Minister in Charge of Japan’s Cybersecurity Says He Has Never Used a Computer

By Daniel Victor

Yoshitaka Sakurada, left, who heads the Japanese government’s cybersecurity office, said he had no need to learn to use a computer.CreditCreditJiji Press/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — A lot of people don’t use computers. Most of them aren’t in charge of a nation’s cybersecurity.

But one is. Japanese lawmakers were aghast on Wednesday when Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, the minister who heads the government’s cybersecurity office, said during questioning in Parliament that he had no need for the devices, and appeared confused when asked basic technology questions.

“I have been independently running my own business since I was 25 years old,” he said. When computer use is necessary, he said, “I order my employees or secretaries” to do it.

“I don’t type on a computer,” he added.

Asked by a lawmaker if nuclear power plants allowed the use of USB drives, a common technology widely considered to be a security risk, Mr. Sakurada did not seem to understand what they were.

“I don’t know details well,” he said. “So how about having an expert answer your question if necessary, how’s that?”

The comments were immediately criticized.

“I can’t believe that a person who never used a computer is in charge of cybersecurity measures,” said Masato Imai, an opposition lawmaker.

Even before his admission on Wednesday, Mr. Sakurada, who is also overseeing the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, had occasionally attracted media coverage for head-scratching public comments. A week before his comments on cybersecurity, The Asahi Shimbun wrote that he showed a “knack for giving baffling replies.”

His responses to questions about Olympic preparations “showed a stunning lack of understanding of basic issues concerning the event,” the newspaper wrote.

He fumbled questions about how much the event would cost and whether North Korean officials would be attending, frequently turning to his aides for help, according to the newspaper. He said he had stumbled because he did not know the questions ahead of time.

In 2016, he apologized after saying that so-called comfort women — Koreans who were abducted and forced to become sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II — were “prostitutes by occupation” and that people had been “heavily misled by propaganda work treating them as if they were victims.”

His comments came a month after Japan and South Korea had officially settled a long-simmering dispute about reparations for the women, which remains a sore spot in relations between the two countries.

The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, gave Mr. Sakurada oversight of cybersecurity and the Olympics and Paralympics last month in a cabinet shake-up.

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting from Tokyo.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Japan’s Cybersecurity Czar Has Never Used Computer. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe