Outrage grows over Sono ‘apartheid’ column


Staff Writer

Public outrage over what is widely seen as a pro-apartheid column penned by conservative author Ayako Sono has shown no sign of abating more than a week after its publication.

As of Friday morning, 111 university professors and scholars nationwide had expressed their support for a letter of protest by some members of the Kyoto-based Japan Association for African Studies in which they called for the column to be retracted.

The letter, submitted to Sono and the Sankei Shimbun on Monday, argues that the author’s stance that immigrants should live in segregated communities is tantamount to defending South Africa’s apartheid policies and deserved international condemnation.

“The idea that people should live apart from each other according to their races constitutes the very foundation of apartheid,” the letter says.

Sono’s column represents an “intolerable” affront to efforts made by global society to battle racism, the letter says, adding that the Sankei’s decision to run the piece “damages Japan’s reputation” as a trustworthy member of the international community.

“We therefore demand the column be retracted,” the letter concludes.

For her part, Sono, who is also a former member of an education reform panel to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said in a statement to The Japan Times on Thursday that she has no intention of retracting the column as she believes that doing so would be equal to “forfeiting freedom of expression.”

She also said she never intended to praise the apartheid system.

Instead, Sono said, her intention was to encourage people of different races to live “separately by choice.” In South American cities such as the Peruvian capital of Lima, there are dedicated colonies for Japanese “nikkei” immigrants where both the Japanese language and culture are kept intact, she said.

“Likewise in Japan, there are communities for Brazilian immigrants. These communities sprang up almost spontaneously, but none is actually segregated. People live in such areas if they want, and come in and out of them as they wish,” Sono said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with such a style of living separately by choice.”

But her Feb. 11 Sankei Shimbun column has nonetheless widely been seen as encouraging apartheid. In it, the 83-year-old writer suggested that while Japan should embrace more foreign immigrants to make up for the labor shortage, they should live apart from mainstream society.

“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,” she wrote.

The Japan chapter of the global human rights organization International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) said in a protest letter Tuesday that her column was “unforgivable.” It runs counter to Japan’s international pledge in 1995 to condemn and eliminate all forms of racism, the group said.

A group of current and former students of Swahili at Osaka University sent a letter to Sono and the Sankei on Wednesday demanding the column’s retraction.

“Ms. Sono says in the column it’s an ‘extremely daunting task’ for immigrants and mainstream residents to live together,” the letter states. “But such an idea is outdated. Even if it requires an effort, in this age of multiculturalism, we need to try to cohabit with others.”

  • cobrawolf

    Japan is showing it’s true color (or lack of )

    • Nick Anderson

      That’s not really fair, it’s an 83 year old hag with an 83 year old view of the world, I’d hate for the world to judge the entire United States based on Paula Dean or that Duck Dynasty clown with a beard down to his crotch, this isn’t really a Japanese thing, it’s more of an all old people minus a handful are horrible human beings thing, but lucky for us, that problem has a rapidly approaching expiration date.

      • Jonathan Fields

        And that would be true if, like Food Network and whatever network runs Duck Dynasty, the Sankei would apologize and make a definitive statement condemning her article. But they won’t. Instead, they’ll deny it’s an issue and go back to pushing the current right-wing talk.

        Sono will not apologize either. She was a prominent member of the ruling party, which has recently been under scrutiny for associating with hate groups and receiving donations from neo-nazis. Members of this party are suing the Asahi for damaging Japan’s reputation, but I guarantee there will be not a peep about this incident.

        It’s more than fair to make judgments about Japan on this. This problem is not going away soon. Japan is headed down a dangerous path. Apologizing for them is just silly.

      • Nick Anderson

        You do realize America isn’t that much better than Japan in this respect, right? Between the Republicans and Fox News, we have a powerful political party actively working to abolish the minimum wage, cut taxes on the rich, cut all entitlements for the disadvantaged, and they constantly make racist remarks not just against minorities, but against the President of the United States, and a news network is championing this insanity with a raging hard on 24/7. Judge not lest ye be judged. And I agree that Shinzo Abe is bad for Japan, but I doubt he’s going to do the country more damage than Ronald Reagan or George W Bush did the United States, and he too is a temporary problem, put into office by the collective voting power of millions of confused geriatrics, who are not long for this world, the youth of Japan is actually liberal just like the youth pretty much everywhere in the world, eventually just by sheer force of attrition they will be the ones calling the shots, just as you can expect Generation X to start taking active control of our political system in the 2020’s when the old people who currently run the system, cease to be relevant in their entirety.

