Tokyo, April 2 (Jiji Press)–An art exhibition featuring a statue of a girl symbolizing so-called comfort women opened in Tokyo on Saturday.
The “Non-Freedom of Expression Exhibition,” held at the Kunitachi Community Arts Center in the city of Kunitachi, western Tokyo, was heavily guarded by police officers as protesters caused a commotion near the venue.
The exhibition, which will run through Tuesday, features art pieces by 16 artist units, including the girl’s statue.
Comfort women, mostly Koreans, were prostitutes at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. Wartime issues remain a sensitive topic between Japan and South Korea.
The Tokyo exhibit was initially slated to be held at a different venue in June last year, but was postponed after the venue owner refused to rent the place for the event in response to activities by protesters.
“I’m happy the exhibition could be held,” Sadaaki Iwasaki, 58, co-head of the event’s organizer, told a press conference. “I don’t want society to turn into a place where it is acceptable to forcibly take away people’s opportunity to see art.”
Visitors must book reservations for 50-minute sessions to view the exhibit. Some 400 visitors are expected per day.
“I feel that society is becoming intolerant to different opinions,” Emi Omuro, 41, an artist from the central Japan city of Toyama who visited the exhibition, said. “I’m glad I was able to encounter the artworks.”
What appeared to be firecrackers were mailed to a similar exhibition held in Nagoya in the central Japan prefecture of Aichi in July last year, forcing the venue to close during the event.
Another similar exhibition was held in the western Japan city of Osaka the same month, after a court battle in which the venue’s decision to revoke permission to use the location for the event was reversed.