South African ambassador slams Sankei op-ed by Sono praising apartheid

Kyodo, Staff Report

South Africa’s ambassador to Japan has sent a letter of protest to the Sankei Shimbun over a column by prominent author Ayako Sono praising the racial segregation of apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy, according to the daily’s publisher.

Sankei Shimbun Co. said that Ambassador Mohau Pheko took aim at the column published in the newspaper’s Wednesday editions, in which Sono wrote that it is better for people of different races to live separately, just as they did under South Africa’s former policy of racial segregation.

In the letter, received Saturday, Pheko was quoted as calling apartheid a crime against humanity that cannot be justified in the 21st century, adding discrimination on the basis of skin color is unacceptable in any country.

Sono, who had served on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s education reform panel in 2013, wrote in her column that, based on her knowledge of the situation in South Africa 20 to 30 years ago, she came to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should live separately.

She made the argument while discussing the need for Japan to accept more immigrants, particularly to care for the increasing elderly population — on condition that immigrants live separately from Japanese.

“Humans can do everything together from business, research to sports. But it is better to separate living quarters,” Sono wrote.

Sono, who has long been an advocate for various conservative causes, has extensive connections to Japanese and international conservative politicians.

Her comments sparked outrage, including on Twitter, where many called them distasteful and shameful, not to mention racist.

Takeshi Kobayashi, an executive of the newspaper, said in a statement Saturday that Sono’s column only reflected her personal view. He said the Sankei has always upheld the position that racial and all other forms of discrimination are intolerable, including apartheid.

The Sankei had earlier 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,” the spokesman said.

  • Nic

    Ambassador Pheko is a woman… at least do some rudimentary research before publishing articles (rightfully) condemning ignorance on the part of others.

  • Charles Burns

    So immigrants are good enough to come here and take are of your elderly population (which is growing day by day) as long as they return to their cage at the end of the day? This people/culture is a total joke.

    • jimbo jones

      just one person’s opinion. no reason to condemn the people/culture in entirety. i’d hate to be judged by the actions of tony abbott, george bush, et al.

      • Exactly. This is why I hate treading into JT for my Japan news. It’s just a concentrated selection of news that ends up giving expats a horrible picture of Japan. The Ayako Sono opinion is just one in a plurality of voices in Japan, and JT does an awful job of showing the whole variety of opinion in the Japanese social discourse.

      • Oliver Mackie

        You are so right. Did you comment on the Sano thread? I felt so lonely without you….

      • jimbo jones

        news of jon stewart’s upcoming retirement got me thinking how in need of a satirical political tv show japan is. plenty of material to work with and it would help show the world that although japan’s population is fairly homogenous its opinions certainly are not.

      • I’ll do that one with you… Needs to be in Japanese though and circumvent mainstream media outlets… so has to be a YouTube channel or something like that.

      • otisdelevator

        Count me in!

      • Hendrix

        well you are in denial by the sounds of it.

      • Well, cool story, bro. *shrug*

      • tisho

        It is just one opinion, and if you count the people that allowed this article to be published, it becomes at least few more people with the same opinion, otherwise this article would have never been published. While the majority of Japanese would not want to live in an apartheid state, there are a lot of people in this country with such kind of thinking, and the sad reality is that the number of these people increases day by day under the patriotic/revisionist education and twisted reality and misinformation presented by the right-wing media. So this is something anybody who is considering living in Japan should be aware of. Like i said in my previous comment, this kind of thinking comes from the belief that one is superior/better than others for various reasons. This is what arrogance mean, the belief that you are better than somebody else, and therefore others should know their inferior place. There are certainly a lot of people in Japan with this kind of mindset even though most of them would not be direct about it out of fear of ”losing face” or ”damaging ones image”.

      • I’m sorry you don’t find the Japanese people as generous as I do.

        In any case, I really should stay away from The Japan Times articles, let alone comment sections. The groupthink is quite pervasive, and unjustly, grossly certain they have Japanese society pegged down in their minds.

        Well, off to matters of greater consequence.

      • Gordon Graham

        How many is a lot? There are a lot of people throughout the world with a similar mindset. The English Defense League in Britain or the fascists in Sweden, for example. There are also “a lot” of foreigners living in Japan who would like to label the Japanese as being “that kind of people”.

