Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece

by Eric Johnston and Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writers

A prominent Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has called for Japan to adopt a system to force immigrant workers to live in separate zones based on race.

In a regular column published in the Feb. 11 edition of the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun, Ayako Sono said immigrants, especially those providing elderly care, would ease the difficulties in Japan’s nursing sector.

She also said that, while it was fine for people of all races to work, do research, and socialize with each other, they should also live apart from each other. “Since learning about the situation in South Africa 20 or 30 years ago, I’ve come to think that whites, Asians, and blacks should live separately,” Sono wrote.

Sono, who was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education reform panel in 2013, cited an unspecified whites-only apartment complex in Johannesburg that black South Africans moved into after apartheid ended. She said there was a problem because black people tended to bring large families into small apartments.

“Black people basically have a philosophy of large families. Therefore, they would bring their families into the apartment they bought. For whites and Asians, it was common sense for a couple and two children to live in one complex. But blacks ended up having 20 to 30 family members living there,” she wrote.

Sono went on to say that with so many people in such a small space, the water quickly ran out and the white people were forced to leave.”People can work, research, and socialize together. But only in terms of residence should they be separated,” she concluded.

At the same time, a system has to be made to respect their legal identity as immigrants, she said, adding that “making people who are dispatched to Japan for work honor a contract with acceptable conditions is not inhuman.”

Sono’s comments sparked outrage, including on Twitter, where many called them distasteful and shameful, not to mention racist. The Japan Times reached Sono by phone Thursday, but she refused to be quoted for this story.

The Sankei Shimbun, meanwhile, defended its decision to run the piece. “This is a regular column of Ayako Sono,” a spokesman for the daily said. “We carried it . . . as her own opinion. We believe it’s natural that various opinions exist.”

Sono, long an advocate for various conservative causes, has extensive connections to Japanese and international conservative and right-wing politicians. In 2000, she welcomed into her home ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who fled the country during a corruption scandal. Fujimori was later impeached, and in 2009 was convicted of human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

More recently, Sono got into trouble over an August 2013 weekly magazine article in which she lambasted women who insisted on keeping their jobs after childbirth and urged them to stay home and raise their children instead of dropping them off at day care centers.

Those remarks came about six months after Abe appointed her to an education reform panel, and despite government pledges to increase the number of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020.

On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Sono was no longer a member of the education reform panel, and had resigned at the end of October 2013. He declined to comment on her remarks.


This story was corrected on Feb. 13, 2015. The original story erroneously stated that Ayako Sono currently advises the government. She only did so as a member of an education reform panel in 2013.