Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo’s Outspoken Nationalist Party, Dies at 89

Shintaro Ishihara, a Japanese author turned fiery nationalist politician who served as governor of Tokyo and famously stoked diplomatic tensions with China over disputed islands, died on Thursday. Three in Tokyo. He was 89 years old.

His death was confirmed by his sons, who told reporters in Tokyo that Mr. Ishihara had suffered a recurrence of pancreatic cancer in October. “He led an era.” his son Yoshizumi Ishihara said.

ONE controversial character In another world of Japanese politics, Mr. Ishihara was governor of Tokyo for 13 years starting in 1999, waging a staunch right-wing campaign that he believed would restore the country and free it from slavery. translate for the United States.

He called for the development of nuclear weapons in a country still traumatized by World War II bombings, and for the repeal of constitutional provisions imposed by the United States that forbid Japan from waging war.

His outspoken conservative views have sometimes led to remarks criticized as discriminatory against women or foreigners. And his fierce nationalism helped drag Japan into a diplomatic trouble with China in 2012, when, as Tokyo governor, he raised millions of dollars to buy a string of islands in the South China Sea. Private property in the East China Sea is called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. .

Although Japan’s central government ended up buying the islands from their Japanese owners as a way to defuse the situation, Mr. Ishihara’s move helped fuel protests in dozens of cities. city ​​in China, which also claims the islands.

He said that Ishihara’s commitment to his goals was that in 2012, at the age of 80, he left his position as governor to start a populist party and Run for the position of leader of the country.

“I cannot allow myself to die until my Japan, which has been deceived by China and seduced as a mistress by the United States, can stand up again as a stronger, more beautiful country. ,” he said at the time. .

The oldest of the two brothers, Ishihara was born in the Japanese port city of Kobe in 1932 and raised in Hokkaido, in the northernmost province, and Kanagawa, south of Tokyo, where his father, Kiyoshi, worked for a Ocean shipping company. His mother, Mitsuko, who drew pictures in her youth, was a homemaker.

While studying law at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Ishihara published his first novel, “Season of Violence”, for which he was awarded one of Japan’s most prestigious literary honors, the Prize. Awarded Akutagawa Prize, in 1955. The book made him famous for its depiction of disillusioned young people in postwar Japan, a subject he would return to in later works.

A film adaptation of the novel features his brother, Yujiro Ishihara, who rose to fame as an actor in the 1960s and 70s.

Although Ishihara has written other screenplays, he has gained attention outside of Japan for his political work. His 1989 book, “The Japan That Can Say No,” called for the country to stand up to the United States, arguing that Japan was technologically superior and nationalistic and that Americans had discriminatory views. race against the Japanese.

He began his decades-long political career in 1968 as a legislator in the National Assembly of Japan for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. But much of his political legacy came later, after he was elected governor of Tokyo in 1999.

During his four terms, he introduced restrictions on diesel-powered vehicles to cut pollution and carbon emissions, successfully campaigning for Tokyo to host the Summer Olympics in 2020. delayed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic) and set up a city government bank, ShinGinko Tokyo, to lend money to small businesses. It later merged with other private banks.

But his frank glances and remarks sometimes overshadow his achievements.

After an earthquake and tsunami killed about 20,000 people in March 2011, Mr. Ishihara said that “the disaster was a divine punishment for the selfishness of the Japanese people”, he later resigned from his post. dropped in an unusual apology. In a 2001 interview, he said that “it would be a waste if women lived even after they lost their fertility”, a comment alleging a group of women demanding withdrawal and compensation. And he criticized for using offensive language popular in post-World War II Japan to refer to immigrants and foreigners.

He embarked on another political pivot in 2012, leading a populist nascent party that analysts saw as a signal the nation’s desire for strong leadership after so many years. years of political hesitation and poverty. The party later merged with another independent party, the Japan Restoration Party, and won seats in the National Assembly, but it was eventually dissolved due to disagreements in 2014.

“I have been fortunate as a politician and author that I have been able to stand at the crossroads of history many times,” Mr. Ishihara said in 2014 when announcing his retirement from politics. “Until I die, I want to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, and I want to die being hated by everyone.”

In the last years of his life, his sons said Tuesday he spent an hour a day at his desk and finished his last novel in December. They say he has continued to write. daily until last week.

Mr. Ishihara is survived by his wife, Noriko Ishihara, and his sons, Nobuteru, Yoshizumi, Hirotaka and Nobuhiro.

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