Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Pan-pan Girls in Occupied Japan

When World War 2 ended, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from America, England, Australia, and India landed in different parts of Japan and, upon their arrival, were immediately introduced to the Recreational Amusement Association (RAA), a program that the Japanese government eagerly established with the purpose of providing Allied servicemen with paid sex workers. Kovner explains that the women who worked for the RAA (as well as the “pan-pan girls” or “geisha girls” who worked for unlicensed brothels outside of the RAA) did so by choice. Unlike the “comfort women” that were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during previous battles overseas, RAA sex workers and unregulated “pan-pan girls” alike technically worked of their own free volition, and were in fact eager to work in the industry. However, Kovner points out that this belief is often contradicted; she explains that virtually all Japanese people were destitute after the war and that women were, therefore, essentially forced to sell their bodies for money, making them somewhat indistinguishable from “comfort women.” 

Source: Kovner, S. (2012). To Transship Them to Some Suitable Island: Making Policy in the Midst of Chaos. Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan (pp. 18-48). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

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