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Is Shintaro Ishihara the most dangerous man in Japan? Readers discuss

Parallels with wartime general

Re: “The world according to Toru Hashimoto” by Eric Johnston (Light Gist, Oct. 30): Only one kana syllable (or one letter in romaji) separates (Nippon Ishin no Kai leader Shintaro) Ishihara from (Imperial Japanese Army) Gen. (Kanji) Ishiwara, but there’s more to the similarity between the two men than their names.

Ishiwara in 1931 was the man behind the Manchurian Incident, which would open the curtain on Japan’s aggression towards China in the 1930s and 40s and set a pattern for militarist Japan’s “might is right” policies of that era.

Ishihara in 2012 was the man behind the “we’ll buy the Senkakus for Tokyo” incident, an explosive statement that sparked the latest disturbances between Japan and China. To push the envelope further, Ishihara has now resigned as governor of Tokyo and announced his bid for a leading role in national politics.

In what he clearly sees as his last hurrah, he obviously wants to be the shogun in a new “restoration” (ishin) of “spiritual” values in Japan — the kind of “spiritual” values that the friend of his youth, Yukio Mishima, so admired in the pre-1945 Japan, and the kind of values advanced by the likes of Kanji Ishiwara, who ardently looked forward to a grand world conflagration in which Japan would lead Asia in a “spiritual” holy war against “the decadent West.”

For such a “holy cause” Mishima was ready to kill himself; few were prepared to follow him then in the late 1960s, when Japan was on its way toward material prosperity. Today, Japan’s situation is very different. Economically and politically, the country is in the doldrums and dangerously adrift in terms of its direction. As in the early 1930s, the situation is exacerbated by the economic crisis, which, then as now, started in the USA, a country with which Ishihara and Mishima have had a love-hate relationship — arguably one more of contempt than love.

Today, the nation may be more prepared to follow pied pipers such as Ishihara and (Nippon Ishin deputy leader) Hashimoto, as no one else seems to be putting themselves forward to offer a real alternative to the clearly bankrupt political establishment.

If Ishihara manages to forge his “third force” with Hashimoto, (Takeo) Hiranuma and others, he may well draw serious financial support from more reckless elements within the Japanese establishment, and an increasingly desperate populace may even turn to him and his third force for “rescue and direction” — “restoration” of some putative “real values.” In such a situation, how would China react?

Ishiwara was driven by his militant interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism, and in his exalted nationalism he was prepared to risk the nation’s very existence for his dreams of national glory so that Japan could lead the world.

Ishihara, more of an egotist perhaps, has nevertheless spoken critically of the greedy egotism of the Japanese people today and the subsequent “tenbatsu” (divine punishment) of 3/11. His behavior and language with regard to China is nothing short of insulting, irresponsibly reckless in the extreme, and even war-mongering.

Ishihara may well turn out to be today’s Ishiwara. Both have sparked serious incidents that have led to conflict. The one man was, and the other is, a danger to Japan of the highest order.

TERRY BOARDMAN
Stourbridge, England

The road to isolation, humiliation

I was disappointed to read the answers to the question posed in the Views From The Street column titled “Tokyo: What do you think of Shintaro Ishihara’s decision to give up running the capital and start a new national party? Would you vote for him?” published on Nov. 20.

Many of the people who responded expressed their admiration for Ishihara, who is known to many around the world as perhaps the most racist and vitriolic nationalist in Japanese politics.

This is a man who wants to pick a fight with China, insults the intelligence of people because of their race, and has a huge disdain for anyone who doesn’t think like someone from 1939.

The sad thing is that it seems the only charismatic politicians in Japan are old-fashioned nationalists like him.

If Japan is going to improve its lot in the world, and mend the ailing relationship it has with most of Asia, it would do well to stay away from politicians like Ishihara. Japan needs progressive, internationalist politicians, not ones who will further isolate and humiliate Japan on the world stage.

TIMOTHY BEDWELL
Tokyo

Do Japanese share racist views?

In regard to the Nov. 6 Just Be Cause article by Debito Arudou, “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” my sincere thanks to The Japan Times for printing Mr. Arudou’s scathing remarks attacking Japan’s most infamous rightwing nutjob, Shintaro Ishihara.

For far too long Ishihara has been allowed to mouth the most egregious remarks, many racist in nature, and no one seems to have held him accountable in the Japanese media. If the mayor of London, New York or any other major Western city made the sort of defamatory remarks Ishihara is vilified for, they would have been booted out of office long ago — very likely forced to resign for “hate speech.”

What is most worrying is that Ishihara’s offensive remarks were not considered that terrible or racist in the minds of many Tokyo voters. How else would he have won reelection so many times? The foreign community in Tokyo has been deeply offended by Ishihara’s many ill-considered “gaffes,” but not Japanese residents. Do these people share Ishihara’s racist views?

Ishihara is 80 years old and should bow out of public life once and for all. He certainly has the financial means to retire. The political game has been very good to him.

