Foreign Policy Blogs

Ishihara exploited disaster to win re-election

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara was voted in for a fourth term in Sunday’s election. Voter turnout was 57.8 percent, and Ishihara got about 43 percent of the vote. The 78-year-old, far-right incumbent, who has been an independent governor of Tokyo since 1999, played up his role in handling the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which has resulted in rolling blackouts in the Tokyo.

Ishihara exploited disaster to win re-election

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara addresses supporters after Sunday's election. (AP Photo)

Ishihara pledged support for the quake-affected areas, saying, “We’ll do whatever we can, and we’ll even do what people in the afflicted areas think Tokyo is not required to do.” Coming from the man who had referred to the earthquake as “tembatsu,” divine retribution, for the greed of the Japanese people, this pledge for support sounds rather hollow.

In a publicity stunt, Ishihara went to a water purification plant in Tokyo that had radiation levels unsafe for infants, and drank the plant’s tap water in front of cameras in what may have been a live-action remake of the infamous “Pluto Boy” cartoon.

In addition to losing a billion dollars of tax-payer money by setting up the risky ShinGinko Tokyo bank, Ishihara is best known for his controversial statements, such as the “tembatsu” statement referred to above. While I am thankful for him providing me with plenty of material for my blog, I shake my head in disbelief every time this guy opens his mouth. Below is a compilation of greatest hits of his insensitive quotes, with commentary.

“If Japanese hadn’t fought the white people, we would still be slaves of the white people. It would be colonization. We changed that.” 2004 quote.

Japan has never been colonized, unless you count the Japanese colonists themselves who displaced the indigenous Ainu and Ryukyuan people.

“People say that the Japanese made a holocaust but that is not true. It is a story made up by the Chinese. It has tarnished the image of Japan, but it is a lie.” 1990 quote on the Rape of Nanking.

The Imperial Japanese Army massacred between 150,000 to 300,000 Chinese, and raped between 20,000 to 80,000 women in Nanking, China.

“Old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin.” 2001 quote.

“The Chinese are ignorant, so they are overjoyed. That spacecraft was an outdated one. If Japan wanted to do it, we could do it in one year.”

On China’s successful launch of a man in space.

“I hate Mickey Mouse. He has nothing like the unique sensibility that Japan has. The Japanese are inherently skilled at visual expression and detailed work.” 2006 quote.

Disney is quite popular in Japan, despite Mickey Mouse not having Japan’s unique sensibility.

“I have to say that it should be no surprise that French is disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers.” 2004 quote.

Ishihara apparently thinks no one can count in French since French counts in units of 20, rather than 10. A similar argument could be made about Japanese, which counts in units of ten-thousands, rather than thousands. Counting in French is still easier than Japanese, in which the speaker has to add a “counter” to every word, which changes depending on the noun, and some numbers become irregular depending on which counter is used. (English has counters too, but not as many as Japanese, such as sheets of paper, slices of pizza, heads of cattle.)

“Roppongi is now virtually a foreign neighborhood. Africans–I don’t mean African-Americans–who don’t speak English are there doing who knows what. This is leading to new forms of crime such as car theft. We should be letting in people who are intelligent.” 2006 quote.

Most of the Africans in Roppongi are touts for clubs of varying reputability. They have a reputation for harassing and robbing foreigners, which is why the U.S. Department of State recommends Americans staying away from Roppongi. But Africans aren’t the only ones involved in these crimes. Ishihara had nothing to say of the Japanese yakuza who commit similar ripoffs. If you’re in Tokyo and one of these touts approaches you, it’s best to change directions without making eye-contact. I’ve never heard of them stealing cars though. The last sentence of this quote illustrates Ishihara’s fascist leanings. If the government were to get rid of all the unintelligent people in Tokyo, Ishihara would be first to go.

“With sangokujin and foreigners repeating serious crimes, we should prepare ourselves for possible riots that may be instigated by them at the outbreak of an earthquake. As police is not always fit for handling all contingencies, the Self-Defense forces should be ready to respond to threats to public security besides natural disasters.”

Sangokujin is a pejorative for residents from Japan’s former Korean and Taiwanese colonies. In the aftermath of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, thousands of “sangokujin” workers were killed by mobs of Japanese.

This has just been a sample of Ishihara’s idiotic quotes. A quick Google search can turn up many more.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

Visit him online at
E-mail him: [email protected]