Itsuko Ishikawa: A Girl

A girl continues to sit outside, exposed
even on an autumn day, and in the midwinter
snow falls ceaselessly
piling up on the girl’s dark hair, and on her knees

In far south, away from your homeland
have you been caught in bombing, or starved to death
or fooled and taken to a “comfort station” in China
and cut down by Japanese Imperial Army soldiers because you resisted
or come down with venereal disease there, and suffered and died?

-    they were  not “comfort women” but sex slaves

Those who suffered and survived,
have gone through hardships even after the release
Harumoni *– once a girl but aged now
seeing the vestiges of their youth
reaching with their hands, and gently shaking off the snow from the girl’s hair

In front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
girls continue to sit silently
embracing the sorrow and rage of other two hundred thousand victims
to their soft bosoms
they continue to sit

An iconic girl
eyes kept wide open
looking at the countless assaults on girls
all over the world
she continues to sit
in snow


While I was writing a book called The Girls Who Were Turned into Comfort Women, I visited South Korea. There, Prof. Yun Chung-Ok, then the chairperson of The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, introduced me three Harumonis (the victims of sexual slavery) at House of Sharing,* and I could listened to their painful stories.

Since then, I have been meeting with victims face to face. Some of them have passed away already. When I wrote this poem, I was thinking about their faces.

I think contempt for women could lead to war.

There have been demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday. It is conducted by the victims and their supporters asking an official apology from the Japanese government. On December 14th, 2011, the demonstration reached the 1,000th time but, there had not been any apologies or restitutions.  For this reason, “Statue of Peace” was placed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

In this monument, there is a barefoot girl wearing a Chima jeogori* sitting on a chair quietly. And next to her is an empty chair. This poem came to my mind when I was looking at the photo of this monument.


Itsuko Ishikawa


* Harumoni – in Korean, ‘grandma’
* House of Sharing (나눔의집) is a communal house where the victims of military sexual slavery live with volunteers. Located in Gwangju City, Gyeonggi Province in South Korea.
*Chima jeogori is a traditional Korean outfit for women

Itsuko Ishikawa, born in Tokyo in 1933, is a Japanese poet.  She won Mr.H Prize, the most respected award given to poets, for her poetry anthology Wolf/Us. She had been publishing a magazine called “Thinking about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki” for nearly three decades (1982-2011); the magazine was awarded 15th Women’s Culture prize. She is the author of many books, including Sea of Rongelap (2009), Note of Osahito: Ghost Story About the Shadow of the Meiji Restoration (2008), Have You Been to Chidorigafuchi? (2005) (awarded 11th Earth Prize), Japanese Wars and Poets (2004), I Turned to Ash: Do you know the depleted uranium bomb? (co-authored with Dr. Hiromi Misho,2004), Girls Who Were Turned Into Comfort Women (1993), and Hiroshima: the voice of the dead (1990).

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Report from the Besieged City/Informe sobre la ciudad sitiada/گزارش شهر محصور/ Správa z obliehaného mesta © 2018 All Rights Reserved