Masayoshi Matsumoto, now a retired Christian pastor aged 91, joined the Japanese army in 1943 as a medic. At that time he thought he was sent to China to participate to a justified war to free Asia from the Western imperialism, but 70 years later he talks about the war atrocities and the sufferings of Asian women forced to work in Japanese military brothels.
“I feel like a war criminal. It is painful, but I must speak. I think that to speak out is the meaning of my being alive,” said Matsumoto, who returned to Japan in 1946 and later became the pastor of a Christian church.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto outraged the local and international community last week, when he said the so-called “comfort women” forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers during World War II were “necessary” in order to reduce soldiers’ stress and aggressive behavior. Hashimoto added that is not fair for Japan to be the only one condemned for using military brothels, as there were other countries to do so during World War II.
During wartime, Matsumoto helped doctors examine Korean women in order to prevent the spread of venereal diseases. The examined women were used in the military brothels to provide sexual services for officers and non-commissioned officers. The system and the way women were treated were “inexcusable”, he said.
“Just because someone else kills people, is it all right to be a murderer? That is no excuse,” Matsumoto said. “The prime minister of Japan should apologize properly as the representative of the nation and compensate those who should be compensated.”
Women had no choice but to obey, Matsumoto said. “No matter if they wanted to flee, there was no way to escape”. Recalling those times, Matsumoto said that soldiers lining up for sex would unfasten their leg wrappings and lower their trousers so as to waste no time when their turns came. “It was like they were going to the toilet,” he said.
“We were taught that it was the mission of Japan, the mission of the Japanese people, to liberate Asian countries from European colonialism,” he said, pointing that only later he realized that Japan was doing something wrong.
“When I think of it now, it was monstrous, but I did not think so then.”