      • Jonathan Fields

        “America has racist politicians, so you can’t comment.” That’s the argument you’re going with? Jesus Christ, dude.

        Japanese youth are plenty racist. I’ll tell the lady in my research lab who is writing on the growing trend of youth participation in hate groups that she can just give up on ever getting her doctorate because some guy on the Internet said the next generation is liberal.

      • Nick Anderson

        I’m not saying you can’t comment, but taking a holier than thou approach to it, is utterly ridiculous given the disease in our own political system. And the next generation is liberal, but that doesn’t change the fact that they will have to fight against a system of discrimination, corruption, and oppression that has persisted not just in Japan, but the entirety of Asia, uninterrupted, for thousands of years, the social changes that have come about in Japan in the past half century, especially given the thousands of years of nothing that preceded it, are astounding. We have a thousand years of gradual but consistent progress on civil rights going back to the Magna Carta to stand your high horse on, they have just the 70 years since the end of the Second World War, 70 years of progress against a counter weight of thousands under oppression, try to take that into account when making yourself the world’s moral arbiter.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        You seem to be forgetting that communism, fascism, and imperialism are also part of recent Western culture and while slavery has existed and exists in many areas it was Europeans and Americans who practiced it on the widest and most commercial scale. Japan has nothing in its history comparable to the Atlantic slave trade. Perhaps you ought to survey black Americans about how well qualified they think white Americans are to give Japan directions on racial issues.

      • Nick Anderson

        You can blame the west for all the problems in your society if you like, most of the world does, and not without good reason, but Asia invented legalism, oligarchy, and a perverted relationship with the truth all on its own, long before trade with the Roman Empire was even established, so maybe take ownership for just some of your issues.

      • 武 東郷

        I really do not follow your logic but as I asked you in the above comment, please tell me exactly which part of Sono’s piece is advocating the apartheid.

      • tisho

        Nick, do you speak Japanese ? I presume you don’t. If you do, please take a look at this article from yahoo japan news and other news websites, then please look at the comments. The first comment with more than 5K likes will give you chills, and these are young people in their 20s. And i am not even talking about underground forums like 2chan and such, yahoo japan news is the most popular website in Japan. Japan’s social development is somewhere where the US was prior to the civil war, where you had a large group of people believing they are superior and better than black people which lead to the war, only in the case of Japan the roles are a little bit different, you have a government and a large group of people believing they are better than ALL the non-japanese people. Their subtle culture prevents most people from quickly understanding that they are being seen as inferior, unlike the US where people are open about it, the US has the ”in your face” attitude so its easy to see their intelligent level immediately, while in Japan everything remains hidden. The open and forefront attitude of people in the US makes it more easy to advance forward as people because you need to first acknowledge your problem and then it becomes easy to solve it, in Japan they don’t want to acknowledge their problems instead they want to hide it, so its difficult to more forward as people. That’s why when you are in Japan and you look at the pretty roads and glassy buildings you sometimes feel like you’re in a very modern and advanced society but when you talk to people you get the feeling you’re talking with some primitive human from last century. No offense.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Your broad sweep generalizations about Japan and the Japanese are the very stuff of racism.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Not racist. Japanese is not a race.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Say what?

      • midnightbrewer

        Now you’re just nitpicking.

        Showing the liked comments of a vocal minority of ignorant junior-high school kids on a Yahoo article isn’t a barometer of Japan as a whole. They’re ignorant and opportunistic, and, well, twelve. That’s how Gamergate became such a big deal.

        I’ve lived here for twelve years and taught Japanese kids young and old in elementary and high school. They’re pretty easy-going and friendly. They’re no more ignorant or full of discrimination than anybody else their age. As for the adults, you get a mixed bag wherever you go.

        This is blowing up, and even the ruling party will eventually decide to cut their losses and condemn her comments. As someone who does follow the news here, the winds of change, however tentatively, are blowing against the conservatives. There will be backlash, just like there is in the US, but Japan has historical mood swings, just like any culture, and it is slowly swinging back towards liberal. (Or, at least, more liberal than it is now).

