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2020 January 15 - 21 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Aso under fire for ‘Japan has been single-ethnic for 2K years’ remark

January 16, 2020
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aso Taro on January 13 falsely claimed that Japan is the only nation in the world “with one ethnicity and ruled by a single dynasty for 2,000 years”. This remark, which was made at his supporters’ meeting in Fukuoka, was severely criticized as fanning ethnic divisions.

Aso made a similar remark in 2005 when serving as the Internal Affairs Minister. At an opening ceremony of a national museum in Fukuoka, he asserted that no nation other than Japan can be characterized by one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one ethnicity. This provoked much controversy due to its obvious resemblance to a well-known Nazi slogan, “One people, one empire, one leader”.

For the last 2,000 years, Japan has been inhabited by many peoples including the Ainu people and those who came from China and the Korean Peninsula between the fourth and seventh centuries who introduced culture, written characters, and advanced technologies into Japan. The mother of Emperor Kanmu, a famous emperor in the eighth century, was from the Korean Peninsula.

Even around the 1930s, when Japan’s nationalism was at its peak, the country was far from a single ethnicity. It had colonies in Manchuria (currently northeastern China), Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and elsewhere. Many companies at that time, including a mining company owned by Aso’s relatives, used Koreans as well as POWs.

Currently, 500,000 Koreans live in Japan and among them are a large number of naturalized Japanese. In the world of Japan’s national sport of sumo, many wrestlers of foreign birth compete in the Grand Sumo Tournaments.

The law to provide support for the Ainu people, which was enacted in April 2019, acknowledges that the Ainu is the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Aso’s remark contradicts this acknowledgement.

Aso’s remark is evidently in connection to the Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), the largest rightist group in Japan which supports revising the Constitution. He has close ties with Nippon Kaigi, having served as the chief of the parliamentarians’ group relating to the rightist organization. Aso’s controversial remark was clearly in order to win support from rightists who claim that Japan is single-ethnic. He should learn lessons from the ideology of Nazi Germany which fueled ethnic divisions resulting in the holocaust.
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