Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan

By Sarah Kovner | Go to book overview

ONE
“To Transship Them to Some
Suitable Island”
Making Policy in the Midst of Chaos

When American troops disembarked in Japan just after the surrender, they found something none of them had anticipated. Some had feared they would encounter die-hard defenders. After all, these men of the Sixth and Eighth Armies had fought a brutal ten-month campaign to retake the Philippines. At the very least, they expected the defeated enemy to show hostility. Instead, the reporter for Stars and Stripes happened upon an incredible scene. “Jap welcomers on the street were directing every lonesome looking American to the grand opening”—the grand opening of what appeared to be a USO club.1 “Inside, young Japanese hostesses with their polite bows, giggles and broad smiles waited to serve large milkshake glasses full of beer for five yen.” Soon the Americans discovered something even more astonishing. Such establishments were intended to satisfy not just the thirst of U.S. servicemen, but also their erotic desires.2

Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and civilians would work, drink, and play in Tokyo, Osaka, and more remote regions of Japan as part of the Allied Occupation. In 1946, tens of thousands of Australian, New Zealand, British, and Indian troops would join them as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). The Allied Occupa-

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