In a recent newspaper column in the print edition of Sankei Shinbun, noted Japanese author and conservative political activist Ayako Sono advocated that immigrants to Japan be separated by race and forced to live in special zones.
Sono wrote the article amidst ongoing debate on whether or not to increase immigration rates to Japan in the face of an ageing population.
Hiroko Tabuchi, formerly the New York Times’ Japan correspondent, took note:
Japan needs to have a convo on racism (2) Sankei op-ed just called for immigrants to be segregated, Apartheid-style pic.twitter.com/NcdNlnUVmL
— Hiroko Tabuchi (@HirokoTabuchi) February 12, 2015
While Japan has to let immigrants come to help ease the labor difficulties facing the nursing care sector, Sono says in her Sankei column, Japan needs to create a legal framework that strictly maintains the status of these workers as immigrants, and does not permit naturalization.
She goes on to cite South Africa's former apartheid system as a good example of such a policy in action.
After noticing Sono's column was causing a considerable ruckus online in Japan, Nippon.com editor and writer Peter Durfee decided to translate her entire Sankei article.
— Peter Durfee (@Durf) February 12, 2015
Ever since I learned of the situation in the Republic of South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians, and blacks in that country.
Sono is no stranger to controversy in Japan:
— Stephen Stapczynski (@SStapczynski) February 12, 2015
Top caption: “70 years after the war, anti-war sentiment based on simplistic “humanism” alone is not enough to be passed on to the next generation.
Headline: “More than the tragedy of war, we must also remember the wisdom we as a nation gained from it.”
Sono's comments about apartheid are notable because, born in 1931, she has been a prominent author and conservative political activist in Japan during the post-war era. She has served as education adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sits on the board of Japan Post, and also sits on the board of NHK, Japan's national broadcaster.
— BLOGOS編集部 (@ld_blogos) February 12, 2015
The problem is Ayako Sono is a member of the prime minister's committee for educational reform. The Abe government is relying on her heavily. It would be a good idea to find out if her way of thinking closely matches government policy.
Other netizens have wondered just what Sono must be thinking. Noted web entrepreneur and online influencer Takafumi Horie said:
She's a little funny in the head!
Others point out that such comments are parochial at best, especially considering that Tokyo will host the summer Olympics in 2020:
And she's promoting a particularly insular view of our country in the lead-up to the the Olympics, too!
One South African commentator was left feeling disgusted: