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Is Osaka's Mayor Alone in Fighting Against the Comfort Women Statue in San Francisco?




Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura has vowed to “dissolve” Osaka’s sister city relationship with San Francisco in the United States “before the year’s out.” The reason has been much publicized—at least in Japan—regarding a possible decision by the Californian city to permit a statue falsely depicting young Koreans as “sex slaves” to be installed on public property.


To Yoshimura, it's a battle against the continued rewriting of history, which often casts Japan in a negative light. Yet, at home, the Osaka council has twice refused to approve a motion urging the San Francisco city government to reject the monument. Some also question whether Osaka could go it alone when foreign affairs are supposedly a domain of the central government and not of the local government. The office of San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee has yet to respond to his request for a meeting.


San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on the left and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura. The picture taken in August 2016 at San Francisco.



Yoshimura spoke to Sankei Shimbun newspaper on November 13th about the weakening relationship of trust between Osaka and San Francisco, further detailing the next steps if their sister-city ties are indeed severed.  




In September of this year, Chinese-American community groups erected a statue-cum-monument denoting comfort women as “sex slaves” on a private property in San Francisco, with the intention of donating it to the city itself. Mayor Yoshimura has vowed that “if San Francisco, as a municipality, accepts the donated statue, then we will dissolve the sister-city relationship.”





Yoshimura attempted to arrange a November meeting with Mayor Lee, as he “wanted to decide on a response after a one-on-one discussion.” The San Francisco local government rejected the suggestion, saying a meeting would be “inconvenient.” A second request for a December meeting was sent, but Osaka has yet to receive a reply as of November 13th.


In the interview, Yoshimura emphasized that sister-city relations are “built on a strong relationship of trust.” By accepting the statue, as a city, San Francisco would be engaging in “Japan- and, by default, Osaka-bashing.” In that kind of environment, “the premise for sister-city relations, the trust relationship, cannot grow.”


He said: “The lack of a reply to our request for a meeting can only be interpreted as meaning that they do not want to meet. If we are unable to meet, then the decision will be made in December.” Council consent is not required for the dissolution of sister-city relations; it can be decided at the mayor’s discretion.




Inaccurate Claims on Inscription


Yoshimura takes issue with the phrase “sexual slavery,” the figure of “hundreds of thousands [of victims],” and “died as slaves during the war” inscribed on the monument. These three points, he contends, “treat inaccurate, one-sided claims as though they are the truth, these claims [that] depart from the views of the Japanese government and are disputed even among historians.” The mayor added further, “They also differ to my own understanding of history.”


Moreover, Yoshimura referenced the 2015 Japan-Korea Agreement on the Comfort Women Issue that stipulates an agreement among the parties to refrain from criticizing one another in the international community. Pointing out that former US Secretary of State John Kerry and other government officials agreed to “endeavor to uphold the agreement in the international community,” Yoshimura said that America should also respect the content of the agreement. “The Mayor of San Francisco would be going against federal government policy direction by installing the statue and monument,” he said.



With regard to the view that local governments should not be personally involved in foreign affairs, as diplomacy is the national government’s specialty, Yoshimura argued: “If it were a state or federal-level issue, I would not say anything. However, as long as the City of San Francisco is our counterpart, as a sister-city, it is an issue that I should naturally comment on.” Yoshimura noted that in San Francisco, “the city council is proactively pressuring Mayor Lee to accept the comfort women statue.”


Regarding the Osaka city council twice voting down motions to urge the City of San Francisco to reconsider the decision to install the statue, Yoshimura said: “It is terribly disappointing. As far as the international community is concerned, it looks as though we agree with the erection of the statue and monument. Our silence will be interpreted as agreement.”



What’s Next?



There have been calls to just temporarily halt exchanges with San Francisco, rather than dissolving Osaka’s sister-city agreement. To this, the Mayor said, “It is pointless, since even if we halt relations, during that time the statue will be installed and become known worldwide.”


He said that concerns regarding the erection of the comfort women statue have been conveyed since the time former Mayor Toru Hashimoto held office: “If this proceeds, it will mean that they have prioritized the statue over sister-city relations. The trust between us will evaporate.”


