The controversy surrounding Ayako Sono's Feb. 11 column in the Sankei Shimbun has been impossible to ignore, especially for those of us involved in the day-to-day work of supporting foreign communities in Japan.

South African Ambassador Mohau Pheko's letter to that same newspaper was a reminder that, in the past, the deceptively simple word "separation" has been used to justify and describe human rights violations on a massive scale — a practice that has no place in the 21st century.

On Feb. 21, The Japan Times reported Sono's attempts to clarify her original statement, in which she referred to "dedicated colonies for Japanese 'nikkei' immigrants" in South America. She also stated that in Japan, "there are communities for Brazilian immigrants," where they live "separately by choice." This is a distortion of the experiences both of Japanese in Brazil and of Brazilians in Japan.