissed by the publisher stating that “Scholars are aligned behind the historical fact of ‘comfort women, and we unequivocally stand behind the writing, research and presentation of our authors.”

Photos from twicsy and the guardian

Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine

Tension rises among East Asian countries due to the unique history they share. The region’s dilemma on history has been growing due to the growing nationalism in China, Japan and South Korea. They have each pointed out the errors on the interpretation of historical narratives. They fight over territory and natural resources to war memorials and textbooks. It is crucial for them to get pass of their indifferences in order to forgw a common future that benefits all.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea has been getting worst due to the growing nationalism. The rift between this two countries started over territorial disputes. Such rift hampered the ability to further bilateral agreements that could have improve their relations. It would be problematic if Japan and South Korea doesn’t fix their relations because China would capitalize on it.

The entrance of the shrine

China has recently been reinforcing negative stereotypes of rival countries. President Xi Jinping relies on nationalism in order to improve his standing to his constituency. He declared two new national memorial days to commemorate China’s long battle against Japanese aggression in World War II. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have further aggravated the situation when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is a controversial memorial that honors among others Class A war criminals from World War II. The visit happened because Abe was forced to do so when China declared an air-defense identification zone covering territories that it claims but does not control. China further fueled the conflict when Korea’s President Park Geun-hye asked Xi Jinping to honor Korean actvist Ahn Jung-geun. Ahn assassinated Japan’s first prime minister, Hirobumi Ito at the railway station in the Chinese city of Harbin. Koreans consider him to be a hero while Japan considers him to be a terrorist. China seized the opportunity to further drive a wedge between Korea and Japan.

Photos from Japan Guide and telegraph

Hakone Open Air Museum

Hakone Open Air Museum majority has modern pieces

Locals in metropolis often experience stress in their lives. It is necessary for some of them to have a place to relax and discover new things. It is typical for Tokyoites to spend their weekend getaway in mountains, lakes and onsens. Majority of the time these Tokyoites opt into going to Hakone. It is just less than 100 kilometers and just an 85 minute train journey from central Tokyo. Visitors would be delighted to see scenes straight out of a classic Hiroshige ikiyo-e woodblock print, distant Fuji views across a misty lake, flanked by dramatic rocky bluffs and deciduous forest reflecting the glory of the seasons.  Hakone became popular during the Edo period (1603-1868). It used to be a checkpoint for travelers using the Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) route in order to monitor incoming guns and outgoing women or to detain the wives of feudal lords attempting to escape from their shogun captors in Edo.

Museum also has many sculptures within its grounds

The place is a major source for hot mineral waters. It actually has 17 sources of hot mineral waters surrounding the town, with 25,000 tons gushing from the volcanic bedrock each day. Tourists could stay in hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) that has a private indoor and outdoor spa facilities. They could also choose to go into several public bathhouses. Tourists would also be delighted in the theme park-like Kowakien Yunnessun which offers novelty sake, green tea, coffee and red wine baths as well as Roman style baths, water slides and traditional Japanese outdoor rock pools. People who are not into the public bathhouses could opt into going to a world class open air art gallery displaying some of the world’s most significant modern sculpture. The Hakone Open Air Museum was opened in 1969. It has more than 120 grand scale works scattered around 70,000 square meters. Art enthusiasts would see the difference with regular museums due to the different modern art works seen in the museum.

Images by: Travelneu and Filination

Japan-South Korea Undersea Tunnel

The suggested routes of the tunnel

Today, reports have been rampant about the ongoing debates about Japan’s willingness to rewrite its past during World War II. Since the controversy of comfort women broke out from various parts of Asia and the world, Japan has been very unclear and fickle-minded when it came to its responsibility over the issue. With Japan and South Korea’s recent debate on the issue of South Korean comfort women, one would wonder how these two countries ever got along before the issue resurfaced. These two countries, both powerful and influential, certainly have a lot of things they can benefit from each other. Setting issues and debates aside, there is no denying the potential in having these two countries strongly linked.

Did you know that during 1917, before the Second World War, talks between the two countries being link economically, physically, and geographically were already taking place? Now, you might wonder how the two can be physically and geographically linked. Well, for almost a century now, a proposed plan of connecting Japan and South Korea via undersea tunnels. A location for the tunnel has also been strategically thought out by experts. According to them, the most ideal place to have the tunnel is under the Korea Strait. The tunnel would be connecting the two countries using the strait islands Iki and Tsushima with a distance of at least 128 kilometers.

If China, South Korea, and Japan were connected by undersea tunnels

A proposal of this nature has been brought up numerous times in public discussions. Both countries have expressed great interests on the project, but somehow it has never moved forward. However, imagine the numerous opportunities a project like this can bring. It will definitely change the face of tourism, trade, and business. A project this big could cost over 50 billion euros. Talks of adding China to the link have been brought up as well. Imagine having these three super countries connected with each other. Now that would really be something.

Photos from byeways.net and pagef30

Yokohama Ramen Museum

Inside the Yokohama Ramen Museum

There is no mistaking that ramen, or Japanese noodle soup, has made quite an impact in and outside of Japan. There is nothing like a flavorful steaming hot bowl of soup and noodles. It is one of the cultural trademarks of Japanese food. In fact, the Japanese love it so much that when cooking became tedious, they invented instant noodles. The genius that is instant noodles was invented by Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, who was also listed in TIME Magazine’s “60 Asian Heroes”, in 1958. It was marketed by today’s leading instant noodle manufacturer, Nissin, which was also founded by Ando. Since then, instant noodles have become a worldwide phenomenon touching the lives of billions of people.

The impact instant noodles have made in the world will always be one of Japan’s greatest achievements. In 2010, surveys showed that around 95 billion servings of instant noodles are consumed every year. To celebrate its pride over the invention of the instant noodles, a museum fully dedicated to it was established. The Yokohama Ramen Museum by Nissin continues to be a popular destination for tourists and locals. It spans several floors that feature everything that has to do with ramen, from its history, invention, and manufacture.

Some of the museum’s features are the Wall of Ramen, which is a display of Nissin packages that every single kind of ramen came in with. Another is the Ramen Hut, which features the ramen consumption of every country. The Instant Ramen History Cube explains the evolution of flavors and packaging put out by the company. The Creative Thinking Box is where visitors can witness the thinking process of Momofuku that led to his invention of the instant noodles. The Momofuku Theater also features an animated movie about the development of the product.

One of the biggest highlights of the museum is the Chicken Ramen Factory where people book a session to make chicken ramen by hand. The main event is the My Cup Noodles Factory where visitors get  the chance to make their own cup noodles by choosing the toppings and broth flavor. The end result is then put in a vacuum-sealed plastic container. A visit to the museum costs around 500 yen.

image by siamkane.com

Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace

Portraits of former comfort women are displayed in the museum

When news of sexual slavery played a significant role in Japan’s wartime atrocities, public outrage was the immediate response. Although Japan comfort women initially consisted of volunteers, the increase in demand for women led to violent crimes. Matters even worsened when Japan’s government finally admitted to such crimes happening during the war. Several attempts at making amends were done by the government since the 1990s, but today, the issue has quietly been dying down. This is because the Japanese government today has been downplaying the severity of the issue.

As an effort to remind Japan and the rest of the world of the atrocities done during and before World War II, a Tokyo exhibit on the issue was established. The exhibit was held at the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, and will be shown for five months. The museum, which opened in 2005, was envisioned back in 2000 when the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery was held. It was Violence Against Women in War-Network (VAWW-NET) Japan’s chairperson, Yayori Mitsui, that inspired the establishment of the museum. Mistui was a Japanese journalist and women’s rights activist.

