According to several documents, the Japanese army built a comfort station in Shanghai in order to prevent the soldiers’ frequent rape of civilians. However, according to a testimony that claimed ‘the Army’s comfort station used the navy’s comfort station as a model’, we know that a comfort station by the Japanese Navy was already built in Shanghai before March of 1932.
After 1932, comfort stations were built around occupied territories and their quality and quantity changed at the end of 1937. These places lasted until the end of the war. As there became more occupied territories, and the war became prolonged, the Japanese navy and army started an organized policy to manage the comfort stations. At first, the policy was at the expeditionary army’s level, but it became more organized and eventually became a policy of the army’s headquarters.
In 1937, as the China-Japan war intensified, the Japanese military began building more comfort stations. After the Shanghai incident ended and the Rape of Nanking was over, comfort stations were built and maintained by the military’s line of command. During this period of time, the Japanese military and police were involved in the systematic draft of comfort women. Women were abducted by the Japanese military from all around Chosun (old Korea), China, Japan, Taiwan and other countries where Japan had occupied territories.
The women, most of whom were under twenty year of age of and sexually inexperienced, were from rural and poor backgrounds. Many of them were deceived into sexual slavery by promises of factory work, nursing, or voluntary service. Deception and intimidation tactics were often used. Many others were abducted. Procurement of the women was performed by brokers who worked in close coordination with local and military police. Most of these women died during their wartime captivity. This dark history was hidden for decades until the 1990s, when the survivors courageously broke their silence.
The Japanese military called these women “military comfort women” or “prostitutes”. This terminology distorts the actual experience of the Japanese military ‘Comfort Women’. This only reflects the perspective of the Japanese military and ignores the victim’s point of view. Instead, internationally accepted expressions, such as “sexual slaves” and “victims of sexual violence,” better reveal the essence of what these women actually endured. In spite of this contradiction, the Japanese military term ‘Comfort Women’ is still widely used.