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US defender of Japan’s past makes dubious claims about bullyingIkuyo Toyota says Japanese kids in California are being bullied because of history, but neither she nor any of the alleged victims can be foundJulian Ryall in Tokyo03 November 2014Ikuyo Toyota has set herself up as the defender of Japanese children in Southern California. But no one can find her.Toyota claims to be president of a California advocacy group calling itself the Mother’s Association Protecting Japanese Children and has been quoted in right-wing Japanese media, expressing her outrage over the so-called Kono Statement of 1993. It amounted to an apology over the issue of sex slaves used by the Japanese military during the Second World War.After Korean-American lobby groups began placing statues for “comfort women” in a number of public parks in California and New Jersey - including one in a park in Glendale, California, in July 2013 - Toyota went on the warpath.The Yukan Fuji - a tabloid that is part of the avowedly nationalist Sankei Shimbun media group - cited an open letter of Toyota’s to Kono, the former chief cabinet secretary who delivered the statement. Her letter claimed that as a result of the Kono Statement and the placing of the statue, Japanese children in Glendale were being bullied and harassed.“Japanese children were being called ‘rapists’ by Americans,” the Yukan Fuji reported, claiming that others were refusing to speak Japanese in public for fear of persecution.Complaints that children had become the victims in the ongoing row over the “comfort women” have been echoed by several female politicians as proof of the damaging legacy of the Kono Statement.Toyota and her organisation have proved remarkably difficult to locate, as have any victims of the alleged bullying.Mark Schreiber, a Tokyo-based commentator on social trends, noted in an article in the magazine of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan that his efforts to track down Toyota had been unsuccessful. Despite her title of president of an advocacy group, her name only appears in a small number of blogs and internet posts, most of which seem to be copying each other.“Except for newspapers and magazines of the Sankei group, which has been behaving more like a propaganda organ than an objective media organisation, Toyota is otherwise nowhere to be found,” Schreiber said.Over a period of several months, Schreiber contacted the Glendale Unified School District, a number of Japanese-American parents residing in the city, a journalist in neighbouring Pasadena, and a member of the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, an organisation made up of Americans of Japanese descent.Not one of the organisations or individuals Schreiber contacted had evidence of any Japanese children being bullied because of the “comfort women” issue. Nor could the Little Tokyo Service Centre, with its close ties to the Japanese community in Los Angeles, locate Ikuyo Toyota.The Japanese embassy in Washington and consulates in Los Angeles and other cities reportedly called on anyone who had been subject to bullying to report such incidents, but according to the Tokyo Shimbun, received no responses.A spokesman for the Glendale Police Department believes the bullying claims to be “100 per cent fabricated”. Reporters for Japanese media - including several with a conservative stance but which are apparently more exacting than the Sankei - have similarly tried to shed more light on the bullying claims, as has a California newspaper.“A reporter with the local daily, the Glendale News-Press, told me she had heard about the bullying claims and had been trying to run down primary sources for the story, without success,” Schreiber said.“So reporters for US papers, a major Japanese daily and freelancers for three other Japanese magazines have all drawn blanks.”
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