Profile of Shintaro Ishihara
Who is Shintaro Ishihara? Why is he so important?
Shintaro Ishihara, elected governor of Tokyo since 1999, is an outspoken nationalist. John Nathan describes Ishihara as “a national hero and for many Japanese an appealing alternative to the party hacks who led the government throughout the nineties, while the economy collapsed and scandals involving fraud, bribery, and collusion among government ministers and yakuza bosses toppled one cabinet after another. (W)hen voters are polled about who they would like to see as Prime Minister, he gets high marks.”
On Ishihara's successful debut as a writer
In the fall of 1955, when he was a twenty-three year-old college student, Ishihara wrote a short novel, “Season of the Sun,” that won the Akutagawa Prize, “the gateway to a career as a serious writer in Japan.” He had never written a novel before and wrote it in three days.
According to Nathan “Season of the Sun" is about a group of college students from wealthy families who "express their defiance of postwar respectability by gambling and brawling and indulging in promiscuous sex.” A film version was released in 1956, with Ishihara and his younger brother, Yujiro, in minor roles.

As a result of this film, the Ishiharas became teen idols. Their followers were called the Sun Tribe, and dressed in Hawaiian shirts and baggy pants and two-tone shoes in emulation of Yujiro. They wore their hair long on top and clipped on sides in a style that was advertised in barbershop windows as the Shintaro cut.
A poster of the film “Season of the Sun.” From early on Ishihara has been excellent at titillating hidden desires of average Japanese people.
On his colorful life before becoming a politician in 1968
In the sixties, Ishihara wrote prolifically - plays and novels and even a musical version of ‘Treasure Island.’ He tried his hand at directing; ran a theater company; traveled to the North Pole, raced his yacht, the Contessa, crossed South America on a motorcycle and then turned his memoir of the journey into a best-selling book.
The contents of Governor Ishihara's office
Ishihara has a suite of offices on the seventeenth floor of the gargantuan Tokyo City Hall; a forty-five-story twin tower built in 1987 by Kenzo Tange. Nathan observes : “the modest desk in his private office holds jars of pens and pencils, a mirror and comb, several Japanese fans, and a clunky word processor that he uses to write his speeches and his weekly column, "Wake Up, Japan,” for the conservative newspaper Sankei."

“A pair of slippers, a set of barbells and a baseball bat are under the desk. A Japanese flag, red sun on a white field, is on a stand behind the desk. It is not unusual now, but at the time Ishihara took office, the flag was an issue and caused many to object to his displaying it. Four months after he was elected, the Diet passed bills that made Japan's flag and its national anthem, ‘Kimigayo,’ a hymn to the Emperor, the legal symbols of the nation for the first time since the defeat in 1945.”

“The art in the office includes a Rauschenberg print inscribed to Ishihara, a drawing by Christo, and an oil painting by the Governor himself, a portrait of his movie-star brother, Yujiro, who died of liver cancer in 1987.”
On his nationalist view
Ishihara is an outspoken nationalist who rails against the United States and China and the central government. It is well known that he claims that “fifty years of subservience to the interest of the United States has deprived the Japanese of a national purpose and engendered a paralyzing identity crisis. And he reminds his countrymen that theirs is the only non-Caucasian society to have created a modern superpower.”

According to Nathan “(his) enemies call him a demagogue and a racist, but his defiance resonates with the current mood of the country.” Nathan points out that Ishihara “drew attention from Washington for the first time in 1989, when a collection of his speeches, ‘The Japan Who Can Say No,’ appeared in English in a partial, unauthorized version translated by a department of the Pentagon. ...The gist of Ishihara's argument was that American attitudes toward Japan were designed to subordinate Japanese interests and were, moreover, animated by racism. One of his points, which caught the attention of the Pentagon, was that Japan could tip the balance of power by selling the multi-megabit chips required by guided missiles to the Soviet Union instead of to the U.S.
On the origin of his anti-US feelings
Ishihara told Nathan a story about the war. When he was in the seventh grade, he was living in Zushi, on the coast in the flight path of enemy aircraft heading out to sea. Ishihara described Nathan: “The Americans could see that we were kids, but they would strafe us anyway, for fun. One day I had to throw myself into a barley field. As I lay there, the Grummans and P-51s came roaring over me, flying low, and I could see that they had pictures of naked women and Mickey Mouse painted on the fuselage. I couldn't believe my eyes! I was scared to death, and angry but I was also thinking what a place America must be, what a culture, and how different from Japan. Then I heard other planes but no machine guns this time; they were Zeros in pursuit, and their insignia was the Japanese flag. I felt like reaching up to embrace that rising sun.”
On his friendship with Yukio Mishima
Nathan, a biographer of Mishima and a translator of one of his novels, had this to say about him: “Mishima, seven yours older than Ishihara, was his ardent champion from early on. Mishima introduced Ishihara to the writers and playwrights and critics in the literary world. Ishihara was Mishima's guide to the sensual world." Ishihara witnessed : “Mishima-san had grown up in a family of bureaucrats, and underneath his pretensions he was conventional and inhibited.” Ishihara misses Mishima: "Japan is not the same since with him gone, but his politics were a joke.”
On Ishihara's controversial position against China
Ishihara grumbled to Nathan: "We pour money into China so they can continue developing a hydrogen bomb.” More than once he suggested that the Rape of Nanking in December 1937, was a fabrication of the Chinese. When confronted, Ishihara reproached Nathan by saying: "I said that the Chinese have exaggerated the numbers. In the hysteria of war, the Army did massacre people. That happens in war. The United States killed three hundred and fifty thousand people in Hiroshima in a single day.”

Nathan noted: "Ishihara's numbers are often a little off. Nearly a hundred and twenty thousand people are estimated to have died in Hiroshima in the four days following the bombing. Many thousands died later from illness related to the explosion.” However Nathan did not clarify the resource of the number. A Japanese encyclopedia mentions that fourteen thousand people in Hiroshima died before the end of December of 1945 as victims of the bombing.
On his using the derogatory term sangokujin
In 2000 Ishihara drew criticism when he called on the Self-Defense Forces to be prepared to help police maintain order if Chinese and Korean immigrants rioted in the aftermath of an earthquake. He used a derogatory term for immigrants, sangokujin. Although Nathan translates it as “the people of the three countries, its meaning is “people from a third country.” It negatively refers to Koreans and Taiwanese who were under the Japanese occupation and who remained in Japan after the war.
On Ishihara's earthquake drill
Last September, Ishihara mobilized seven thousand Self-Defense Force troops and eighteen thousand police for an annual earthquake readiness drill. Nathan describes it as “the most intimidating display of military power in the capital since the early years of the U.S. occupation. His detractors noted that the exercise looked like a war game more than anything else, and accused him, not for the first time, of being a fascist.”
On Ishihara by himself
“I’m an existentialist--freedom and passion are the most important things to me. I was horribly disappointed when I learned that Sartre was a Communist.”
References (Selected by Zipangu. English only):

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