KASAMA Vol. 17 No. 1 / January-February-March 2003 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

I Can No Longer Be With You

A painful message to all my friends from Yayori Matsui

TODAY I have to send a painful message to all my friends who have been my support in life in many ways and at different times.

When I was visiting Afghanistan early this month, I felt anomaly in my body and I returned to Japan on October 7, earlier than scheduled, to be examined at a hospital. There, I was diagnosed with liver cancer in the advanced stage and informed that it was not curable.

This summer I attended several international meetings and conferences in various countries. I was as energetic as I enjoyed horse riding in the grasslands in Mongolia in August and swimming in Islamabad on my way to Kabul early this month. I felt no symptom, but my liver had been silently affected by this disease over the years.

I wished to live at least 10 more years, and I feel really unfortunate to have to leave you in the midst of struggle. I feel as though I was abruptly hit by a natural disaster. However, I try to maintain serenity and accept this fate as divine providence caring to give me a little early rest in sympathy for my 68 years of intense life.

I can stay calm because I feel that I have been able to lead a meaningful life thanks to the support of all of you. It is my great comfort, in particular, that the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 of which I was one of the initiators was successfully carried out and that it handed down its judgment of historic significance at the Hague in 2001. I sincerely ask all of you to make the best use of the judgment and promote the tribunal's message across the world.

The Japanese media not only ignored the historical event of this tribunal and its judgment, but also NHK, the public TV station, broadcasted a programme on it that distorted the meaning of the tribunal. As you may know, we sued NHK to hold it accountable for falsification of the tribunal's message. I deeply regret that I will not be able to fulfil my responsibility as a plaintiff in this litigation. I wish for your continuing support of our NHK lawsuit to seek a just judgment.

I look back on my three decades of involvement in Asian issues, as a journalist at the Asahi Shimbun and as a women's movement activist throughout the decades, and I realize anew how greatly I have been encouraged and inspired by encounters with powerful women of many Asian countries I visited. I can think of my life positively when I hear young Japanese women working in different Asian countries telling me that my books or speeches motivated and inspired them to get involved in what they do. I would feel rewarded if my trajectory of life as a feminist and independent woman has encouraged and stimulated many women to fight to change this sexist society.

I admit there were moments when I felt deeply hurt and agonized by betrayals, misunderstanding, persecution, and violence. Now, those days seem far away in the past. I feel most proud of having always been on the side of "the least important" underprivileged people and resisted those in power. I used to write a newspaper column using "Flame" as the pen name, and signed my magazine articles as Suga Akiko, an amalgam name made from two rebellious Meiji women, to express my commitment to fight discrimination, exploitation, and injustice. My life has been a life of action propelled by outrage and anger against injustice. I have been offered no official or social status of power, and I take that as an honor.

Aside from the four years of illness in my high school years, I have been always blessed in my life. I grew up in a warm family, received much love and affection from many people, and enjoyed the friendship of a number of wonderful friends. I have lived freely, traveled to so many countries, and enjoyed movies which I love so much.

However, I am profoundly concerned about the current global situation. Many people are affected by armed conflicts and the "war on terrorism" is expanding. Having lived through the 20th century which was filled with violence and war, I am hoping for a peaceful, non-violent 21st century. I regret that I can no longer be with you in the struggle for this goal, but I am sure that you will carry on this struggle and will achieve the peace that is my dream.

I am sorry that I cannot pursue any more the various kinds of activities to which I have been committed. Especially, as Director of Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center (AJWRC) and Chairperson of Violence Against Women in War Network, Japan (VAWW-NET Japan), I want to extend my deep appreciation to their members and I wish for further development of their activities. I ask you all, my friends, to provide continued support for AJWRC and VAWW-NET Japan.

I will also leave to all of you the dream that I have shared with my friends - the establishment of a "Women's Museum on War."

I cannot help feeling uneasy, though, anticipating physical pains and psychological fears that I must have to endure from now. I will do my best to live as long as possible, by a day or even an hour. Please save a place in your prayers for a miracle. During the time that is left to me, with my last physical and mental strength, I will try to write and speak what I want to tell.

Now, I want to apologize to those whom I may have hurt or caused any trouble to. Friends, I ask for your forgiveness for having not been able to make time to talk more personally with you due to my extremely busy life. Once again, please accept my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for giving me such a wonderful life. I am truly thankful.

Please forgive me that I surprise you by this e mailing. If you kindly send me your words, please do so by fax or e-mail.

With many thanks from the bottom of my heart,

Yayori Matsui

October 14, 2002

In Memoriam: Yayori Matsui

Sent: Sunday, 29 December 2002

Dear Friends,

On 27 December 2002, at dawn, our dear Yayori Matsui passed away. She had a few months to live after discovering that she had liver cancer. We are all quite shocked and grieving from her sudden demise.

Yayori Matsui was an outstanding woman activist who led the earliest campaign against sex tourism and the trafficking of Asian women to Japan. She was also one of the first to draw attention to the issue of Asian "comfort women" and to bring justice to them internationally.

She will be remembered as one of the prime movers of the Tokyo International War Crimes Tribunal on Military Sexual Slavery of Asian Women held in Tokyo in December 2000. Together with hundreds of activists, lawyers and victims of Japanese military sexual slavery, she worked tirelessly to make the Tribunal possible, resulting in the unprecedented decision of a People's Tribunal declaring the Emperor of Japan as a war criminal.

Among many of her achievements was being one of the most admired journalists in Asahi Shimbun for more than 30 years - covering such subjects as violence against women, especially trafficking and prostitution, human rights abuses all over the world and in Asia in particular.

She constantly engaged in various causes including children's rights, indigenous rights, the environment but her most enduring passion has been the quest for peace and gender equality.

To many of us Yayori was not simply a Japanese activist, she was a citizen of the world - who did her utmost to make a difference to improve the lives of those she had touched.

She is remembered for all her fire and thought provoking and clear analyses of the crisis of modern capitalism - a caring, compassionate and humane individual. We will sorely miss her friendship, her sisterhood.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific joins all our Japanese, Filipino and international friends in honoring Yayori. The CATW commits itself to all that Yayori stood for and will help promote the principles she lived by in her lifetime.

On behalf of the staff, members and affiliates of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific.

Aurora Javate de Dios

Executive Director


From: Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition and Gathering For Peace
Sent: December 30, 2002

The Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition and Gathering for Peace send their deepest respects and admiration for a great woman who lived her life to the fullest and has given many of us inspiration in our work for peace. Indeed even in death, she continues and will ever continue to be one of the leading lights of the peace movement in Asia. For many of us whose lives Yayori has touched, she will continue to live in our hearts.

Farewell, dear friend, precious sister, faithful comrade, staunch advocate of women's rights and courageous worker for peace and freedom.

Corazon Valdez Fabros

Secretary General

Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition and Co-Convenor - Gathering for Peace