IV-13. “Regaining Self: The Post-war Life of Survivors of Wartime Sexual Violence in Indonesia” (H28 FY2016)

  • Project Leader:Suzuki Takashi (Freelance Researcher)
  • Collaborators:Matsuno Akihisa (Osaka University, Osaka School of International Public Policy)
  •                              Mizuno Kosuke (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  •                              Utsumi Aiko (Osaka University of Economics and Law, Center for Asia Pacific Partnership)
  •                              Furusawa Kiyoko (Tokyo Women’s University, School of Arts and Science)

Outline of Research

The research visually presents the struggle of survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery (so-called “comfort women”) system during WWII who are now living in Sulawesi, Indonesia. It will focus on how survivors tackled trauma through a long struggle against isolation and helplessness, efforts to reconcile with one’s self, and the ability to gain self-esteem. The study also analyzes the involvement of the community in the survivors’ process of regaining self.


The research team has gathered and analyzed testimonies and materials on the sexual slavery system under the Japanese occupation of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, for the past four years. It has found that survivors are living in isolation and hardship but with a spirit of independence, gentleness, and strong sense of morality. We will gather and record narratives of their post-war lives to document their struggle in the particular context of the Sulawesi society in Indonesia.

The significance of the research lies, firstly, in its holistic approach that incorporates the aftermath of traumatizing events. This fosters a capacity for new understandings of the narratives and memories of survivors of sexual violence. Secondly, the research presents a new mode of expression by using visual media to depict experience. Thirdly, it bridges a gap in studies of sexual slavery by examining the context that the local community provided for the survivors’ struggles. Finally, the research emphasizes the importance of recognizing suffering and pursuing justice in order to enable the recovery of survivors’ lost relationship with society. In so doing, it is expected to have a practical significance not only for victims of the “comfort women” system but also for survivors of sexual violence more widely.


Mrs. Tjinda. She was asked to work with her mother at cotton mill located at Ujung Baru. Tjinda was called to one room in the bamboo house beside the mill and raped by “Okeda” military officer and others too. She was 13 years old at that time. She never met her mother and father even they was sick and died. After she released from the place she went back to her home but there was no parent. She had to work for feed herself and become house made. Finally she became a vendor for homemade bread, traditional sweets made by herself. Last year she came out to her neighbours. They supported her giving cooking gas stove, refrigerator, bed and others.

Mr. U and his two sons. Mr. U is a son of Japanese soldier named “U”. His mother was a survivor of Japanese military slavery. When Japan lost the war she was six months pregnant. Japanese soldier asked to give his name to his child when he left. Mr. U was raised by his aunt and she told he was a son of Japanese soldier. Mr. U has one daughter and two sons. He said he would like to meet his father once. His wife said she was proud to have family in Japan even never met them.