After colonizing Taiwan at the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, for more than half a century Japan strove to turn the people into model “Japanese” through assimilation policies and education designed to create subjects loyal to the emperor. From the Second Sino-Japanese War through Japan’s plunge into hostilities in the Pacific, Taiwan became for the military an important “base for southern advancement,” a “treasure house” supplying raw materials and human resources. Under the campaign for the “General Mobilization of the National Spirit,” men were mobilized as soldiers and civilian workers of the Japanese military and women were taken through deception or by force to “comfort stations” scattered across Asia. On the island of Taiwan itself, police and others forced indigenous women to work for the Japanese troops where they were kept in facilities on military grounds and suffered being raped day after day by Japanese soldiers.
After the end of the turbulent postwar period, Taiwan’s women victims broke their prolonged silence in the mid 1990s. Since then, they have taken on the Japanese government in the courts and, with help from supporters and one another, been taking action to reclaim their lives. The lines deeply engraved in the faces of the Ah-ma (Ah-ma means “grandmother” in Taiwanese), the gentleness of each smiling face, convey the strength of women who have fought to demand the restoration of their dignity.
This Special Exhibition is made possible through the cooperation of the ‘Committee to Support Court Cases of Taiwan’s Former “Comfort Women”‘ and Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation.