5 houses selected

The Japanese government, besides its troops, also dispatched “comfort women” or sex workers to Guam. Five homes were selected to house the women; three in Hagåtña, one in Anigua, and one in Sasa, a farming area near Piti. The establishment of these ‘comfort stations’ otherwise referred to as i gima ka’ku (the house of sex) during the war was justified as a means of discouraging soldiers from raping women. Many of the women were promised benefits like food, money, medicine, and protection for themselves and their families in exchange for their services.

These comfort stations were forms of institutional rape and sexual slavery of war time, and the promises were seldom kept. Japanese soldiers raped and assaulted women in Guam anyway while the comfort women system was in place. Accounts of these experiences can be found in history books, oral interviews, and the Guam War Claims Review Commission Report as well as in kuentos para i gima (stories told in the house).

I Gima Ka’ku

The sexual violence that occurred at i gima ka’ku and sanctioned by colonial officials serves as a horrific opposite to the indigenous i gima’ uritao that was abolished by the early Spanish missionaries.

While the Guam comfort women experience is underrepresented in scholarship, what is unique about what the women of Guam went through, how they coped, what decisions they made, and how they survived are important and have been captured in a small number of literary works and theatrical performances that pierce the silences in women’s storytelling control.

Peter Onedera’s controversial yet significant 1996 play Ai Hagå-hu (Oh! My Daughter) navigates women’s experiences during the war. Ai Hagå-hu portrayed the CHamoru comfort women’s stories in a compelling way that eventually became the talk of the island, highlighting the hardships endured by the women; many of whom would intentionally be dirty or pretend to be sick by way of dissuading the Japanese soldier’s desire to have them.

On 16 July 2011 a production of World War II stories, “Gi i Fino’-ñiha Siha, In Their Own Words”, was performed on stage at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall at the University of Guam.

This series of vignettes by members of the storytelling group known as Ginen i Hila’ i Maga’taotao Siha Association included Beverly Ann Borja Acfalle’s portrayal of a comfort woman in “Kako’ Girl.” In this story of the Guam comfort women experience, Acfalle spoke in the voice of a woman trapped alone in a room of a comfort station, and she recounted for the audience the despair and hopelessness she felt in her day-to-day life of sexual slavery to the multitudes of Japanese soldiers forced upon her.

Additionally, Inetnon Gefpå’go, an organization of young dancers, created an interpretive dance of the CHamoru comfort women experience at the 10th Annual Dinana Minagof CHamoru Dance Competition and Festival in 2013.

By Leiana SA Naholowa’a

For further reading

Naholowa`a, Leiana. “Beyond Matrifocality: A Literary Analysis of Mothering in CHamoru Narratives in Guam.” PhD diss., University of Guam, 2018.