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Shintaro Ishihara

Shintaro IshiharaThe apotheosis of Japanese conservative nationalism, ultra-right wing politician Shintaro Ishihara , the 80 year old mayor of Tokyo, announced 25 October 2012 that he was resigning his Tokyo mayoral post effective immediately, to form and lead a “true conservative” party into the general election. After a 25 year Diet career as a member of the LDP that ended in 1995, Ishihara was first elected mayor of Tokyo in April 1999 as an independent. He remains a popular, and consistently controversial figure, given his ultra-nationalist and occasionally anti-American views. With a new party, Ishihara is attempting to create a third political force to rival the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party in the next lower house election. He will likely seek cooperation with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which is led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. Five Diet members from the Sunrise Party of Japan, including its leader Takeo Hiranuma and Secretary General Hiroyuki Sonoda, are expected to join Ishihara's party.

Shintaro Ishihara was born on 30 September 1932 in Suma-ku, Kobe. His father Kiyoshi was an employee, later a general manager, of a shipping company. A writer turned politician, Ishihara has positioned himself as the pioneer of Japan’s ultra-right wing. A founding member of the Liberal Democratic Party, he has increased his exposure through provocative and offensive statements made against China and other countries. Although probably not trusted enough to become Prime Minister, is still respected for his plain talk on nationalist issues.

Prominent right-wing nationalists like Ishihara regularly issue provocative statements expressing approval ofprewar emperor-centered nationalism, denial that wartime atrocities such as the Rape of Nanking occurred, and esteem for Japan’s pre-1945 colonial and imperialist ventures in Asia. Ishihara advocated scrapping Japan’s “peace constitution” and pursuing a foreign policy more independent of US leadership. Interviewed in July 2011, Ishihara said “Japan should absolutely possess nuclear weapons,” citing China and North Korea as potential threats.

Conservative LDP members with an interest in security issues (sometimes referred to as the LDP "hawks") include those affiliated with Ichiro Nakagawa, former director of the Science and Technology Agency, who unsuccessfully ran for the office of prime minister in 1982. Nakagawa was a founder in the early 1970s of the Seirankai (Blue Storm Society), a now-defunct club of ültra-conservative LDP members. Following Nakagawa's death in January 1983, the group was associated with Shintaro Ishihara, who publicly advocated nuclear weapons for Japan. Group members support development of an independent defense capability and were extremely hostile to the Soviet Union.

In 1989, along with Sony’s Akio Morita, he authored the best selling book The Japan that Can Say No. They posed the question. "If, for example, Japan sold chips to the SovietUnion and stopped selling them to the U.S., this would upset the entire military balance." Ishihara charges the United States with racism, saying that "the United States bombed many German cities and killed many civilians but did not use atomic bombs on the Germans. U.S. planes dropped them on us because we are Japanese.... " He says that the same racism underlies trade friction with Japan. He criticizes Japan's "flawed" foreign and defense policies, stating that "We have subordinated our security interests to America's global strategy and pay much of the cost of maintaining their forces in Japan.... The Asian countries that are booming economically - South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. - were all controlled by Japan at one time before or during World War II. Admittedly, Japan behaved badly during the conflict and soul searching is in order, but in some ways we were also a beneficial influence." J un Eto, another strident nationalist, advocates a new relationship, collaborated with Ishihara on the most recent version of A Japan That Can Say No (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1991) (referred to by one US embassy official in Tokyo as The Japan That Can Say Hell No).

A nationalist backlash in Japan had been developing for some years against concessions on textbooks, Yasukuni visits and other history issues. At the forefront of this movement are so-called "revisionists" who decry what they see as Japan's "apology diplomacy" and "masochistic" acceptance of the "Tokyo War Crimes Trial View" of Japan's war guilt. In contrast to old-school nationalists and ultra-nationalists, they are dominated by media-savvy intellectuals and populist politicians, like Shintaro Ishihara.

Ishihara's view about the justice of World War II is clear: "There is no justice in war, only national interests. So-called justice is nothing more than a gimmick, a diplomatic tactic." And as for Japan unleashing a war of aggression, Ishihara explained it in this way, "The Showa emperor's edict hinted at what modern American historians are saying. Encircled by an economic blockade by ABCD [acronym as published] (America, Britain, China, and the Dutch), Japan would not be able to survive. We did no twant to fight but had no choice other than to fight. This is a fact that the imperial edict revealed.... Had Japan not been involved in the war, the world today would have remained one where white people imposecolonial rule on people of color."

Ultra-conservatives such as Ishihara Shintaro advocate Japan-centric regionalism, while mainstream political leaders and bureaucrats are much more cautious about the idea, because the move could entail an outright rejection of US regional leadership and the likelihood of Japanese remilitarization, further fragmentation of the world trading system, and increasing burdens of leadership. Even if Ishihara does not represent mainstream attitudes at either the eliteor mass level, these attitudes could change.

In June 2006 Tokyo was locking on the US Air Force's Yokota base located in the western district of the metropolis, having targeted the facility for joint use with commercial airlines. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara made it a public pledge in his gubernatorial election campaign to have the airbase ultimately returned. "We will start regular domestic flights in a year," Ishihara vowed. Meanwhile, airline companies have asked in writing the Tokyo metropolitan and Japanese governments for commercial use of the airbase. However, some of the local communities hosting the airbase were against such joint military-civilian use, citing such reasons as noise pollution. Prospects seemed poor for a civilian Yokota airport.