      • Steve Jackman

        Since you teach kids, maybe you’ve been spared the worst forms of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination, which in my experience of working in the corporate sector in Japan is very common and widespread.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Correct. Japanese do not constitute a race. Indeed, some people would argue that races are a social and ideological construct and do not really exist. But, given that writers in English will describe anti-Korean expressions made by Japanese as “racist,” it is entirely appropriate to label the comments of “tisho” as racist.

      • Hendrix

        tisho hit the nail on the head there, as for bull fighter, you are an apologist…

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Try making sweeping generalizations like that about any group racial, religious, or ethnic as you will be rightly called a racist.

      • Btd

        Agree on this one. For example te front national got almost 25% in the European elections in France but one wouldn’t stamp france a racist country. She a crazy granny and doesn’t stand for japan

      • Steve Jackman

        Japanese Bull Fighter, your denial of blatant and obvious racism and xenophobia in Japan is confounding. Your accusations of calling others racist, when all they are doing is pointing to the obvious racism which is so widespread in Japan, is offensive.

      • Hendrix

        well observed…

      • meneldal

        Your comment would have more credibility if Japanese roads were actually good. But seriously for a first-world country the roads are terrible and if you try to drive as fast as you’d do in Europe (way above their limit) you start feeling how bad they are.

        That tangent closed, I agree that many Japanese people lack open mindness and are completely clueless about the outside world. I disagree with the lack of “in your face” in Japan, it doesn’t take so much practice to see through most people. Usually just saying something good about Korea pushes the berserk button (the Islands work quite well too). While they clearly hide and try to dodge the problem in the media, I strongly disagree that you don’t see it in your everyday life.

      • Steve Jackman

        Your comparison of Sono’s comments to Paula Dean or Duck Dynasty is completely wrong. The US is an individualistic society with a very diverse population whose opinions cover a broad spectrum from the fringe right to the fringe left. For every Paula Dean or Duck Dynasty, there are many more liberal, progressive and moderated voices in the US. The country is fairly evenly split between the Democrats and Republicans, as the national elections every four years show.

        On the other hand, Japan is an extremely homogenous country with very few dissenting opinions or voices (the reason the LDP has been in power with almost no interruptions). Where is the counter-balance in Japan to the conservative and xenophobic views of Sono, Ishihara and Abe? There aren’t any, and that is the most troubling thing about Japan. Also, contrary to what you have written, such xenophobia in Japan is not limited to a handful of elderly. In fact, Japanese youth are even more conservative and xenophobic in their views. In the last elections in Japan, the youth voted for the most conservative political candidates in record numbers.

        Personally, I don’t need to look at these numbers. I know from living in Japan for over a decade that Sono’s comments are extremely widespread and commonly held within mainstream Japanese society. The only difference is that most Japanese will not be as honest in expressing their true opinions as Sono. I guess, Sono has reached the age where she feels she does not have to hide her true feelings anymore. In a twisted way, it is refreshing to see someone in Japan say what so many Japanese feel deep inside, but do not have the courage to say openly.

      • tisho

        One thing i disagree with is your statement that ”The US is an individualistic society”. I would argue that there is no such thing as ”individualistic” or ”collective” society. All people operate the exact same way. Wherever you put a human he will adapt to that environment. All people conform to the environment they are in, unfortunately there isn’t a society whose people do not conform, this is not because its ”human nature” its because people are not yet taught about these kind of human behavior in school. The only difference between the US society and the Japanese society, is that in the US there are very few social norms to conform to, and even if you don’t conform to those norms, most people will simple not care as much. In Japan, there are just far too many social norms, written and unwritten rules, informal rules and such to which people are taught to conform to. That’s the only difference. And it’s not because the people in the US are more intelligent that they naturally decided to get rid of the social norms and such B.S., it was just an accidental outcome resulted from 3 waves of immigration and decades of liberal economic and political policies. The free market is arguably the best way, after the education of course, for people to integrate and to eliminate discrimination. There’s an old saying – if you want to be good, change often. If you want to be perfect, change all the time.

    • Steve Jackman

      I absolutely agree. It’s interesting that The New York Times just published a great story about the struggles of the company Airbnb to expand in Japan, in light of Japanese society’s xenophobia of having foreigners live amongst them. The New York Times article even mentions the famous “No Foreigners” signs at Japanese restaurants in Tokyo.

      The online title of the article on The New York Times’ Website is, “Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan” (written by Sara Corbett, dated, Feb. 18, 2015). A version of the article also appears in print on February 22, 2015, of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: ‘How Can We Find More People Like You?”. Highly recommend reading it!

