Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto stoked controversy at home and overseas on Tuesday, when he said that wartime "comfort women" that were forced to prostitute themselves to Japan's imperial army were necessary to relieve the soldiers' stress.
"Anyone can understand that the system of comfort women was necessary to provide respite for a group of high-strung, rough and tumble crowd of men braving their lives under a storm of bullets," Hashimoto told reporters on Monday. "Back then it was a necessary system to maintain military discipline."
The member of the conservative, nationalist Japan Restoration Party also said that United States troops based in southern Japan should utilize the sex industry there, as it could help reduce rape and assault rates.
The Japanese military is historically known for its involvement in the sex slave industry, reports the Wall Street Journal. But spectators worldwide have reacted to Hashimoto's comments with disgust and horror.
South Korea and China in particular have responded to his sentiments in outrage , given Japan's imperialistic military past with the two countries.
Many of the up to 200,000 women involved in the sex trade came from China and the Korean Peninsula.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Japan's governmental bodies have rapidly moved away from any connection to Hashimoto's comments.
Administrative Reform Minister Tomomo Inada said the mayor's suggestion that American soldiers use prostitutes to relieve stress was "incomprehensible."
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanijaki questioned Hashimoto's reasoning behind even bringing the topic up.
Spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry Hong Lei told the press at a daily media briefing that the Chinese government was "appalled."
"We are appalled and indignant about the Japanese politician's comments boldly challenging humanity and historical justice," he said. "The way they treat the past will determine the way Japan walks toward the future."
Hashimoto and his co-ruler former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara have spearheaded the newly reformed Japan Restoration Party movement. Some question whether or not the comments he made Tuesday will hinder support for the Party.