WAM’s objectives

The museum’s purpose is to house and preserve all records and materials related to comfort women during the war. The museum also features testimonies of comfort women who survived the war. One of those survivors is Remedios Felias, a Filipino, who failed to escape after a counterinsurgency operation. She was caught and raped by Japanese soldiers at the age of 14. During the day, she was forced to do chores, while at night, she was raped. According to Eriko Ikeda, the director of the museum, the museum also aims to provide basic information on the issue to the youth. Apparently, the issue has also been disappearing among the country’s junior high school textbooks. They have also been prompted by politicians and public figures who try to downplay the issue.

There is no doubt that since the survivors broke their silence, their stories challenged people. As the issue remains to be a controversial one, it is nice to see people in the country admitting to the mistakes of the past, and working towards eliminating it in the country’s future.

Photos from luvmegumi and wam-peace.org

Toyosu Island

Toyosu Pier

Toyosu is one of Japan’s earlier man-made islands. It is amazing to think that this was built in the 1930s, which is more than some countries can ever say. Even though the country has made several islands, it does not mean that they should be any less valued. Yes, there are several artificial islands more popular and populated than this one, but Toyosu has something special about it that the government today sees.

In fact, since its creation in 1937, the island was even enlarged. However, infrastructures and developments were somewhat limited on the island. It may have been due to its small population or its distance from Tokyo. Whatever the reason is, what matters is what it can be for the future of Japan. Many may not know this but Toyosu was once considered by former Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, as a place to relocate the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. However, due to controversies, the plan did not push through.

Today, Toyosu is being revived and incorporated into the plans for the 2020 Olympic Games. Its long overdue potential is now being recognized and being put into motion. One of the most exciting things about this is the former governor’s plans are now pushing through. The Tsukiji fish market and several other markets are relocating to the island by 2015.

Infrastructures like the KR Toyosu, a seven storey office space, is part of the plan to revitalize the island. The real estate company in charg, M&G Real Estate, states that plan to build more transport infrastructure in the island will be helpful in connecting the area to Tokyo. With this, more people will have access to the island, and will therefore bring in more exposure and life to it.

Currently, the island has several existing properties such as the LaLaport, one of the largest shopping malls in the area. The mall also houses Kidzania, a small indoor theme park for children. It has a few condominiums like the Toyosu Tower, Park City Toyosu, and City Towers Toyosu. Several companies such as NTT Data and Nippon Unisys have also put up offices there. This is definitely an exciting time for the island.

Photo from Whereintokyo

Institute of Nature Study

Aerial view of the INS

If you are an avid nature lover, and you are interested in learning about Japan’s natural environment, the Institute of Nature Study (INS) is the right place for you to visit. Situated at the southern part of the capital, INS is definitely a treasure worth seeing. It is a place completely preserved of its origins, and is a great example of how beautiful the forests of Japan were thousands of years ago.

The INS is a 20,000 square meter area of pure natural heaven. There is no other place like Shirokanedai in Tokyo, which is now mostly an urbanized region. An interesting fact is that the region where the INS is located was created by marine erosion around 200,000-500,000 years ago. Though the origins of human activity in the area are unknown, several artifacts had been found around it.

In the Edo period, the region was transformed into the villa of Matsudaira Sanukinokami Yorishige, the lord of Takamatsu. In fact, some of the plants present in the INS are thought to have been present during this time. As the Meiji period emerged, the region was turned into a storage facility for gunpowder, under the Navy and Army. Shortly after, the place was taken over by the Imperial family and became its estate, the Shirokane Imperial Estate.

Finally, in 1949, the estate was handed over to the Ministry of Education. This was the start of the region’s development into a national park. To add to that the region also became a historical landmark. In 1962, it officially became the Institute of Nature Study.

Today, the INS is a sanctuary that preserves the natural beauty of old Tokyo. It serves as an educational and leisurely place for people to visit. Its collection of various plants and flowers are a true testament to Mother Nature herself. The entire area contains a forest, a marsh, and a pond. To complete the wildlife, insects, birds, and other creatures can also be seen in the area.

Being at the INS truly reminds people of the importance of preserving nature and its beauty. The peaceful, scenic, and inspiring environment of the INS is surely something you cannot miss.

Photo from Trip Advisor