Utrecht TJDI Team in Japan for Fieldwork

Posted by: Elizabeth Rhoads

3rd June 2015

In November 2014, Malini Laxminarayan travelled to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka to conduct interviews with historians, memorial employees, legal officials and individuals involved in various transitional measures, including the 2000 Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal and compensation claims. An underlying theme throughout the field research was the ‘historical amnesia’ echoed by interviewees, which consequently had an impact on the transitional justice process. Even today, there are ongoing issues concerning comfort women, namely their lack of compensation as a result of the atrocities committed against them. The interviews illustrated the link between this insufficient compensation and civic participation.

Indeed, this historical amnesia is problematic; dealing with the past has proven to be a sensitive battle with a lot of backlash from conservative groups. Many do not claim there was or is a conflict, leading to, for example, government claims that the comfort women institution did not exist.  Many government parties, cabinet members etc., think that the past should be forgotten.  While some progress was made as a result of the Women’s Tribunal, most transitional justice measures did not seem to sufficiently lead to a change in democratic institution building.