If Ishihara tried to run for public office in London, he’d get no further than talking his rubbish at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

ROBERT MCKINNEY
Otaru, Hokkaido

Arudou making up his own facts

Mr. Arudou is more than entitled to his own opinions regarding Shintaro Ishihara. He is not, however, entitled to his own facts.

Arudou claims Ishihara called “for foreigners to be rounded up on sight in the event of a natural disaster.” Ishihara stated no such thing. He did state that the Self-Defense Forces should prepare for foreigner riots if a natural disaster struck Tokyo — still offensive, but not as much as sticking fictional quotes in people’s mouths.

Likewise Arudou demonstrates that he is stunningly politically tone-deaf by raising the specter of Ishihara as prime minister. He seems to have never figured out how a PM is elected, nor why that process guarantees that Ishihara will never be able to get the job (or even that of a Cabinet minister).

Ishihara’s own “allies” are keeping him at arm’s length, never mind the serious pols. That Arudou missed this is unsurprising, reliant on English-language sources as he is, as well as separated from Japan by the width of the Pacific.

As is Arudou’s claim that “The Japan Times has reported many times . . .” What he surely intended to write was “As I have written in opinion pieces many times . . .” Every single “reference” he cites is either a Zeit Gist or Just Be Cause column he himself wrote! Mr. Arudou has apparently lost the ability to distinguish between self-produced bile and verifiable facts, if he ever had that ability at all, that is.

I think Mr. Arudou should reflect on his charge that Ishihara et al have “spent too long in self-affirming sound chambers surrounded by sycophants.” It may be true for Ishihara, but it is more true for Arudou.

I believe that the Japan Times editorial staff should reflect on their own role in providing Arudou with an echo chamber from which he can hatemonger against a country he very clearly reviles, as he calls for international boycotts and worse. By allowing Arudou his own bully pulpit, The Japan Times is feeding his own delusions.

At some point reality will simply become too much for him, and that moment will not be pretty. Is The Japan Times ready to accept responsibility for that?

NAME WITHHELD

Your discrimination is showing

Re: Mitch Losh’s letter published Nov. 6 (“Your bias is showing, Arudou,” Have your Say): For a supposed “professional in international politics and security, and a longtime resident in Japan,” Mr. Losh certainly doesn’t know the first thing about persecution or discrimination. While I don’t agree with Mr. Arudou’s stance, I certainly don’t agree with Mr. Losh’s discrimination of him and his right to freedom of speech.

Mr. Arudou is not a foreigner living in Japan. He is a Japanese citizen. That means he is Japanese. Mr. Losh’s comment “Would you lecture a family on how they should behave in their own home? What you do here is much the same” is clearly discriminatory. He is implying that since Mr. Arudou was originally born elsewhere that he is not Japanese so he should be quiet — that this is not his house so he should pipe down. I’m sorry, but this is his house now and he can say whatever he wants to say.

To give an analogy of what Mr. Losh is implying, it is similar to telling people who immigrate from other countries to the U.S. and become citizens to be quiet because it is not their country. I’m sorry, but if you are a citizen of that country then it is your country.

Mr. Arudou might not be of Japanese descent but he is still Japanese. He has the right to the freedom of speech and Mr. Losh effectively told him to be quiet because he not Japanese.

Thank you, Mr. Losh, for actually proving the persecution of foreigners in Japan, or should I say proving the persecution of people who look like foreigners but are actually Japanese?

For a professional of international politics, Mr. Losh should know that discrimination and repression of free speech has no place in politics or the world.

NAME WITHHELD UPON REQUEST

TPP is Japan’s road to ruin

In his Nov. 27 Light Gist essay (“I have a dream: a ‘young first’ Japan that works for all“), Glenn Newman has indeed created an inspirational prime minister.

A strong leader truly is desirable in Japan today. Many of this one’s ideas are fine, but his platform belies a dangerous mindset, reflected in his position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and on deregulation.

The issue of joining or not joining the TPP is depicted here as a simple choice between adhering to feudalistic agricultural policies and embracing international trade, but it is really far more complicated.

Agricultural policies aside, the plain fact that Japan’s tiny farms cannot possibly compete against those of the USA or Australia lies at the core of the agricultural side of the TPP problem. Even if farm expansion and consolidation were enacted to their extreme limits this would not change. The already perilously low food self-sufficiency ratio would drop. Once Japan becomes dependent on other nations for its rice (as well as wheat), it may find it hard to feed its people should the USA’s or Australia’s crops be hit hard by a blight or drought.

This fictional leader also subscribes to the mistaken “agriculture vs. industry” view of the TPP issue, but it is actually more complex.

The TPP itself is neo-liberal economic extremism, and if joining means promising to drop all trade tariffs by a certain time, the government will lose a major means of controlling its own economy and protecting it from the forces of unbridled market capitalism. Powerful entities will benefit at the expense of the masses, and the process will be boosted by reckless deregulation, carried out with empty promises of greater wealth for all.

Sadly, however, this fictional leader will likely be retired from politics by the time the most painful effects of his economic policies become evident.

DONALD WOOD
Akita

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