"We will have airlines start their domestic regular flights at least in a year, so I hope you will use their services." Ishihara made this remark on 24 May 2006 at a meeting of governors from prefectures in the Kanto region. In the meeting, which was held in Tokyo, Ishihara was full of confidence. Then, on June 6, when Tokyo's metropolitan assembly opened its regular session, Ishihara in his policy speech again referred to the feasibility of Yokota airbase for actual joint use. Yokota base reversion was Ishihara's campaign pledge when he was first ran for Tokyo's governorship in 1999. The central government has remained silent about this issue.

On 08 April 2007 Tokyo incumbent Governor Shintaro Ishihara, 74, won his third term as an independent, although he received informal support from the local LDP chapter. He contested the election as an independent with no backing from any political party, as was the case in the past two gubernatorial elections. The LDP stopped supporting candidates seeking more than two terms after bid-rigging scandals came to light in 2006. Ishihara has been a controversial figure at times, but remains popular. His "Reboot Tokyo" campaign plays up his successes over the past eight years, but he is often criticized for his "inner circle" style of management. Former three-term Miyagi Governor Asano, 59, ran against Ishihara as an independent, but with support from the DPJ. Asano mounted the most serious challenge the incumbent had faced yet, though polls showed Ishihara maintained a strong lead. The Tokyo race features 14, up from five in the last election, including an inventor, a taxi driver, a fortuneteller, and an anarchist beer drinker.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, taking part in the Large Cities Climate Change Summit in New York, attended a meeting of the Japan-US cultural exchange organization, The Japan Society, where he delivered a speech at the Japan Society in New York on 17 May 2007 in which he said regarding a contingency involving the Senkaku Islands and other events: "The extent to which the United States will take responsibility for the defense of Japan is extremely questionable. If the United States is undependable, Japan will have to make independent efforts. The country might end up possessing nuclear weapons, an option the United States fears." Ishihara said this about the issue of wartime "comfort women": "It's not true at all that the military procured them." When asked by reporters after a speech about his view, Ishihara said: "It's absolutely not true that the military procured those women. However, there were some people who went into the business of providing such women to the military."

Additionally, Ishihara said that in the event a full-scale war broke out between the United States and China: "The United States would not be able to counter the Communist regime which looks up (former President Mao Zedong), who did not hesitate to kill 70 million people, as the father of the country." He also highlighted the need to build Japan-US relations on an equal footing, saying: "The peoples of Japan and the United States must renew the awareness that Japan has never been a country like (US-governed) Puerto Rico."

Ishihara insulted China by ridiculing its 2003 space flight: “The Chinese are ignorant, so they’re overjoyed.That (spaceship) was an outdated one. If Japan wanted to do it,we could do it in 1 year.” In the same week, Ishihara insulted hisother Asian neighbor. Resuscitating the “arrogance” of Japanese imperialism, Ishihara said Koreans chose Japanese annexation oftheir country in 1910. Ishihara added salt to the Korean wound:“. . . the annexation was the fault of their ancestors, and even though Japan’s rule was in the form of colonialism, it was advanced and humanitarian.” No one heard strong condemnation of these remarks from prominent Japanese politicians and academics.

Ishihara played a key role in reviving a bitter territorial dispute with China. Ishihara announced a plan in April 2012, to purchase from private Japanese owners the islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. The plan provoked a crisis in China-Japan relations. The cluster of uninhabited islands is controlled by Japan but is Chinese territory. That prompted the Japanese government to purchase the islands from a private owner in September, triggering a fierce row with China.

On August 18, 2012 the central government deported 14 Chinese activists just two days after seven of them landed on the disputed islands, apparently to prevent Japan-China relations from deteriorating even further. Ishihara denounced the government's decision. "I have witnessed, once again, the weak-kneed diplomacy of the central government against China--or rather, the government's pitiful attitude of pandering to China's interests," he said at a press conference the same day. Ishihara, who is known for his hard-line stance toward China, pointed out that the activists hurled bricks at the Japan Coast Guard's patrol vessel. "Isn't this an obstruction of justice? A nation incapable of enforcing its laws is not a nation," Ishihara said.

Ishihara abruptly announced that he is quitting after nearly 14 years in office to form a new political party ahead of expected national elections. Ishihara, announced his resignation at a news conference and said he plans to run in the next Lower House election. Ishihara said, "I announce hereby my resignation but this does not mean I quit politics. I plan to devote my last days to a bigger, national cause."

Ishihara said he hopes his new party can fix what he sees as many contradictions with Japanese politics. He said the biggest is the Japanese constitution, which he said was written in "ugly Japanese" and imposed on Japan by the United States. He also said he wants to fix the nation's political and fiscal problems, decrying what he says is the "inflexible rule of the central government bureaucrats." Ishihara is credited with overseeing a series of financial and energy reforms in Tokyo, which has a population of over 13 million and a $1.1 trillion economy.

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Page last modified: 27-10-2012 19:23:27 ZULU