China-Japan relations

Shintaro Ishihara wants to restore pride in Japanese nationalism

Shintaro Ishihara wants his brand of fiery nationalism to lift the nation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:55pm

At 80, most Japanese men are content to play more golf with their buddies, spend their savings on foreign holidays or lavish gifts on their grandchildren.

But Shintaro Ishihara has never been a conventional sort of man and even in his ninth decade, he is convinced that his vision is the right one for Japan.

Despite an uncanny ability to alienate large sections of the voting public, Ishihara is almost certain to return to the Diet after tomorrow's parliamentary election at the helm of his latest political venture, the unashamedly nationalistic Japan Restoration Party (JRP).

This is the man who condemned homosexuality as abnormal, said that "old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin", and claimed that last year's earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 19,000 people were "punishment from heaven" because Japanese people had become too greedy.

Ishihara stepped down as Tokyo governor in October to run in the national polls.

Asked her opinion of Ishihara's plans to create a "third force" in Japanese politics, education minister Makiko Tanaka dismissed him as "a deluded senior citizen".

Noriko Hama, of Kyoto's Doshisha University, said: "I would say that's a pretty fair explanation of the situation and I would say this election will be his last flare of fame. He has lost all sense of proportion and is really only seeking some sort of illusory glory in this last political stand."

Ishihara won early fame for winning a prestigious literary award for 1955's Season of the Sun before even graduating from Hitotsubashi University. He was a member of the Diet for more than 25 years, but resigned in 1995 after members of the Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday cult released sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system, killing 11 people. Ishihara had extended financial and political support to the group.

Four years later he was governor of Tokyo.

After stepping down six weeks ago, Ishihara teamed up with Toru Hashimoto, the similarly outspoken right-wing governor of Osaka and formed the JRP.

The party has promised to restore national pride and stand independent. This means less reliance on the US for defence, an expansion of Japan's military, the development of nuclear weapons and revision of the pacifist constitution. This would cause particular alarm in China.

Chinese ire is something Ishihara seems to wear with pride. It was he who flared tensions over the Diaoyu Islands with an abortive bid to buy them from their private owners.