'Comfort women' exhibit opens, just barely, in Nagoya
An art exhibition featuring a statue symbolizing victims of the Japanese military’s wartime sexual slavery opened Tuesday at a gallery in Nagoya, central Japan, despite a backlash by Japanese right-wing activists.
The exhibition opened at the Citizen's Gallery Sakae in Nagoya’s Aichi Prefecture and will run through Sunday. It was supposed to run in two bigger Japanese cities, Tokyo and Osaka, but those shows may be indefinitely postponed due to protests.
A similar exhibition with the “Statue of Peace,” representing Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, euphemistically referred to as comfort women, was last held in Nagoya in 2019.
The "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibition at the Aichi Triennale, one of the biggest international art festivals in Japan, was forced to close after just three days following a series of threats and complaints in August 2019. The exhibition reopened for a week toward the end of the festival, in October 2019, with heightened security. However, the government rejected a subsidy for the exhibition organizers.
The statue by Korean sculptors Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung is of a seated short-haired young girl in a white-and-black hanbok (traditional Korean attire), with a bird on her left shoulder and an empty chair next to her. The sculptors designed the iconic original statue near the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, installed in 2011, and other versions around the world.
The exhibition features photographs of comfort women victims taken by photographer Ahn Se-hong across Asia including China, East Timor, the Philippines and Indonesia. Ahn spent over 25 years taking photos of survivors of sexual slavery throughout Asia and previously had a comfort women photograph exhibition in Tokyo canceled in 2012.
The Aichi exhibition also displayed an artwork entitled “Holding Perspective Part 2,” which shows an image of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, who held the throne during World War II, set on fire, which provoked a strong backlash from right-wing activists during the 2019 exhibition.
On Tuesday, several right-wing protesters rallied against the exhibition with loudspeakers and signs in front of the Citizen's Gallery Sakae.
Organizers of the exhibition received approval to use the venue in Aichi after struggling for over three months.
Organizers decided to indefinitely postpone an exhibition in Tokyo last week due to disruptions by protestors in vehicles using loudspeakers and daily picketers. The exhibition at a gallery in Shinjuku had initially been scheduled to take place from June 25 to July 4.
The exhibition could also face difficulty opening in Osaka later this month. The exhibition has been slated to take place at the Osaka Prefectural Labor Center from July 16 to 18, but protests there also led to the cancelation of the lease. The venue cited concerns over visitor safety.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]