    • harryspaz

      O! great defender against discrimination! We thank thee verily for fighting the good fight against racism by painting an entire nation with one brush!

    • Al Beau

      What? Sankei Shimbun is a right-wing newspaper. Japan has a wide range of newspapers just like any other country. Would you judge the US just by what FOX News says?

  • GBR48

    Widespread condemnation is enough.

    Academics should know better than to demand a ‘retraction’. People should always have the right to express their opinions, however unpopular or ridiculous. That’s what free speech is all about.

    She has lost public respect for the piece, and will have to accept the consequences of writing it, which is punishment enough.

    The general consensus is clearly that apartheid belongs in the historical past, which is something positive to take out of this.

    If she can’t understand the difference between immigrants forming communities by choice and her apparent desire to implement ghettos, then all we can do is leave her be.

    She’s 83. When I’m 83, I’m sure I’ll be out of touch with contemporary ethical values and some of you may well be too. It happens.

    Now everyone move on.

    • Jean-Michel Levy

      That is completely true. One cannot be in favour of freedom of speech and at the same time try to silence people one doesn’t agree with, even if they say horrible things. These ridiculous ideas must be countered by arguments, not by gagging her.

      • Jonathan Fields

        You really don’t understand free speech do you. How is asking someone to retract a statement anti-free speech. It seems like an expression of that concept to me.

      • 武 東郷

        Exactly which part of Sono’s piece is advocating the apartheid, please tell me.
        I have the entire text in front of me.

      • midnightbrewer

        She said it was a bad idea to eliminate apartheid because black families with obvious cultural differences began to move into previously white-exclusive housing with large families. As a result, the whites felt as if they had to move out.

        So a few white people are unhappy with their neighbors, whose “cultural differences” are based on the practical adjustments they made to living in poverty for forty years. Temporary inconvenience and a cherry-picked incident to illustrate that the previous system obviously worked, at least in her opinion.

        Prejudice starts with isolating a group based on certain factors (race, color, origin, religion, etc.). The upshot is that they are marginalized, which affects their social and economic status. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the excluded group slowly loses power and wealth.

        Generations later, people too young or separated from the origins of the problem to remember how it all started say, “See! Black people are poor. They obviously want to be poor. This is due to their racial makeup, and can’t be helped. So it’s okay if I dislike them.” The effect becomes the cause and the blame is displaced elsewhere, neatly tied up with a bow.

      • 武 東郷

        Sono never wrote that “it was a bad idea to eliminate the apartheid”. That is your interpretation like other critics. All she wrote in the last paragraph is that “People can conduct business, research and sports together. But residential areas might be better separated “. Under the apartheid rule, could the whites and blacks conduct business, research and sports together? Definitely not! Whites and blacks were totally segregated, right? Then what is Sono talking about here is a little different from the apartheid, right? She is certainly not advocating the apartheid.

      • Toolonggone

        And she clearly doesn’t know what Apartheid is all about, either. She forgets that residential segregation was a part of its evil system that led to a dismal materialistic consequence to the blacks–who were majority of citizens.

      • 武 東郷

        Why do you conclude that she is advocating the residential segregation?
        Quite obviously from what she wrote, she is not denying any contacts or exchanges among the people living in diffrent areas. Don’t you get it?

      • Toolonggone

        She made it very clear in her first column. Read it again–especially the last two or three paragraphs.

      • Jean-Michel Levy

        Its is not asking. It is demanding. Look at the text. And the people who might be leaning towards her position will certainly be more efficiently persuaded by arguments than by a mere shut up. All the more so that the concept of apartheid is introduced by her contradictors , not by her.

      • Oliver Mackie

        How is asking someone to retract a statement anti-free speech? Are you seriously asking that question!? Under free speech, the only time people can reasonably be asked (no, not even forced) to retract statements are when they are counter-factual (e.g. nobody died under the Cultural Revolution in China, no women whatsoever were used in the comfort women system.) I don’t know which language you think you are writing in (it looks like you are attempting to use English) but you seem to be assigning a meaning to the phrase “free speech” which is almost the very opposite to that used by every other English speaker on the planet.

      • midnightbrewer

        It’s not anti-free speech to ask her to issue a retraction. Anti-free speech is policing what is said before it gets said, or exacting some form of punishment for someone’s words.