      • 151E

        News everywhere (as opposed to jingoistic propaganda) tends to focus on the negative, and the novel. Part of it is economic – if it bleeds it leads. Part of it is the mandate of the fourth estate – to speak truth to power. Pursuing the headlines of any foreign paper’s national news section will not paint that country in a particularly flattering light.

        Sono Ayako is one of a plurality of voices in Japan – true. But, as a somewhat prominent member of the nation’s intellectual and political elite, with her own national bully pulpit, her opinions naturally garner more scrutiny, and rightly so. Her latest musings are an embarrassing anachronism, and while extreeeemly unlikely to be adopted as policy, richly deserve public criticism and ridicule.

      • Hendrix

        no its not just one persons opinion, i read the comments on the huffington post japan article in japanese, all comments in japanese by japanese and they overall supported her opinion… she is just voicing an opinion that most japanese hold but dont say outwardly.

      • harryspaz

        Because the loons who populate internet message boards somehow make a reliable sample of the population?

    • harryspaz

      Way to expose your racist self, slamming “this people/culture” for the racist opinions of one far-right loon.

  • Douglas

    A bit of an over reaction, its just one persons opinion and she’s entitled to express it.

    • Chris Carino

      The reason of the overreaction, I think, is because she used to be in Abe’s parliament committee, so people think she still has connections in the Abe cabinet….

      • Hendrix

        she still has connections to Abe and his friends, although not officially..

    • Perry Constantine

      She’s a government advisor and considered part of Abe’s braintrust. It is most-definitely NOT an over-reaction.

  • Dipak Bose

    Japan has never signed the UN declaration to abolish racial discrimination. Thus, officially Japan is a racist country as it was always. This is particularly true about the Meiji Japan which had declared that Japanese are European unfortunately born in Asia.
    That is also true about Chinese even Sun Yat Sen, who used to live in Nagasaki, financed by Japan and wrote that the White and Yellow are the only civilized people and all others are barbarians. Other Chinese are much worse.

  • tisho

    That’s good but why sent the letter to Sankei ? They should’ve sent the letter to the government of Japan, in particular to Abe, he is the one that appointed that women.

  • Testerty

    Everybody knows Japanese are the most racist people in the world.

    • harryspaz

      Someone lives in a bubble!

  • James

    “adding discrimination on the basis of skin color” What is Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment?

    “apartheid a crime against humanity” Brought to the UN by Russia who did not even have a democracy and backed by China who still has no democracy. Its like the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Dipak Bose

      Russia has democracy. Even USSR had democracy since 1991: that was the reason Yeltsin came into power standing against the candidate of the Communist Party..
      democracy and Racism are separate issues. Lots of Democracies are and were Racist: USA until 1966, most of the East European countries today, Israel, Malaysia

      • James

        Are you mental? The crime against humanity was declared under Resolution 2202 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966. Did the USSR have democracy then?

  • etchasketch

    While inflammatory I wouldn’t judge the rest of Japan and its people based on this article.

    That’s akin to condemning America for every article on Breitbart or the Drudge Report. (or whenever Sarah Palin opens her mouth)

  • HKskill

    So shall we also made Japanese to stay in the forest when they arrive in our countries? Chinese made them to live in the forest around Guilin only, America create a home close to Mexico around Texas? So poor thinking in 2015, I’m really sure she will prefer to be white.

  • Tangerine 18

    “Just one person’s opinion”.

    What a strange and inaccurate comment. Ms. Sono has been in the vanguard of ultra-nationalism in Japan for many years now. She was the leader of Nippon Foundation, the “philanthropic” organisation founded by fascist war-profiteer Ryoichi Sasakawa from 1996 to 2005. She was nominated to the board of Japan Post Holdings Co by former LDP bigwig Shizuka Kamei, who was a strong supporter of Shintaro Ishihara, and who also acknowledged receiving money from yakuza-linked loan sharks. She sheltered convicted murderer Alberto Fujimori in her house in Tokyo while he was on the run from Peru. Add to all that her role as advisor to the historical revisionist Shinzo Abe and her comments in the nationalist Sankei Shimbun should come as no surprise to anyone.

  • Chris Clancy

    Sure. I wonder how many foreigners the Sankei employs.

  • Gordon Graham

    I assume you are also addressing your comment to the people who have chimed in with the likes of “the Japanese are the most racist people” or “this people/culture is a total joke”…I’ve given you a thumbs up on your contribution. Cheers!

  • sdfqef

    Coming from a Japanese politician…doesn’t even surprise me anymore.