This article describes some school girls from Seoul No. 2 Girls’ High School taking a day trip to an Imperial Japanese military camp in April 1943, where they planted a flower garden and then entertained Japanese soldiers at a “comfort party” by dancing, singing, and acting in plays. What’s notable is that the word “comfort” in “comfort party” is the same one used in the words “comfort women” and “comfort station”. Of all the words that they could have used to describe this party, why was this particular word used, especially given that it could be associated with “comfort women” in the minds of young Japanese soldiers?
The “comfort party” started with dancing to the music of “Oh, My Warrior Friend (Waga Senyu)” (Youtube link: https://youtu.be/M_lFQP9WHNg). Perhaps they would have used some traditional Japanese folk dance moves given the style and tempo of the music. The Kabuki play that they acted in, “Shuzenji Monogatari” (link to summary: http://www.kabuki21.com/shuzenji_monogatari.php), has a scene where a daughter of a poor family runs off to become a mistress of a young Shogun warrior, so there would definitely have been some physically intimate scenes between the Korean school girl playing the daughter and the Japanese soldier playing the young Shogun warrior. The encore song that everyone sang at the end of the “comfort party”, “Go to the Ocean (Umi Yukaba)” (Youtube link: https://youtu.be/wXSCoKqy8MI), is a rousing and upbeat military song that is apparently still popular and well-known in Japan today. The military songs glorify the death cult of State Shintoism, so they are very controversial.
Looking through many wartime issues of Keijo Nippo newspaper, it occurred to me that they feature Korean school girls quite a lot in the photos, to the point where it feels like a sort of fetishization. I’ve already shown how the school girls have been introduced to seemingly innocuous activities like making cigarettes for Japanese soldiers to slowly get them conditioned to seeing Japanese soldiers as their friends and even their future marriage partners. Indeed, the Imperial Japanese government policy at the time explicitly mentioned young Korean girls as priority targets for their assimilation campaign, even building special internment camps for this purpose, and their explicitly stated goal was to have them marry and start families with Imperial Japanese soldiers to produce the next generation of assimilated Imperial Japanese subjects. They did a lot of other activities that I have not had the chance to document yet on this subreddit: manufacturing military uniforms, sending songs and poetry in care packages to the troops, etc., that I intend to share later.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) April 29, 1943
Maidens plant a flower garden of sincerity at the [redacted] military camp
As the soldiers dig up the ruddy ground with pickaxes, school girls of the military nation use their shovels to lightly break up the clumps of soil into fine pieces, sow the flower seeds, and tread on them softly with their feet to prevent them from drying out. The soldiers’ spring, the maidens’ flower garden. Early in the morning of April 28th, 1943, 200 fifth-year students of Seoul No. 2 Girls’ High School, led by their teachers Tanaka and Nakao, arrived at the [redacted] military camp in [redacted], where they were greeted by Tanaka’s cautionary words: “Plant each seed with the sincerity of an Imperial Japanese woman”. At 9:30 a.m., the maidens in their school uniforms divided into four groups looking dignified with their aprons on. They set about their task exuding sanctified sweat. The maidens finished sowing the eight or so squares of seeds with all the delicacy of a maiden’s heart. At 11:00 a.m., they listened to greetings from Commander Nishimura of the military camp and a lecture on modern weapons. Then the maidens wiped off their sweat, washed their hands, and tasted the lunch boxes that they had brought with them. Then, at 2:00 p.m., the maidens moved on to the soldiers’ comfort party, where they performed a dance to the song “Oh, My Warrior Friend (Waga Senyu)” to open the party. They went on to sing duets and solos. They acted over ten parts in plays such as “Shuzenji Monogatari”. The day ended with a chorus of “Go to the Ocean (Umi Yukaba)” sung by the guests and hosts alike to close the comfort party, and the visit ended at 5 p.m. Photo: Seoul No. 2 Girls’ High School students making a comfort visit to [redacted] military camp.
Reddit Link: In April 1943, Seoul high school girls went to an Imperial Japanese military camp to plant a flower garden, then entertained Japanese soldiers at a “comfort party” by dancing, singing Japanese imperial military songs, and acting in Kabuki plays : korea (reddit.com)
(my transcription in modern Japanese orthography with punctuation marks added and modified for clarity)