Ishihara Shitaro is a Japanese author and politician. He has been the Governor of Tokyo since 1999.
Early life and artistic career
Shintaro was born in Kobe. His father Kiyoshi was an employee, later a general manager, of a shipping company. Shintaro grew up in Zushi, Kanagawa. In 1952, he entered Hitotsubashi University, and he graduated in 1956. Just two months before graduation, Shintaro won the Akutagawa Prize (Japan's most prestigious literary prize) for the novel Season of the Sun (Taiyo-no kisetsu). His brother Yujiro played a supporting role in the screen adaptation of the novel (for which Shintaro wrote the screenplay), and the two soon became the center of a youth-oriented cult.
A measure of his own aggrandized assessment of his years as an artist is reflected in his statement to the Playboy interviewer later on in life (1990) that "If I had remained a movie director, I can assure you that I would have at least become a better one than Akira Kurosawa". (He had dabbled in directing a couple of films starring his brother).
In the early 1960s, he concentrated on writing, including plays, novels, and a musical version of Treasure Island. One of his later novels, Lost Country (1982), speculated about Japan under the control of the Soviet Union. He also ran a theatre company, and found time to visit the North Pole, race his yacht The Contessa and crossed South America on a motorcycle. He wrote a memoir of the journey, Nanbei Odan Ichiman Kiro.
From 1966 to 1967, he covered the Vietnam War at the request of Yomiuri Shimbun. The experience influenced his decision to enter politics.
In 1968, Ishihara ran as a candidate on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) national slate for the House of Councillors. He placed first on the LDP list with an unprecedented three million votes. After four years in the upper house, Ishihara ran for the House of Representatives representing the second district of Tokyo, and again won election.
In 1973, he joined with thirty other LDP lawmakers in the anti-communist Seirankai or "Blue Storm Group"; the group gained notoriety for sealing a pledge of unity in their own blood.
Ishihara ran for Governor of Tokyo in 1975 but lost to the popular Socialist incumbent Monobe Ryokichi. He returned to the House of Representatives afterward, and worked his way up the party's internal ladder, serving as Director-General of the Environment Agency under Fukuda Takeo (1976) and Minister of Transport under Takeshita Noboru (1989). During the 1980s, Ishihara was a highly visible and popular LDP figure, but unable to win enough internal support to form a true faction and move up the national political ladder.
In 1989, shortly after losing a highly contested race for the party presidency, Ishihara came to the attention of the West through his book, The Japan That Can Say No, co-authored with Sony chairman Akio Morita. The book called on his fellow countrymen to stand up to the United States.
According to politician Hamada Koichi, Ishihara gave financial and political support to Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult that was involved in several murders and assassination attempts during the early 1990s. Immediately after the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, Ishihara dropped out of national politics, suddenly ending a 25-year career in the Diet.
In 1999, he ran on an independent platform and was elected as Governor of Tokyo.
Ishihara is generally described as one of Japan's most prominent "far right" politicians. In Australia's ABC, he was called "Japan's Le Pen".
Policies as governor
Among Ishihara's moves as governor, he:
* Cut metropolitan spending projects, including plans for a new Toei Subway line, and proposed the sale or leasing out of many metropolitan facilities.
* Imposed a new tax on banks' gross profits (rather than net profits).
* Imposed a new hotel tax based on occupancy.
* Imposed restrictions on the operation of diesel-powered vehicles, following a highly publicized event where he held up a bottle of diesel soot before cameras and reporters.
* Imposed cap and trade energy tax.
* Proposed opening casinos in the Odaiba district.
* Declared in 2005 that Tokyo would bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which discouraged a bid by Fukuoka.
* Set up the ShinGinko Tokyo bank to lend to SMEs in Tokyo. This bank has lost approximately 1 billion dollars worth of taxpayer's money through inadequate customer risk assessments.
* Currently serving as Chairman of the Tokyo bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
* He generated controversy from PETA for the reduction of the 37,000 crows that populated Tokyo.
Ishihara is a long term friend of the prominent Aquino family in the Philippines. He is credited as being the first person to inform future President Corazon Aquino about the assassination of her husband Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. on August 21, 1983.
Ishihara has often been critical of Japan's foreign policy as being non-assertive. Regarding Japan's relationship with the US, he stated that "The country I dislike most in terms of US¨CJapan ties is Japan, because it's a country that can't assert itself."
In 1994, Ishihara published a book co-authored with then-Prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad titled "No" to ieru Ajia - tai Oubei e no hosaku 'The Asia that can say "No"'. In the book, Ishihara insisted that Japan should return to its Asian roots and criticized Western-style modern civilization.
Ishihara has also long been critical of the PRC government. He invited the Dalai Lama and the President of the Republic of China Lee Teng-hui to Tokyo, which agitated the government of the People's Republic of China.