        Demanding an apology is just as much protected by free speech as being allowed to say something reprehensible in the first place. It’s part of the conversation. We may not like the content, but both sides are being allowed to openly take part without censure, and we’re free to comment from the sidelines. Everybody is free to speak, everybody wins.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “Anti-free speech is policing what is said before it gets said….”,

        What absolute total nonsense.

        “or exacting some form of punishment for someone’s words.”

        Even worse.

        “It’s not anti-free speech to ASK her to issue a retraction.” (emphasis added)

        “Demanding [if you mean ASKING for, with passion] an apology is just as much protected by free speech as being allowed to say something reprehensible in the first place. It’s part of the conversation. We may not like the content, but both sides are being allowed to openly take part without censure, and we’re free to comment from the sidelines. Everybody is free to speak, everybody wins.” (comments in brackets added by me)

        Yes, and in total contradiction to the two quotes at the top.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, don’t you ever get tired of defending racism and xenophobia in Japan, even when it’s staring right at you?

      • Oliver Mackie

        Maybe I would if we were actually talking about racism and xenophobia. My exchange with midnightbrewer is and has been only about the meaning of free speech, so I don’t get your point at all. Either you are a) unable to read (which I doubt) b) just being disingenuous because you get some kind of pleasure out of it or c) (the explanation which I’m beginning to favo(u)r) just trying to provoke as many responses as possible to help the JT claim it has a high level of traffic and sell space to advertisers. Until you are more open about yourself and your motivation, you will rightly be the subject of much suspicion here. If you really want to seriously discuss the Sono article and government immigration policy, sign up for the NBR Japan Forum – but be warned, the participants there are either a) able to read the article in Japanese themselves, b) have access to proper and full translations AND i) actually have experience of participating in government advisory panels or ii) have expert knowledge of the operations of the government in Japan. In other words, no space in that forum for non-factually based speculations or insincere arguments, something which the moderator makes sure everyone adheres to.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, Sono is not just some layperson exercising her right to free speech, just the same as Hitler was not just some layperson exercising his right to free speech when he called for the extermination of Jews. Reuters News Agency in an article covering this topic dated Feb 13, 2015, describes Sono as, “A former advisor to Prime Minister Abe”, “Author Ayako Sono (is) considered part of Abe’s informal brain trust”, and “(Sono) has long advised Abe’s LDP”. Furthermore, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga declined to comment or condemn Sono’s remarks when he was asked to comment about them during a news conference.

        I find it ironic that you would question my motives here, when I am simply exercising my right of free speech based on my decade-long experience of living and working in Japan as an American citizen, while at the same time you justify Sono’s hateful, racist and xenophobic comments as free speech. I guess in your book, free speech only covers hateful and racist speech.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Questioning your motives has nothing to do with denying your right to free speech. If I wanted to do the latter I would simply state that you shouldn’t be allowed to express your opinions. In fact I have said nothing but the opposite and it is others here who assert that some people’s opinions should not be heard.
        Get yourself over to NBR if you want to discuss Sono with me. I have not made a single comment here on the topic of whether what she wrote is racism, and I will not do so. If you are really confident of your views and ability to express them, come and join the proper debate. You will be welcomed, as all are.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, I’m really not interested in having a debate or engaging in an academic discourse with you. Suffice to say, I’m an American professional who’s been living and working in Japan for over a decade. My opinions are based on countless personal experiences and those of other foreign residents of Japan who I’ve come to know. Based on these experiences and observations, I have no qualms in saying that Sono’s racist and xenophobic comments are extremely common and widespread throughout Japanese society and its institutions. Nothing you have to say will sway or make me change my mind about what I have experienced and seen with my own eyes.

        As someone who’s lived in many countries around the world, I find Japanese individuals and institutions to be the most racist and xenophobic of any country in the world. Not just this, but foreign residents of Japan are routinely subjected to racial discrimination in housing, employment, dealings with the judicial system where they are denied due process of law, interactions with the police and use of businesses such as restaurants, shops and sports gymns, etc. Many of these have been documented in prior articles in this and other newspapers, books written by individuals and on people’s Websites. I’m sure more newspaper articles and books will be written in the future by other foreign residents of Japan to document their experiences with racial discrimination in Japan. This is all I have to say to you about this topic, period. End of story.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “Oliver, I’m really not interested in having a debate or engaging in an academic discourse with you. ”

        Yes, I know that already.

        “This is all I have to say to you about this topic, period. End of story.”

