Militarised sexualities in occupied Japan
One of the first actions of the Japanese government on its defeat in 1945 was the creation of the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), for the purpose of providing sexual services to the occupying armies and thereby supposedly ‘protecting’ other women from sexual violence. The logic which had seen the setting up of military brothels for the Japanese army was replicated in the creation of the RAA for the Allied troops. In addition to brothels, there were dancehalls which replicated the practices of the 1920s, with soldiers buying tickets to dance with women known in English as taxi dancers (Mackie 2013: 79—82). The RAA was short-lived, however, due to pressure from the public in the Allied countries (Tanaka 2002). Furthermore, the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP) directed the Japanese government to abolish the system of licensed prostitution which had existed since the late nineteenth century, stating that licensed prostitution was in contravention of ‘the ideals of democracy’ and ‘inconsistent with the development of individual freedom’ (Koikari 1999: 322). Although prostitution and contracts of indenture were supposedly abolished, sex work continued and many sex workers continued to be bound to their employers through debt. Many women became streetwalkers. The Tokyo police regulated ‘special eating and drinking shops’ (tokushu inshokuten) and drew boundaries on maps of the city with ‘red lines’ (akasen) and ‘blue lines’ (aosen). After the end of the occupation, the Japanese government passed the Prostitution Prevention Law (Baishun bOshi ho) in 1956, to become effective in 1958 (see Aoyama in this volume).
SCAP was also, in co-operation with the Japanese police, involved in the forcible inspection of Japanese women suspected of engaging in prostitution, something which women protested against (Koikari 1999: 322-26).
A letter, ‘Venereal Disease Control’, dispatched by Headquarters, Eighth Army, to Commanding General, 24th Division, stated that infected Japanese women who solicited or had sexual intercourse with American soldiers committed crimes impinging on the security of the American forces. Japanese women, rather than the American soldiers, were held accountable for the spread of venereal disease. (Koikari 1999: 322)
Japanese women who worked in bars, dancehalls and brothels in occupied Japan and who fraternised with the occupying forces were stigmatised as ‘pan-pan’ girls (Sakamoto 2010; Koikari 1999: 321; Takeuchi 2010: 78-108). The etymology of the word ‘pan-pan’ is unclear, but it may have been a word used in the Pacific to refer to women who provided sexual services to members of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Kovner 2009: 783). Japanese women who fraternised with the occupying soldiers were demonised in popular culture, literature and films well beyond the occupation period (Sakamoto 2010; Molasky 1999). Of course, not all encounters between the occupying forces and locals involved heterosexual relationships. Homosexual American soldiers participated in and influenced Tokyo’s developing ‘gay bar’ scene. Cruising areas where local Japanese men sought out liaisons with Occupation personnel were well known to the police. Given that male same-sex acts (including male prostitution) were not mentioned in the criminal code, however, there were no laws by which the police could crack down (McLelland 2005: 68, 80-81). SCAP conducted occasional ‘purges’ of gay and lesbian service personnel resulting in dishonourable discharges for both men and women suspected of homosexual activity (McLelland 2005: 65). As with women who had relationships with the occupying soldiers, there was anxiety about such homosexual relationships in ‘mainstream’ Japanese society.
SCAP was also engaged in the management of its own soldiers’ sexuality. So-called ‘fraternisation’ with locals was discouraged, but this was difficult as the occupying forces were supported by Japanese men and women who provided domestic, clerical and manual labour in the home and the workplace on a daily basis. The Australian Army (part of the British Commonwealth Occupying Forces, or BCOF) encouraged Australian women to come to Japan, either as wives of serving soldiers, or to work as nurses or in other support roles. This was thought to create a family atmosphere and to discourage ‘fraternisation’ between Australian soldiers and Japanese women (Donnelly 2001: 189-216). Nevertheless, Australian, New Zealand, British and US soldiers did enter into relationships with Japanese women, with many of these women emigrating with their husbands once bans had been lifted (Tamura 2001: 241 -64). Due to the intersection of gendered and racialised hierarchies, relationships between white men and Japanese women appear to have been much more common than relationships between white women and Japanese men (Mackie 2009b: 91-93). The sexual service industries developed different venues for white and African American soldiers. Another legacy of these years are children of mixed heritage, some who grew up with their Japanese mothers, some who ended up in orphanages, and some who were adopted overseas (Hamilton 2012).
Although the Allied occupation ended in 1952, Japan continues to host US bases under the terms of the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1952 (renewed regularly since 1960). The sexual service industries surrounding the US military bases are an ongoing issue right up to the present, and there are recurrent incidents of US soldiers committing crimes of sexual violence against local women. As we shall see below, Okinawa, which remained under US control until 1972, and still hosts a disproportionate number of the US bases in Japan, has borne the brunt of this issue.
The final years of the Allied occupation overlapped with the commencement of hostilities in the Korean War. From 1950, then, Japan also functioned as a destination for soldiers on so-called ‘rest and recreation’ leave from Korea.
The US military entertained its combat-fatigued troops in South Korea with rest-and – recreation leaves, during which soldiers were flown to Japan for five-day stays. The military Special Services Division provided them with hotels and other recreational facilities, but many soldiers ventured out to seek female sex workers in postwar Japan. (Moon 2010: 53; see also Kovner 793—96)
Meanwhile, the Korean peninsula saw growth in sexual service industries serving the military.