Despite being known for xenophobic remarks, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara claims he welcomes an increase in foreign residents and says Japan should allow more immigrants to live here.

Japanese are not a homogeneous people, because their ancestors can be traced back to Korea, Mongolia, China, Melanesia and even what is now Bangladesh, Ishihara said.

“Since we are a mixed people, whether the number of foreigners increases or not in Japan is irrelevant. (The increase) is a very good thing,” he said in a recent interview, in which he also repeated his various hawkish positions, including that Japan should develop a nuclear arsenal.

“Japanese must enact a new immigration law so it will allow us to bring in many immigrants,” said Ishihara, 78, referring to forecasts of labor shortages as society rapidly ages.

But he said he “absolutely” opposes giving long-term foreign residents the right to vote in local elections. “Such a thing is impossible, must not happen and is dangerous because regional issues influence the state,” he said.

If foreign residents want to participate in local politics, they should become naturalized Japanese citizens, he said.

On the September run-in involving a Chinese trawler that rammed two Japan Coast Guard cutters as they tried to shoo it away from the Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers, Ishihara slammed Beijing’s reaction.

“It was outrageous (and unforgivable),” he said, stressing that the uninhabited islets, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, are Japanese territory.

After Japan arrested the trawler skipper, China retaliated by suspending ministerial-level and cultural ties and effectively halting shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan. The skipper was held for more than two weeks.

Ishihara said lawmakers from all parties should exercise the right of the Diet to investigate state affairs and visit the islets to gauge the feasibility of stationing Self-Defense Forces personnel on or near them.

The governor also repeated that Japan should have atomic arms for its defense.

“If Japan had had nuclear (arms), there would not have been any (Chinese encroachment) on the Senkakus and North Korea would not have abducted our citizens,” he said.

On speculation that he will seek a fourth term in April, Ishihara was noncommittal.

Right after winning his third four-year term, he reportedly said it would be his last. But he has blurred his position in recent months, leading to speculation he may seek another term.

“In politics, we can’t foresee what awaits us just an inch away,” he said.

Media reports have floated other potential candidates, including popular former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru, government revitalization minister Renho and Yoichi Masuzoe, the head of Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party).

“You don’t know what kind of candidates will run and also whether I will or not,” he said.

Ishihara stood firm on the metropolitan government’s plan to relocate the Tsukiji fish market in Chuo Ward to the site of a former factory in the Toyosu district of Koto Ward. The soil at the relocation site is believed by some to be full of pollutants. The metropolitan government said it plans to relocate the market once the new site is cleared of contaminants.

The Democratic Party of Japan, which holds a majority in the metropolitan assembly, opposes the move to the projected site and has threatened to block the budget for the relocation.

“I don’t know on what grounds they are opposed,” Ishihara said. “Tsukiji has already become old, dangerous and dirty. I can’t say the fresh food market in its current form is doing its duty to Tokyo residents and shoppers.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.