Ishihara is deeply interested in the North Korean abduction issue, and called for economic sanctions against North Korea. Following Ishihara's campaign to bid Tokyo for the 2016 Summer Olympics, he has since eased his criticism of the Chinese government. He accepted an invitation to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and was selected as a torch-bearer for the Japan leg of the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.
Views on foreigners in Japan
On April 9, 2000, in a speech before a Self-Defense Forces group, Ishihara publicly stated that atrocious crimes have been committed repeatedly by illegally entered sangokujin(third country national); a term commonly viewed as derogatory) and foreigners, and speculated that in the event a natural disaster struck the Tokyo area, they would be likely to cause civil disorder. His comment invoked calls for his resignation, demands for an apology and fears among residents of Korean descent in Japan. Regarding this statement, Ishihara later said:
I referred to the "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally." I thought some people would not know that word so I paraphrased it and used gaikokujin, or foreigners. But it was a newspaper holiday so the news agencies consciously picked up the sangokujin part, causing the problem. ... After World War II, when Japan lost, the Chinese of Taiwanese origin and people from the Korean Peninsula persecuted, robbed and sometimes beat up Japanese. It's at that time the word was used, so it was not derogatory. Rather we were afraid of them. ... There's no need for an apology. I was surprised that there was a big reaction to my speech. In order not to cause any misunderstanding, I decided I will no longer use that word. It is regrettable that the word was interpreted in the way it was.
Much of the criticism of this statement involved the historical significance of the term: sangokujin historically referred to ethnic Chinese and Koreans, working in Japan, several thousand of whom were killed by mobs of Japanese people following the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.
On February 20, 2006, Ishihara also said: "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."
On April 17, 2010, Ishihara said "many veteran lawmakers in the ruling-coalition parties are naturalized or the offspring of people naturalized in Japan".
 Other controversial statements
In 1990, Ishihara said in a Playboy interview that the Rape of Nanking was a fiction, claiming, - 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.- He continued to defend this statement in the uproar that ensued. He has also backed the film The Truth about Nanjing, which argues that the Nanking Massacre was propaganda.
In 2000, Ishihara, one of the eight judges for a literary prize, commented that homosexuality is abnormal, which caused an outrage in the gay community in Japan.
In a 2001 interview with women's magazine Shukan Josei, Ishihara said that he believed "old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin," adding that he "couldn't say this as a politician." He was criticized in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly for these comments, but responded that the criticism was driven by "tyranto old women."
During an inauguration of a university building in 2004, Ishihara stated that French is unqualified as an international language because it is "a language in which nobody can count", referring to the counting system in French, which is based on units of twenty for numbers up to ninety-nine rather than ten (as is the case in Japanese and English). The statement led to a lawsuit from several language schools in 2005. Ishihara subsequently responded to comments that he did not disrespect French culture by professing his love of French literature on Japanese TV news.
At a Tokyo IOC press briefing in 2009, Governor Ishihara dismissed a letter sent by environmentalist Paul Coleman regarding the contradiction of his promoting the Tokyo Olympic 2016 bid as 'the greenest ever' while destroying the forested mountain of Minamiyama, the closest 'Satoyama' to the centre of Tokyo, by angrily stating Coleman was 'Just a foreigner, it does not matter'. Then, on continued questioning by investigative journalist Hajime Yokata, he stated 'Minamiyama is a Devil's Mountain that eats children.' Then he went on to explain how unmanaged forests 'eat children' and implied that Yokota, a Japanese national, was betraying his nation by saying 'What nationality are you anyway?' This was recorded on film and turned into a video that was sent around the world as the Save Minamiyama Movement.
In 2010, Ishihara claimed that Korea under Japanese rule was absolutely justified due to historical pressures from Qing Dynasty and Imperial Russia.
In reference to the 2011 T¨hoku earthquake and tsunami, Ishihara said "that the disaster was 'punishment from heaven' because Japanese have become greedy".
America's identity is freedom. France's identity is freedom, equality and fraternity. Japan has no sense of that. Only greed. Materiality greed, monetary greed.
This greed bounds with populism. These things need to be washed away with the Tsunami. For many years the heart of Japanese always bounded with devil.
Japanese's identity is greed. We should avail of this tsunami to wash away this greed. I think this is a divine punishment.
However, he also commented that the victims of this disaster were pitiable.
This speech quickly caused many controversies and critical responses from the public opinion, both inside and outside Japan. The governor of Miyagi expressed displeasure about Ishihara's speech, claimed that Ishihara should have considered about the victims of the disaster. Ishihara then had to apologize about his comments.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics, Ishihara stated that "Westerners practicing judo resembles beasts fighting. Internationalized judo has lost its appeal." He added, "In Brazil they put chocolate in norimaki, but I wouldn't call it sushi. Judo has gone the same way."