        Good. I’m happy to see that your interjection on an irrelevant topic is over. Now me and the other poster can get back to debating free speech.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver Mackie writes, “Good. I’m happy to see that your interjection on an irrelevant topic is over. Now me and the other poster can get back to debating free speech.”

        Wow, Oliver, wow! You make it sound like you OWN this forum and that any other posters who disagree with you are infringing on YOUR territory.

      • Oliver Mackie

        You don’t disagree with me, because you aren’t engaging. To quote you, “I’m not interested in having a debate or engaging in academic discourse.” I’ve offered sincerely to debate many topics with you over the past year or so and you consistently refuse, citing a lack of inclination or time (despite continuing to post extensively.) Given that you interjected into an on-going discussion (not necessarily a problem in itself – this is an open discussion board, after all), made an irrelevant point (not very smart-looking but still o.k., if you are going to participate in a tributary discussion), then, having shot your wad, stated (as above) that you don’t want to discuss or debate the topic that you brought up.

        Wow, Steve, wow! You make it sound like you OWN this forum and that any other posters who require rigo(u)rous justifications for your assertions are infringing upon YOUR territory.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, I disagree with you on almost everything, however, it is not constructive or possible to have a rational discussion with you, since you seem to be driven by an extreme ideology of defending Japan’s record of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia at all cost. What’s the point of my wasting time with such a charade?

      • Oliver Mackie

        And the same to you, in reverse. It is not constructive or possible to have a rational discussion with you, since you seem to be driven by an extreme ideology of accusing Japan of having a particularly bad record of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia at all cost. The difference though is that I have actually wasted my time on the charade of engaging your assertons, as the record shows, unlike yourself who, as far as I can ascertain (you keep your record hidden) have never gotten past, “this is the experience of myself and those I know, plus look at what Debito has said.” You name any aspect of Japan you wish, and I am happy to engage in discussion. Go ahead, just start one.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Or finally, how about this? Since you hold your views with such conviction and are sure that you won’t change them, and given that I hold my views with a similar conviction, based on the experience of myself and those I know (plus much more besides) how about we agree to set out our opposing views in detail, with the goal of allowing others with no experience of Japan to make up their own minds, based on what we say? Consider it a kind of public service, if you like. No obligation, naturally.

      • Ryan Duncan Gatley

        Because it is an unnecessary waste of time Oliver, why should anyone need to debate back and forth when the evidence is staring you in the face? You are are one of those typical naysayers who want to argue about everything.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Because the evidence staring ME in the face points to a very different picture than the one painted by Mr. Jackman. For his ten years of personal experience in Japan, I can count 24, for whatever his working experience he has (he hasn’t spelled it out in detail), I can point to mine (plus starting a business), for every example he can provide of an NJ claiming racist tteatment by the legal system or the police, I suspect we can uncover NJ who have gotten redress or Japanese that have been on the receiving end of the same injustice, for every acquaintance he can produce who claims to have experienced ‘the most racist and xenophobic country in the world’ (again it’s not clear how many there are) I suspect I can provide heaps more who see nothing particularly different about Japan in degree and whom have had very successful careers here, or/and have started businesses, have happy families, have great friends, and many of whom, as a result, have naturalised.
        As I have stated before, I’m not here because I like arguing but because I feel the very extreme picture painted here (the JT comments section in particular) is a disservice to those who might be contemplating coming to Japan. I appreciate that this statement automatically qualifies me in the eyes of some as ‘a self-appointed apologist for everything Japanese’ (a phrase that now gets trotted out so quickly that it needs an acronym.)
        I would have thought that common sense dictates that one be willing to hear the other side of any debate, if only to satisfy oneself that you haven’t missed anything.

      • Ryan Duncan Gatley

        If that is the reason then I understand. I am mostly disappointed with what she had to say, because I have long held Japan in very high regard. However, hearing about something like this, or the fact fact that you have video game developers who hate people from outside Japan and outright don’t want people playing their games unless they are Japanese is very upsetting to me.

        To me “because it is difficult” is no excuse, it’s like saying because it is difficult to send a satellite to dock with an asteroid, retrieve a sample and bring it back, we should not even try. I know Japanese people can do something if they set their minds to it, just like getting that sample from an asteroid. If they could do that then I should not be difficult to try to understand people from outside Japan. Why not ask the meaning of their actions?

