Fans of Japanese political kerfuffles can thank Kikko for letting us know how we can get T-shirts commemorating Health and Labor Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa’s clueless statement implying that women are “child-bearing machines.” No maternity sizes available yet, unfortunately.
You can get some background on this and Abe cabinet’s other “gaffe” scandals here, but basically the opposition parties went nuts over this misstatement, sitting out on Diet deliberations (a move that goes against the supposed principles of a Japan’s proud new truly parliamentary system) on a supplementary budget to carry over Japan for the rest of the fiscal year. They came back after this tactic of shrilly lambasting the LDP produced only mixed results in local elections, and then Acting President of the DPJ Naoto Kan made a strikingly similar flub: “Tokyo’s birth productivity is low”. So, as with other recent scandals, the DPJ comes off looking no better than the LDP.
But as clueless and tactless as senior members of both major parties may be, Kikko, true to form, has used the opportunity presented by the Yanagisawa scandal to remind us of just how conservative, bigoted, and clueless Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe can be. In a recent post entitled “Are women prostitution machines?”, the mysterious political/fishing show/Evangelion-themed pachinko blogger first notes that the opposition has focused on the wrong part of Yanagisawa’s statement – His main point was that women have an obligation to have kids — highly inappropriate in a free society if you ask me (and Kikko of course).
But she goes on to inform us that before becoming prime minister, Abe was part of a Diet caucus called “Council of Junior Diet Members to Consider Japan’s Future and History Education” that released a book in 1997 entitled “Questions on History Education.” The book consists of minutes of debates among the members of this right-leaning group. His statement (made while Abe held no leadership posts in the party, the Diet, or the cabinet) was made in reference to claims that Korean “comfort women” who claim they were forced to serve as prostitutes at military brothels during WW2 were barred by Confucian mores from speaking about their plights for 50 years:
“Even though they say that from a Confucian perspective they had no choice but to remain silent for 50 years, I wonder if [Korea] really is that kind of society. Actually, in Korea there are “kisaeng houses” and a lot of people are doing a lot [of prostitution there] on a daily basis. Therefore, I think this is [considered] not to be something that’s unacceptable, but actually quite a part of daily life. I’d like to ask you, Mr. Ishihara (given name Nobuo, the previous Vice Chief Cabinet Secretary) whether you’ve ever felt some suspicion about that.”
So essentially Abe is implying that if prostitution is just a normal part of Korean culture (and it is, according to him), then why are these women all up in arms about having served the Japanese military? Kikko explains that if this is how Abe sees women then he’s far worse than Yanagisawa.