Prize-winning novelist and former Transport Minister Shintaro Ishihara formally declared Wednesday that he will run as an independent in the April 11 Tokyo gubernatorial election.
Ishihara’s candidacy makes the race even more unpredictable and could spell further trouble for the Liberal Democratic Party, which is fielding former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi.
“I will carry out a revolution (in Tokyo) as the people’s representative,” Ishihara told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in the afternoon.
The 66-year-old former LDP lawmaker said that he was at first reluctant to enter as he has a fulfilling life writing books. But now he has decided he wants to change the nation by changing the capital. “My campaign pledge (made during the 1975 Tokyo race) still holds today, and the situation of Tokyo has greatly worsened. What is to be blamed is not Tokyo, but the country,” he said.
“If the situation is left as is, Tokyo will sink, along with the nation,” he said. “If Tokyo comes up with a bold system and the state transfers its authority to Tokyo, Tokyo will revitalize and could act as a lever for the state’s revitalization.”
In his policy statement, titled “To Revitalize Tokyo — The Tokyo That Can Say No,” a play on the name of a book he coauthored called “The Japan That Can Say No,” Ishihara proposed the financial reconstruction of Tokyo and the return of Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. “The land of the base, which includes a rarely used 4,000-meter runway and a deserted golf course, should be utilized for other purposes,” he said in the statement. “It is time that we throw away the myth about America.”
Ishihara is well known for his strong nationalistic stances on foreign policy issues through “The Japan That Can Say No.”
Candidates running against Ishihara include Akashi, 68; former Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa, 65; Mitsuru Mikami, 66, an education critic; Yoichi Masuzoe, 50, a political scientist; and Kunio Hatoyama, former deputy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan.
Ishihara is expected to win a substantial number of votes, and his entry has sent shudders through the other camps. Following Wednesday’s announcement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said the LDP must step up its efforts to back Akashi, who has been promised its full support by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
The LDP’s unity on its candidate for the race was recently shaken by Kakizawa, a Lower House member who was backed by the LDP’s Tokyo faction but expelled earlier this week for running in defiance of the party’s decision to field Akashi.
Ishihara’s announcement is expected to be a major blow to the LDP’s election strategy. Some LDP Diet members, including Koki Kobayashi, Takeo Hiranuma, and Ishihara’s son Nobuteru have announced their support for Ishihara. “I feel really sorry for Mr. Akashi, who has currently been making efforts for the election … The party and related support groups must cooperate with one another to win a clear-cut victory,” Nonaka said.
The DPJ is concerned that Ishihara will garner a wide range of support — not only from conservative voters, sources said. A recent poll shows Ishihara is favored also by those who voted for Aoshima in the 1995 election.