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Manoa 13.1 (2001) 176-179

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Fifty Years of Silence

Three Taiwanese Women

Translator's Note

On 12 July 1999, a delegation of former comfort women and volunteers from Taiwan arrived at Haneda Airport to prepare to take legal action against the Japanese government. All were wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan 50 YEARS OF SILENCE. After meeting with members of Parliament the following afternoon, they gathered in the evening at Tokyo Women's Plaza to speak to about seventy interested people. These are three of the comfort women's stories.--M. M.

Gao Baozhu

In 1938, when I was seventeen, a man from the government office came to my house and told me to go to Guangdong to work for the Japanese military.

Guangdong was a battlefield. I wondered what I would do there. I was hungry. The place where they took me in a covered truck was Kinzan-ji, a temple. When I looked up, I saw a sign that said COMFORT STATION.

I could never have imagined it. But I had gotten a Japanese education, so I obeyed, thinking I had to do what the government told me to. When they said it was for the country, we had to go along.

After six months in Guangdong, I was taken to Hong Kong and put on a boat. There were three boats, but one was torpedoed and sank. The noise from the explosion was horrendous, and ever since, I've been deaf in one ear.

We went to Burma via Singapore. The soldiers took us in a military truck into the mountains, deep in the jungle, where they put us into a shack. The men stationed there belonged to the Tatsu Unit. I was there for about three years. Then they took me to the city.

I didn't know when Japan was defeated, but finally one day I was told that the war was over and peace had come. The officer in command gave me a pass to go home, but since I didn't have any money, I had no idea how I'd get there. I was at my wits' end when a kind soldier asked me if I wanted to go back to Taiwan. He took me as far as Viet Nam, where I tried to get on a boat. But then we were captured by French soldiers and thrown in jail. The Japanese soldier I was with told them I was Chinese, not Japanese, so they let me out and gave me a French I.D. card. [End Page 176]

I still had no money, though, so I stayed in Viet Nam for a while doing people's laundry and things to earn my fare home. But just when I was about to get on a boat for Taiwan, all my money and clothes--everything I had--were stolen and I was left with nothing but my underwear.

Finally I managed to get to Taiwan, but I still didn't know how I'd get home. Luckily, I met someone nice enough to send a telegram for me, and my older sister came and got me. That's when I heard that none of the money I'd sent home had reached them.

Back in Taiwan, I was so ashamed of having been a "comfort woman" that I didn't want to show my face outside. People hire me for jobs that can be done in the house, and so somehow I've managed to live for the last fifty years.

Before I left Taiwan, I adopted a daughter and left her with my sister. She doesn't want to see me now, and neither do any of my relatives; the only one who visits me is my sister. I take solace in drink, and so it's gone for fifty years.

When someone from the Women's Relief Foundation told me about this movement [to sue the Japanese government], I was finally able to walk freely outside. For a year now, the Taiwanese government has been giving each of us a welfare payment of fifteen...