World / Reporter's Journal

Comfort Women play brings dark chapter of history to life

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-09-01 09:50

Comfort Women play brings dark chapter of history to lifeEfforts from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and the US to help victims and their families seek an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government for their crimes and atrocities against civilians during World War II seem to be not only unflinching but gaining momentum.

The grassroots commitment to upholding the historical truth is like an uphill odyssey - arduous, painstaking and bumpy - but so meaningful in its persistence in seeking justice for the dead and the wounded from a compulsively misleading Japanese government.

Last week, an Asian-American community in the Bay Area hosted a Japanese playwright and actress couple and their co-production about "comfort women", a six-act play entitled The Eye Holds the Truth for three performances.

Written and directed by Yoshiji Watanabe in 2013 and starring his wife Kazuko Yokoi, the story explores the suffering of two Korean comfort women, one Chinese comfort woman and a child born to a Chinese comfort woman fathered by a Japanese solider.

The son of a war criminal, Watanabe confessed that he used his plays and writings to tell the truth, which he called the purpose of his life because of his father's profound guilt and crimes.

It's the third time the pair have brought their plays to the US, following Reunion in 2001 and The Rain in 2007 and it's the first time that The Eye Holds the Truth was performed outside of Japan.

"We have given 41 shows (of the new play) in Japan, and it was very well received each time, though there were not large audiences," Watanabe, 68, said.

The couple's integrity and respect for the truth, to me and many Asian Americans, only dwarfs the Japanese government, which habitually glosses over its wartime wrong deeds and still whitewashes its atrocities committed against its Asian neighbors.

Heart-wrenching, suffocating and tear-jerking - that's what I remember sitting through the two-hour monologue on Saturday afternoon. The summer sun was scorching outside but inside the auditorium the atmosphere was icy cold.

Yokoi's interpretation and portrayal of the four characters, accompanied by English and Chinese subtitles and solemn music, transported me to one of the darkest chapters of human history in the 1930s. The testimonies of Yi Yoon Soo, Pal Young Sim, both Koreans; and Wei Shao Lan and Lo Shang Shun, Chinese, vividly depicted how Japanese invaders were burning, killing, looting and raping wherever their war machine bulldozed.

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