quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid


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Hi Blog. Story still ongoing, and we got quoted in the SCMP. Hopefully all this attention from the outside world will make the Sankei Shinbun (or maybe even the author) recant and retract the story. I will be pleasantly surprised if it does, but bigots of this age group rarely do, and after all the recent Asahi Shinbun bashing after admitting they ran a badly-sourced story the Sankei probably doesn’t want to admit they were wrong either. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Top Japanese author Sono backs racial segregation saying it’s ‘impossible to live alongside foreigners’
Ayako Sono, 83, suggests that a version of South Africa’s apartheid could work in her country

February 15, 2015, by Julian Ryall in Tokyo

A well-known Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has sparked outrage by claiming foreigners should live in separate areas from Japanese people.

In an opinion piece for the conservative Sankei newspaper last week, Ayako Sono, 83, suggested that the infamous apartheid system that was practised in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 would be appropriate for Japan.

“It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” Sono wrote.

“Ever since I learned of the situation in 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,” she said in the piece.

She cited the case of an apartment block in Johannesburg that was, under apartheid, reserved for white families. As soon as the laws were changed, she said, the property “fell to pieces” because black people have large families.

“Ever since learning of this, I have said that humans can do many things together – business, research, sports, to name but a few – but when it comes to living, this is one area where the races must live apart.”

Sono was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education panel in 2013.

Her comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists.

“It’s a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system ‘racial discrimination’ in her column, she advocates it,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign.

“Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?” he asked. “Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing?

“I hope – and I stress hope – this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch,” he added.

“But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan’s ultra-conservative ruling elite.”

Internet users have also weighed in on the argument, with tens of thousands of messages on Twitter and other online forums condemning Sono’s comments.

“The problem is not that this woman exists or holds these views,” wrote one commentator. “After all, every country has its far-right misanthropes, neo- Nazis, etc.

The problem is that this woman holds these views while being somewhat revered, even decorated.”

Another asked how Sono, or the Japanese government, would react if another country advocated rounding up Japanese nationals and segregating them purely because of their nationality, while the Sankei was criticised as a “vile, racist paper”.

Arudou said he intended to continue fighting for the rights of foreign nationals living in Japan, adding: “There is a widespread tautological feeling that foreigners don’t deserve human rights because they’re foreigners.

“It begs the question about whether a society can see non-citizens as fellow humans,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as “Outrage as top author backs racial segregation”

6 comments on “ quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid

  • The Asahi Shimbun got slammed by PM Abe for damaging Japan’s international image with articles that almost no one outside of Japan ever read, and yet, Sono’s Sankei article has gone international, and has been formally criticized by the representative of the S. African government in Japan, and what does the PM have to say?


    Just like he had nothing to say when Hashimoto was spouting off about Korean sex-slaves, or any other right-wing gaffe.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Sono is in my watch list even before her pro-Aparteid article came out. Her insult to working women on child-birth is utterly disgusting. Sankei made a shameless anti-Jewish ad last year and got Jewish community upset.

    Just like corporate reformists in the west and elsewhere, these conservatives–especailly in old generations–are bunch of ignorants.

  • @Loverilakkuma I know I have been called out by Debito before, but I feel I have to restate my opinion about your comments sounding a whole lot like apologist talking points, i.e. grasping at straws to find some alleged “Western flaw” to mitigate a uniquely East Asian case of racism / nationalism. How is a racist person being able to wield a position of influence in Japan, and make disgusting statements without any resistance from the public “just like” Western reformists? And why do you apply the term “conservatives” in the exact same way – as an euphemism – as the apologists of Japan’s right-wing do?
    Sorry, but I still think you have an agenda, which basically is to diminish the extent and prevaricate the nature of Japan’s huge societal problems.

    I am not trying to pick a fight with you, but if you indeed do not have an agenda then you should think about stopping to come up with such forced, invalid analogies.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Markus, #4

    It’s all about the means that is common among those who have the motives for profiteering. They have a different objective in the end, but the way they deploy cultural logic to assault, discriminate, or taunt those who are subject to power well deserves the callout.

    Abe’s obsessions with reform and assault on history textbooks are well similar to those who preach privatization and free-market for the purpose of dismantling the public and community. Interestingly, some (or more) of those who take swipe at the blog, JT, and NYT, etc., are making very similar behavioral argument with those who think public workers should be disunionized, education and penions should be all privatized, and the list goes on and on.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Markus, #4

    >grasping at straws to find some alleged “Western flaw” to mitigate a uniquely East Asian case of racism / nationalism.

    I am not mitigating the condition of racism in Japan whatsoever. It doesn’t really matter where racial discrimination occurs or who is perpetrating to whom. It’s simply wrong and unjustifiable. There’s no room for subtle expression or different language use (“discrimination” vs. “distinction”) as an excuse for justifying foul conduct of perpetrator(s) for refusing or shunning particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

    Regarding my use of “western flaw” cases, they actually provide useful insights into an awful practice of racism, human rights abuse or any social injustice in Japan. I wouldn’t say they are 100% applicable, and sometimes I need to withhold them depending on the agendas. But, many of those do provide an important lesson which Japan is not aware of. Some or most of Japan’s problems are indeed spin-off of those coming from outside the national soil. See for example, The Three Mile Island, Chernobyl to Tsuruga, Niigata, and Fukushima.

    Some apologists might use these western references in defense of Japan(ese) on social problems. I don’t. They think it is their cultural privilege and socio-economic status, but most of their arguments fall into cultural relativism or blaming-the-victim narrative for poor defense of stakeholders (i.e., Japanese bureaucrats, conservatives, Abe, Ishihara).

    >forced, invalid analogies.

    You should more carefully watch your language, Markus.

    You seem to espouse the most problematic aspect of cultural uniqueness idea–that is, a false assumption that ‘Japan is entirely different from the rest of the world, and thus anything coming from outside is irrelevant to the interests of country.’

    I don’t believe that most stuff I bring here is irrelevant (or “invalid,” in your word) to the issues on the blog at all. It is related because they mirror some disturbing social trend (i.e., right-wing swing, racism, segregation, worker harassment, immigration) occurring in Japan. I reject the whole idea of universal cultural uniqueness that gives Japan or any country immunity to any scrutiny of socio-cultural problems. That is a myth which is debunked by many scholars and critics–both Japanese and non-Japanese in various fields.

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