If the sister-city relationship is dissolved, municipal celebrations to mark 60 years of municipal and mayoral exchange will be canceled. On the topic of grass-roots exchanges, such as the high school student exchanges run by the San Francisco Sister City Association, Yoshimura said: “Even if [the sister-city relationship] should be dissolved, if there were interest, I would like to continue to support that. I would like to support individual exchange as much as possible.”




(Click here and here to read the original articles in Japanese.)



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  1. Miwa Steve

    November 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Koreans are most afraid of FACT bombs

    Korean Jokes, after looking at this, Koreans run away silently.

    1) Koreans say that 200,000 girls have been abducted and they were made sex slaves.
    At that time, Why were the Korean brave guys trembling and hiding?

    2) Among the comfort women, there were some women who were taken to deceive.they were deceived by Koreans same ethnic people as them.
    The Korean government has never tried to capture the criminals and bring them to trial and the government have no intention of investigating offenders also currently.

    3) The comfort women problem started out from the South Korean side since the 1990s.
    During the negotiation of the Japan-Korea Basic Treaty (1965), the refund of savings of comfort women became an agenda.
    why did huge abductions and massacres did not become an agenda in 1965 which Korean are currently insisting?

    4) Although the Korean government is announcing we have many evidence of compulsory entrainment, the government has still not disclosed it as confidential information.
    The official view of the current Japanese government is that there is no proof of compulsory entrainment of comfort women.If the Korean government exposes the evidence, the argument about compulsory entrainment will is over.

  2. Miwa Steve

    November 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Osaka's Mayor is not alone.

    The third ranking from the top ranking of Yahoo's comment ranking today were articles in which San Francisco City acknowledged the establishment of a comfort woman.
    99.9% of the comment was a comment blaming San Francisco City.

    As a result of the development of the Internet, Japanese are aware of the history of Chinese and Korean lies

  3. Anthony Tony Marano

    November 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura is correct to question the sister-city relationship with San Francisco. If San Francisco insist on bashing Japan with this hunk of junk Comfort Women statue, then it is only proper for the city of Osaka to defend the honor of Japan by severing sister-city relationship with San Francisco.
    When the San Francisco City Council accepted this hunk of junk Comfort Women memorial, it in reality slapped the face of everyone in Japan. Those USA cities who enjoy a sister-city relationship with any municipality in Japan must understand when and if that relationship is abused, there will be consequences. In this case the consequence should be “sayonara” to San Francisco, Japan bashing in any form is unacceptable. Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, you are an honorable man.

  4. Devin Cook

    November 19, 2017 at 1:10 am

    Japanese people are out numbered in California I suppose, there isn't much you can do when the constituents pushing for it outweigh those who are against it. Honestly, I hate the fact that foreign politics are being dragged onto American soil and in the American court systems. I think the Federal and State governments should intervene to send a strong and clear warning to China, South Korea, and Japan, that The United States should not and shall not be a battleground for foreign issues and the attempt to sway immigrant populations should be considered propaganda by a foreign power. Also, the strong response only encourages and publicizes the statues.

    • FronTierFrank

      November 21, 2017 at 5:29 am

      You're absolutely correct about foreign issues having no place in America, and that was the central message by groups in Australia that successfully thwarted attempts to erect statues there. The Australian government officials appear to be more receptive to that way of thinking compared to their American counterparts. In CA, there's a congressman that attacks Japan and even the prime minister regularly to keep a part of his constituents happy. The alliance between the U.S. and Japan has become more important than ever, and hopefully more people will begin to realize that.

      • Devin Cook

        November 22, 2017 at 2:49 am

        So true, California politicians are some of the worst politicians on Earth, they say and do anything to get elected and remain in office, even if it makes no sense or is detrimental in the long run.

  5. matsuri

    November 18, 2017 at 4:23 am

    San Francisco is becoming the ground zero for the "discrediting Japan" campaign of Chinese Communist Party which is attempting to deter our friendship. With 50% of voters in San Francisco being Chinese descendant, it's easy for CCP to manipulate the psyche, and it is abusing the loophole of American political system. The simple fact is that all comfort women came from Japan and its annexed territories which were Korea and Taiwan, and they were prostitute by choice. No Chinese comfort women had ever existed, and yet, San Francisco's Anti-Japan campaign is piggybacking on the Korean sentiment


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