Tag Archives: Japan

‘Comfort woman’ survivor speaks on sexual slavery at Queensborough College

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

A Korean woman who survived sexual slavery as a “comfort woman” during World War II spoke about her experiences Thursday at the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center of Queensborough Community College in Bayside.

“Comfort women” is the name given to women and girls forced into sexual slavery on military bases by Japanese armed forces before and during the war. Most of the women were kidnapped from occupied territories such as Korea, China and the Philippines, but many were from southeast Asia as well. While there is no definitive tally of how many women were enslaved, estimates range from 20,000 to upwards of 100,000.

Yong Soo Lee was kidnapped from her family farm at age 15 in the early 1940s. She spoke about her innocence at the time of the ordeal, having only experienced a sheltered rural life.

“I was taken away when I was young,” Lee said. “I had no idea what was going on in the outside world. I didn’t even know what the world was.”

She was first held on a naval ship with several other women, and then taken to a military outpost in Taiwan to be abused by kamikaze pilots before their suicidal assignments. She endured horrific experiences which included being repeatedly beaten, tortured with electrical shocks, and held in a collapsing building during a bomb attack, during which she suffered a miscarriage. She was captive at the base until the end of the war.

Lee stayed silent about her experiences until hearing about other comfort women coming forward in 1991. She currently lives in Korea, and serves as an activist working to end sexual violence against women around the world.

“At first I started out as a victim,” Lee said. “I was really sad and I cried a lot in the beginning, but I don’t cry anymore and I do not keep resentment in my heart anymore.

The Holocaust Center has been working with local Korean-American partner organizations to record Lee’s story as part of an ongoing series of events on the topic. It’s currently trying to fundraise for several more initiatives including a permanent monument to comfort women at the Holocaust Center and a traveling exhibit to be shown at other venues.

Dr. Dan Leshem, director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, commended Lee for her bravery in telling such a personal story about the pain inflicted on her. Lee has said that she will try to live until the age of 200 if that is how long it will take to end sexual violence against women.

“She’s just a remarkable woman and I have been so moved by getting to know her even in such a short time, by her passion and her dedication,” Leshem said.


Queens students fold paper cranes for international project

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Gary Malone

Birds of a feather flock together.

Students from middle schools in Flushing and Elmhurst are involved in a project to exchange cranes with schoolchildren their age in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which was hit with an atomic bomb by the U.S. in the final stage of World War II.

To help their pupils learn about the second world war, Gary Malone, an English teacher at Flushing’s J.H.S. 189, and wife Amber Malone, who teaches social studies at I.S. 5 in Elmhurst, assigned their respective classes to read historical children’s novel “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”

Based on a true story, the fictional account tells of a young girl living in post-WWII Japan and suffering from cancer caused by the atomic bomb dropped on August 6, 1945. As she spends time in the hospital, she folds papers cranes, inspired by a Japanese legend that says that if a sick person folds 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will make her well again.

After reading the book, classes participating in the Malone’s project folded their own paper cranes to send to students in Senogawa Junior High School in Hiroshima, whose students did the same in exchange.

Students from Queens sent 1,500 cranes to Japan altogether. These will be split into two displays, with 1,000 going to the Children’s Memorial Peace Park in Hiroshima and 500 set to be hung in Senogawa Junior High School, along with 500 more folded by the Japanese middle schoolers.

Senogawa students sent 500 cranes to both participating schools, and these will be displayed along with 500 cranes folded by American students for a total of a thousand each. Malone said that his students were impressed with the precision of the cranes they received, with each creased bird folded in nearly perfect identical form.

According to Gary Malone, the idea for the project came to him and his wife after winning a grant for a trip to Japan in summer 2014 to study the events of World War II from the Japanese perspective.

He said that many of his students do not leave their own neighborhood very often, and while he wishes the class could take an actual trip to Japan, the crane exchange was a good way to connect them with children of the same age who live on the other side of the globe.

“It’s two countries [who were] once enemies, and the communication is meaningful to them,” said Gary Malone, who is currently working to arrange some form of video interaction between his students and their Japanese counterparts.


LIC Flea celebrates Japanese culture; announces holiday market

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

QC10102013.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

A few clouds did not put a damper on a fun-filled, successful weekend at the LIC Flea & Food celebrating Japanese culture.

On October 5 and 6, LIC Flea and vendor Oconomi hosted the very first Weekend of Japanese culture at LIC Flea & Food, which brought in regular visitors and brand new faces.

“It was fantastic,” said Kazuko Nagao, owner of Oconomi.

“We think we brought a new audience that had never been to LIC Flea and regulars also enjoyed something new.”

Nagao also said she saw a large presence of the Queens Japanese community at LIC Flea for the weekend celebration.

“We got a lot of foot traffic because of the Japanese shows, so I’d say it was a good weekend,” said Eric Henshaw with LIC Vendor Khao Man Gai, which sold out on Saturday.

Oconomi, which regularly serves Oconomiyaki, Japanese vegetable pancakes, extended its menu to include stir fried noodles known as Yakisoba, Japanese curry, rice balls and “creative” sushi.

The celebration also featured separate booths dedicated to the Japanese culture where LIC Flea visitors tried their hand at Japanese calligraphy with Masako Inyo, who taught participants how to hold a brush. In another booth guests turned paper into art at an origami station. Visitors were able to take home whatever they finished.

“The Flea is always a good time,” said LIC Flea visitor Fallon Gardener. “I love everything about Asian cultures.”

Along with the delicious Japanese treats and activities, guests also enjoyed three unique performers. Female geisha dancers in costume performed in a group called Salme and Japanese pop singer Reni Reni also made an appearance. The final performers combined music with audience interaction as the Poku Poku Boys played Koto, a traditional string instrument, while translating names from English to Japanese in calligraphy.

“I really enjoyed the singing and dancing,” said visitor Maria Walker. “Things like this are why the Flea never gets boring for me.”

Along with taking visitors on a trip to Japan and celebrating the Japanese culture, and allowing children to pick their own pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, LIC Flea announced that a holiday market will be opening in December.

The market will be located at the same address but within the warehouse next to the LIC Flea lot. The holiday market will be open for the three weekends leading up to Christmas.

There are still three weeks left to enjoy LIC Flea & Food so come down to 5-25 46th Avenue and see what other surprises are coming your way.




Flea brings Japan to LIC

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Oconomi-Kazuko Nagao

Japan is coming to the LIC Flea & Food.

On October 5 and 6, LIC Flea and vendor Oconomi will host a Weekend of Japanese Culture at LIC Flea & Food.

Oconomi regularly serves Oconomiyaki, Japanese vegetable pancakes, at LIC Flea, but will extend the menu for the celebration.

“Queens represents every culture,” said Kazuko Nagao, owner of Oconomi. “LIC Flea itself has many different cultures involved.”

There will be eight booths dedicated to Japanese culture and food.

Oconomi will sell its traditional pancakes, along with stirred fried noodles known as Yakisoba, Japanese curry, rice balls and “creative” sushi.

Celebrating Japanese culture, children and adults will be able to try their hand at Japanese calligraphy on Saturday with Masako Inkyo, on-site instructor who will teach participants how to hold a brush. There will also be an origami station where you can turn paper into art and Kabuki face painting, featuring faces of a traditional Japanese play.

Along with the delicious Japanese treats and activities, guests will be able to enjoy three unique performers. Female geisha dancers in costume will perform in a group called Salme and Japanese pop singer Reni Reni will also make an appearance. The final performance combines music with audience interaction as the Poku Poku Boys play Koto, a traditional string instrument, while translating names from English to Japanese in calligraphy, allowing audience members to take a piece of the performance home.

“We as Japanese really want the people who are regulars of LIC Flea to experience something different,” said Nagao. “This time they can try different food. The regulars can try something new and we are hoping we can bring a lot of new people to LIC Flea & Food too.”

Come take a trip to Japan via LIC Flea & Food, located at 5-25 46th Avenue.




Remember Pearl Harbor

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the vicious and unprovoked attack by Japan against the United States at Pearl Harbor, we must never forget the over 2,000 soldiers and civilians who were killed that day.

They did not die in vain. Four years later, in August of 1945, Japan finally capitulated and surrendered following the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.One Japanese officer commented after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

He was so very right. The Japanese got just what they deserved — what goes around, comes around. Let us remember all of those who lost their lives on that awful day and pray for them and their families, as well as those remaining survivors of the attack that will live on in infamy, forever.


John Amato

Fresh Meadows