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, since you are so persistent, let me ask you a question. Will having a debate with you improve Japan’s dismal record of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination? I think, not!

        Should Mandela and South Africa have settled for apartheid and held a debate about it instead? Should the world have held a debate with Hitler and Stalin? Should Martin Luther King and Gandhi have settled for debates, while agreeing to live under segregation and British rule? Should we now hold debates with ISIS and Kim Jong Un? Man, you are dense!

        I don’t know if you are Japanese or non-Japanese who has come to think like many Japanese after having lived in Japan for so long, since your thinking is quite typical of many Japanese I have come across. For them, it is more important to fix the perception of a problem, rather than fixing the actual problem. They also like to muddy the water by holding endless “discussions” about a problem, rather than actually addressing the problem. This is why Japan is still in denial about its actions in WW2 and why it has never taken responsibility for its war-time actions. Sorry, buddy, I know Japan well enough to know not to waste time playing such games.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. Thank you also for the particular content of your response, as it makes the differences in our approaches/states of mind quite clear.

        “Will having a debate with you improve Japan’s dismal record of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination? I think, not!”

        Debates about what the reality is will not, of course, change that reality. My proposal for a public detailing of what evidence is available (a kind of debate for sure) was proposed because I disagree with you on what the reality is. In fact, saying that I “disagree” with you isn’t really the best way to put it. The reality that you picture doesn’t exist for all I can see. Therefore I am not proposing debate to improve that reality in our perception but to establish what that reality actually is. You certainly seem to feel that your picture is accurate, so, to ask again, why not set it out in detail? I’ll do the same, and others who have not had any experience of Japan on which to base a picture of reality, can decide for themselves whether they’d like to come over and do so.

        It might go something like this, on my side.

        To take things that I or those I know directly actually see, when I see ‘no foreigner’ signs in only 1 out of 10,000 restaurants, onsen, and hotels (easily verifiable), when I have any dealings with any branch of the Japanese government (tax, education, employment, childcare, immigration/citizenship) and find myself and every other person I know treated exactly the same as Japanese people (easily repeatable), when I find myself unable to rent the apartment I want, occasionally because the owner is a racist, but much more often for the same objective reasons that the same owner will not rent to many Japanese, I do not see ‘the most racist and xenophobic country in the world.’ Neither do I see a perfect country. But then I don’t see one of those anywhere.

        To take things which I or others I know don’t see, but rather hear about, it is still possible to try to approach them in a rational way. To take some hypothetical examples, if I hear of NJ who have lost legal cases complain that it was due to a racist judiciary, I first ask myself, “how often do you her anyone anywhere who has lost a legal case express their satisfaction with the system?” I then withhold judgement (but remain skeptical) until I can get the facts. If I hear of someone who loses a divorce case claiming that it was a racist decision then find out that that person had been unfaithful, alienated their children, and insisted on a divorce hearing despite spousal wishes to keep the marriage together despite such behavio(u)r, then I think, “that’s exactly the decision a judge in any decent society would have handed down and exactly what was deserved.” To reiterate, in the first type, seeing as I cannot get the details, I withhold judgement and certainly do not readily accept that it was the racism that the case loser claims. In the latter type, when sufficient relevant information becomes available, I use it to make a rational judgement to see that no racism need be involved (Occam’s razor.)

        “I don’t know if you are Japanese or non-Japanese who has come to think like many Japanese after having lived in Japan for so long, since your thinking is quite typical of many Japanese I have come across.”

        It is useful of course to consider the mindset of people who disagree with you. Understanding ‘where they are coming form’ (as it were) is helpful in engaging them. The particular point that you seem to be trying to make has been addressed elsewhere by me (*see footnote if interested) and I note with great interest what the following quotation seems to suggest about your approach:

        “Should Mandela and South Africa have settled for apartheid and held a debate about it instead? Should the world have held a debate with Hitler and Stalin? Should Martin Luther King and Gandhi have settled for debates, while agreeing to live under segregation and British rule? Should we now hold debates with ISIS and Kim Jong Un?”

        I find the comparison of contemporary Japan to systems of colonial or domestic oppression which denied the humanity of parts of society or of other societies, totalitarian states that slaughtered million or tens of million of their own citizens, fanatical organizations whose stated aim is killing others based on their religious beliefs, or a contemporary totalitarian regime which thinks nothing of starving millions of its own people whilst pursuing massive military expenditures then used for threatening other nations with nuclear annihilation, to be very telling. Getting heated about things which you don’t like is fair enough, but these kinds of comparisons strike me as so extreme as to seriously bring into question the state of mind that enables them.

