Controversial to the end, Shintaro Ishihara bows out of politics

Former Tokyo governor welcomes war with China, compares Hashimoto's oratory skills to young Hitler's


Staff Writer

Hawkish former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, the supreme adviser to Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), on Tuesday officially put an end to his nearly 50-year political career after losing his Diet seat in Sunday’s Lower House election.

“I have no regrets. I feel relieved,” Ishihara said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, adding that he hopes to now devote his time to supporting young contemporary artists.

Ishihara, 82, said before the snap election that his physical strength was deteriorating. But after pleas from fellow members of the extreme right-wing party, he decided to run to support them. Still, Ishihara appeared to have little appetite to continue in politics, putting his name at the bottom of the party’s proportional representation list for Tokyo.

“I believe I have fulfilled my duties to my fellow members,” he said.

Jisedai no To, which put priority on the creation of a new Constitution, won a mere two seats Sunday, down from 20 prior to the election.

“I believe the public has little interest in the Constitution,” Ishihara said. “Disappointingly, those who really feel the need to change the Constitution have become a rare breed.”

Regarding the icy diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Beijing, Ishihara accused China of stirring tensions over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

“I would chase away (the Chinese vessels if I were prime minister),” he said.

Asked about a recent interview with a weekly magazine, Ishihara had even more scathing words on Tuesday.

“They asked me what I wanted to do most, so I told them that it’s to fight a war with China and win. I said that as a Japanese citizen,” he said.

Asked whether he hates China, Ishihara said that he does, adding that he hates communist China.

The outspoken politician, infamous for racist gaffes, triggered the ongoing diplomatic row between Japan and China by announcing in April 2012 a plan by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to purchase three of the five Senkaku islets.

He initiated a fundraising drive for purchasing the uninhabited islets and sent a group of experts there to conduct research necessary for the planned purchase.

These actions prompted the central government, then led by the Democratic Party of Japan, to intervene and buy the islands from their Saitama-based owner in September that year, further denting ties between Tokyo and Beijing.

Ishihara abruptly resigned as Tokyo governor in October 2012 to run for the Lower House in hopes of making his long-held hope of creating a new Constitution a reality.

Linking up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, Ishihara co-headed Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and won a seat in the 2012 general election. But the two went their separate ways earlier this year, splitting the party in two.

Ishihara launched Jisedai no To in August with right-wing lawmakers, including Takeo Hiranuma, the current head of the party.

Despite his split with Hashimoto, Ishihara said he and the Osaka mayor are still on good terms. He said that Hashimoto is an excellent speaker whose oratory skills “rank with Hitler in his youth,” adding that the leader of Nazi Germany, however, later made “stupid” mistakes.

Ishihara entered national politics in 1968 at age 35, winning a seat in the Upper House with an unprecedented 3 million votes. He switched to the Lower House in 1972 and later served as Environment Agency chief and transport minister under the Liberal Democratic Party administrations.

Ishihara, whose late younger brother, Yujiro, was a famous actor, resigned from the Diet in April 1995, and later, in 1999, won the Tokyo gubernatorial race. Hugely popular with conservative voters, he was re-elected three times.

During his years as governor, Ishihara pushed through initiatives such as a new tax system for big banks and strict diesel vehicle exhaust regulations.

Update: This story was updated on Dec. 17, 2014, to add context to Ishishara’s quote regarding Hitler that was missing from the original story.

Correction: This story was updated on Dec. 19, 2014, to correct Ishishara’s statement about communist China.


  • J.P. Bunny

    The guy wanted to” fight a war with China and win.” Could easily image him nuking most of Asia just because he doesn’t like most of the people there. Luckily, this xenophobe never became prime minister.

    • harryspaz

      No, but Abe did.

      • echykr

        Compared with I-shit-hara (pun intended) would make even Abe look like a bleeding heart liberal.

  • echykr

    Good bye and good riddance to bad rubbish. All the more sweeter that his ultra rightwing cohorts got virtually blasted out of existence. OTOH for Ishin, it was a blessing in disguise that they decided to boot Ishihara out their party, and they only lost one seat total as a result.

    (Might as well include the utterly useless former Your Party leader Watanabe and ex DPJ leader Kaieda)

  • The erraticism of Ishihara’s career makes me wonder how much of his behavior and pronouncements are attributable to undiagnosed mental illness. Ishihara can be described as falling into a category of man who, like terrorists, are shaped partly through ideology and partly through mental pathology. Maybe in retirement the treatment that might benefit him can be imposed by caregivers.

  • rossdorn

    Well it is nice that at least one good thing happened in that election.

    But still, we should not have any illusions about the problem of Japan. The kind of people that manage to get elected in this country can make your hair stand on its edge.

  • JSS00

    Just a terrible guy all around. How he managed to become the governor of Tokyo for 4 terms in a row is beyond me.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Just checked and read that this piece of work never served in the military. It always seems to be the fools that are too old to serve that clamor for war. Ishihara and Darth Cheney make a lovely couple.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Well if he HAD attempted to fulfill his dream I seriously doubt he would have seen it come to fruition. The chances of today’s Japanese military defeating today’s Chinese military, are about the same as those of me liking SMAP.

  • Oliver Mackie

    So much venom here….you might try to remember the fact that as a ‘public figure’ it’s very easy and tempting to shoot one’s mouth with controversial statements, without ever having to live up to them. The facts remain that he didn’t get the premiership, didn’t do anything particularly outlandish until the end of his fourth term as mayor of Tokyo, and thus was never was never really a player. Japanese society tolerates and absorbs, thus neutralizing. Actually, the Senkaku incident can be counted as his only achievement, and I suspect that that was because he was aided by others who held more real power than he ever gained.

    • J.P. Bunny

      Any and all venom directed towards this guy are well deserved. I remember when he first became mayor and displayed his love of foreigners living here. September 1st, riding atop one in a parade of Self Defense vehicles, warning all that the country needs to be ready to call out the big guns when the foreigners begin to loot and riot after the next big earthquake.