Toru Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka’s comment asserting the “Comfort women” system during wartime was ‘A necessary evil’ was appalling, and I feel deeply shameful of his sensless remarks as a Japanese. But most of all Japanese reject his anachronistic view, which was evidenced by the crushing defeat that the political party, “Japan Revolution” led by him suffered in the latest election of Tokyo municipal councilors.

We discussed his remarks and ensuing apology in Tokyo Foreign Correspondent Club in our English speaking circle recently by using a report of the status of “comfort women” in Myitkyna in Burma after its fall in August 1944 compiled by Psychological Warfare Team of United States Office of War Information in October 1944 as a part of reading materials.

Utterly independent from political or moralistic argument on this issue, I’m submitting questions on the meaning of two words I came across in the following statement referring to “Comfort bags –assorted present kit” in the report:

“The soldiers would often express how much they enjoyed receiving magazines, letters and newspapers from home. They also mentioned the receipt of “comfort bags” filled with canned goods, magazines, soap, handkerchiefs, toothbrush, miniature doll, lipstick, and wooden clothes. The lipstick and cloths were feminine and the girls couldn’t understand why the people at home were sending such articles. They speculated that the sender could only have had themselves or the “native girls” in mind.


  1. I wonder what wooden clothes is. Is there clothes made of wood or wooden materials? I thought it could be wooden clothe pegs or linen handkerchiefs, but I can’t tell.
  2. What does “the sender could only have had themselves,” mean? Who are "themselves"?

Ronald Harmon’s “Talking American Dictionary of Informal Words and Expressions" defines “have had it” as a colloq;

  1. be worn out, no longer function or useful, be disgusted or bored with
  2. be bored with, can no longer tolerate sb, stg.
  3. be doomed, be assured of ruin or defeat,

but I’m unable to link anyone of the above definitions to the text.

No other dictionaries at hand carry “have had it (or oneself)."

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    Given several misspellings and awkward grammar in that passage, I wonder whether “wooden clothes” is a typographical error, perhaps for “wooden clothespins” or “woolen cloths”? Or even “worn clothes”? Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 7:45
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    "Wooden clothes" -> I expect this is either supposed to be "woollen" or, perhaps just as part of the era, "clothes designed for use on wooden dolls". The next sentence is the bit that confuses me.. it now mentions "cloths". "Have themselves" -> See Bradd's comment. I can't find any other possible meaning Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 8:30
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    On further thought, I think it's likely that wooden is a transcription error for woolen, as the shape of ol is quite similar to d, and woolen clothes are likely contents of a care package. Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 9:11
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    I guess that the end of the sentence has been inadvertently omitted: the sender could only have had themselves or the "native girls" in mind. That is, the comfort women speculated that the senders intended these items as gifts for women with whom the soldiers became acquainted--either the comfort women themselves or women native to the occupied region . Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 12:29
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    Mitch / FumbleFingers:It seems there are several typos in the copy of the report I based on, which was reproduced from a blur PDF file. I’m also puzzled over the disagreement of the number of the subject of the main clause (they) and the subject (the sender) and object (themselves) of the subordinate clause of the line - “They speculated that the sender could only have had themselves or the “native girls” in mind.” The number doesn’t add up. I think ‘s’ is dropped from ‘senders’ in the copy I got from my friend. Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


No idea about wooden clothes, but the second question is fairly straightforward. If 'the senders had themselves in mind' when sending gifts, they were thinking about what they would have liked to receive themselves. So a husband might give his wife a Christmas present of a chainsaw, or indeed some frilly lingerie, with himself in mind, i.e. to please himself rather than her.

(Obviously a farfetched example, since all husbands are models of empathy and thoughtfulness.)


“Wooden clothes” is probably a transcription error. Such errors are commonly caused by imperfections in OCR (optical character recognition).

The book The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan (C. Sarah Soh) reproduces the same passage but has “clogs” where your source has “clothes”. Wooden clogs are more likely gifts from Japanese communities than wooden clothes, so I suspect Soh has the correct text.

“Themselves” means “the soldiers themselves”.

  • MetaEd. As I apologized in my comment, there were several typos and omissions of words in the copy of the report I based on (Exordio). I made a quick run through of Sarah Soh’s “Comfort Women.” Thanks for your input. I find it really informative and illuminating on this grave issue. There are not a few Japanese, particularly among young generation who do not believe the presence of the issue because it’s beyond their knowledge and imagination. I’d like to show them this book by ordering it to Amazon today. Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:22

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