Japan’s Cybersecurity Minister Has Never Used a Computer In His Life

Newly appointed state minister in charge of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games Yoshitaka Sakurada speaks during a press conference at the premier's official residence in Tokyo on October 2.
Newly appointed state minister in charge of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games Yoshitaka Sakurada speaks during a press conference at the premier’s official residence in Tokyo on October 2.
Toshifumi Kitamura/Getty Images

Japan’s new cybersecurity minister has never used a computer before. It appears that he also doesn’t know what a USB drive is, either.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, has come under fire for admitting to his technological ignorance during a parliament session Wednesday. Among other things, Sakurada is in charge of overseeing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, tasked with making sure the country is safe from hacking activity during the event.

“Since I was 25 years old and independent I have instructed my staff and secretaries,” he said in response to a question from independent lawmaker Masato Imai. “I have never used a computer in my life.” According to Kyodo News:

Flabbergasted by Sakurada’s comments, Imai responded, “I find it unbelievable that someone who is responsible for cybersecurity measures has never used a computer.”

But Sakurada said, “It’s a matter that should be dealt with by the government as a whole. I am confident that I am not at fault.”

Sakurada also failed to answer basic technology questions. When a lawmaker asked whether USB drives can be used at nuclear power plants, Sakurada redirected the question to other “experts,” as he did not “know details well.”

But surely he must be knowledgeable about other basic issues regarding the Olympics, right?

Apparently not. Sakurada has previously failed to answer how much the event would cost or whether North Korean officials will be allowed to attend, the Washington Post reported. He had an excuse for that, too. (Because no one had told him the questions in advance.)

Sakurada was appointed as a cybersecurity minister in October by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, following Abe’s re-election as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and reshuffling of the cabinet.

Sakurada has a history plagued with controversy. For example, in 2016, he used extremely offensive language used to describe South Korean comfort women who were forced to work in Japan’s military brothels before and during World War II. Sakurada called the women “prostitutes by occupation,” claiming that propaganda had created a misconception that these women were victims. Sakurada later apologized and retracted his statement.

There are plenty of digitally illiterate politicians here in the U.S. as well, though not quite to the same extent as Sakurada. For instance, Rep. Kevin McCarthy once complained that conservatives were being censored on Twitter. It turns out he was looking at a retweet flagged with containing “potentially sensitive content,” something he can easily reverse by tinkering with his account preferences.

Some politicians aren’t a huge fan of email, either.

“I don’t email,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said, according to the Washington Post. “No, you can have every e-mail I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.” Late Sen. John McCain Pat Roberts and Richard C. Shelby also admitted to either rarely using email or not using it altogether.

But at least they aren’t in charge of cybersecurity policy for the entire country.