Glendale, California is a nice little suburb of Los Angeles. It’s a bedroom community. It has a sister city, like a lot of towns do. Glendale’s is Higashiosaka, Japan.

And now, tensions between Glendale and Higashiosaka are on the rise because the Glendale City Council decided to erect a Peace Memorial to “Comfort Women”.

What were Comfort Women? Well they were basically women and girls forced into Prostitution Units by the Imperial Japanese in World War II. They were basically women kindapped from all over Asia and used as sex slaves by the then Imperial Japanese Army.

So, Glendale decided to put up a memorial in their honor.

Why…exactly Glendale?

The statue has been a point of controversy for months. Glendale installed it following a request by the Korean-American Sister City Assn., despite a barrage of emails from Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans protesting the roughly $30,000 replica of a memorial that sits outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

 

While advocates for former comfort women say Japan hasn’t sufficiently apologized to the estimated 200,000 Korean, Chinese, Filipino and other women coerced into prostitution, opponents disagree. They say an apology issued by a former Japanese prime minister in the 1990s should have been enough.

 

Other Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans believe the women acted willingly, although many former comfort women have publicly shared disturbing stories of their servitude, and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims on its website that some women based in war areas were “deprived of their freedom and had to endure misery.”

 

The Glendale statue is the first one honoring comfort women on the West Coast.

Text courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, and writer Brittany Levine.

So it looks like you can have a Japanese Sister City, or a Korean Sister City, but you can’t have both.

But in a way, if you think about Glendale, who lives here, and what makes it unique, their stand starts makes sense.

Glendale is heavily populated by Armenians. It is the largest concentration of Armenians outside of Armenia itself. And what happened to the Armenians that makes them at least sympathetic to this story?

Well, starting back on April 24, 1915…the Turks managed to slaughter somewhere between one and one and a half million Armenians.  To this day the Turks deny ever having done it.

Are we starting to see a connection here?

Can we see why Armenian-heavy Glendale might be a sympathetic to victims of a denied history?

I’m still not sure Glendale is the place to have this memorial, and I’m not sure it’s not either.  I sure as hell don’t want to see various groups of Asians: Filipino-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans duking it out with Japanese-Americans. I doubt that’s going to happen.

This has stirred passions. (Hell, read the article, this memorial has split Glendale’s Mayor from Glendale’s City Council.) But those of you without a dog in this particular fight should be mindful that this is the kind of pain history can cause. These are the things that haunt and linger.

Remember, I just wrote a long piece about the Far East Cafe in Little Tokyo, a neighborhood where the Japanese Americans were all but restricted until the the Immigration Laws changed. This pain is not limited to Japanese-Americans, or Chinese-Americans, Filipino-Americans, or Korean-Americans. The only was we can get past it, is to at least acknowledge it. Burying what happened, denying what happened, doesn’t make the pain or the anger go away.

 

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Glendale Central Park