A former advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Abe has caused outrage worldwide by suggesting that Japan should adopt an apartheid policy for foreign workers. Reuters reports:
Author Ayako Sono, considered part of Abe’s informal brain trust, set off a wave of online fury this week when she wrote in the conservative Sankei newspaper that South Africa’s former policies of racial separation had been good for whites, Asians and Africans.Her comments could complicate Abe’s efforts to address a deepening labor shortage and his efforts to burnish the country’s image abroad, analysts say.In a column entitled “Let Them In – But Keep a Distance”, Sono said Japan should open its doors to more foreign workers, especially to care for the growing numbers of elderly, but should make them live separately from Japanese.“People can carry out business and research together, and socialize together, but they should live apart,” she wrote.
These comments will be widely seen as an example of deep racism and xenophobia. From another angle, however, it’s a typical Japanese way of edging toward a taboo subject. The falling population makes it inevitable that Japan is going to have to think about admitting many more immigrants than most Japanese are comfortable thinking about. The most important thing about these comments may not be how outrageous the apartheid proposal is. Rather, they’re important because they show that even very conservative and tradition-minded Japanese are beginning to think seriously about the unthinkable.