        [*In brief, the claim that someone who spends a long time in another culture becomes emotionally invested in it, thus failing to see it’s flaws brings up the equally important question of why another person who spends a long time in another culture fails to engage in that culture at all. Every credible anthropologist in the Western world of the past 100 years, would consider the ability to engage another culture a plus, enabling greater understanding of both one’s culture of origin and the culture encountered; whilst considering the inability to do so as indicative of an insecurity which blocks understanding. Not my opinion, easily verifiable.]

      • 武 東郷

        Come on, Steve. Give me a break. As a person who lived in the States for seven years, three years in Australia and three years in an European country, I can tell you with conviction that Japan is not the only one.

      • midnightbrewer

        Oliver, you failed to make a point. Also, you seem to be unfamiliar with the definition of censure. Or contradiction, for that matter.

      • Oliver Mackie

        midnightbrewer, I owe you an apology. Not only did I mis-read what you wrote, but I simultaneously got you confused with another poster. All previous comments which I made about your posts are hereby retracted (I shall not delete them, in order to keep a record of what too much haste can result in.) Again, my apologies.

      • Sam Gilman

        Upvote because it is so horribly rare for someone in Internet debates to be honest about their errors. Thank you. (I have to admit I got very confused at the discussion between the two of you!)

      • Oliver Mackie

        My apologies to you also, as a follower. I was all over the place yesterday (for reasons not clear to me) to the point that I was actually misreading stuff. When I look at my relevant comments in the evening, I thought, “what on earth were you doing?”

      • Perry Constantine

        It’s not anti-free speech. If you ask someone to shut up, that in itself is an expression of free speech. Preventing someone from speaking is anti-free speech. She’s free to ignore the request to retract her statement or respond to it.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thanks. Please note that I have retracted the post that you have responded to due to having made a mistake in my reading of what the poster whom it had responded to had written.

  • Brian Southwick

    With 111 professors and scholars and a handful of others outside the expat community protesting Sono’s comments, I would hardly characterize the outrage as “public”.

  • tornadoes28

    Crazy old hag.

  • Chronos

    Well that isn´t exactly news… It’s been a while since japanese extreme right wing is gaining more attention… From the press, youngsters, men and women… And some listen to it and actually think they’re right!And history has demonstrated that extreme thoughts, political views, religiousness etc… Have had a tragic outcome for humankind…

  • manthony

    I think a better solution, given the climate of intolerance, is to put people like Sono in segregation, away from the rest of us, lock the gate, and throw away the key. Two birds, one stone.

  • Jason Gray

    Had to steal this from Twitter: “She writes like a woman twice her age.”

  • WalterFeldman

    Free speech can be so annoying…

  • Woot Woot

    She has a point. I think this is exactly what Japan needs. Now if only Abe would listen to the wise words of the old.

    • Perry Constantine

      Yeah, because it worked SO well for America and South Africa…

  • Robert_in_Japan

    82 years old! We seriously need a retirement age for politicians. This would solve a lot of problems if it was set at 65.

  • Carla Johnson

    She probably doesn’t like her granddaughter’s gaijin boyfriend so she’s taking it out on all of us.

  • cobrawolf

    Isn’t is age discrimination to defend her comments by saying just because she is 83 she has lost touch with reality and is crazy? I know several people well into their 80’s that are very intelligent, socially conscious and keen on current affairs. Her age is not an excuse. It is the Japanese again trying to dodge any criticism of their society. And yes, racism (extreme nationalism) exists in American too. The difference it, in America it is out in the open, everyone knows it exists, we talk about it in schools, teach cultural tolerance, and that is it wrong. This is not the case in Japan. Japanese will just pull out the victim card and say who are we to judge them? Just let us be Japanese …. well 1000 years ago you could as a island nation. Just close the doors and good bye world. In a society that promotes group belonging, Japan sure has not applied that ideal to the international stage. The Japanese on the most part suffer from chronic guestism, are group narcissistic , xenophobic, and full on internationally retarded. They do not like their faults to be illuminated, as any narcissist wouldn’t. Japan is not yours, it’s OURS.

  • Caolan Garret

    I wonder how she feels about Japanese Americans that were sent to internment camps during WWII. They lived separately by choice. Choice of the white man that is.