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Visible Minorities 31: Shintaro Ishihara: Good Riddance to an Evil Man
Shingetsu News Agency, February 21, 2022
By Debito Arudou
Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who died February 1, was an evil man. Any honest obituary would admit as such. Unfortunately, the media’s retrospectives have tended to eulogize him, using weasel words so as to not speak ill of the dead.
But that’s the wrong reflex. Evil should never be whitewashed, especially when it comes to a person as evil as Ishihara, and by doing so they are complicit in historical revisionism. I will try to rectify that with this column by recounting Ishihara’s actual record.
COMPARISON AND CONTEXT
I do not use the term “evil” lightly. Consider other people in Japan who, when granted power, did wrong:
Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, a rehabilitated war criminal, stunted Japan’s development into a mature sovereign country by perpetually subordinating Japan’s geopolitical interests to the American military under the US-Japan Security Treaty.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who abetted the “Comfort Women” system of wartime sexual slavery, spent his life not only denying its existence, but also reconstituting Japan’s ruthless revisionist far-right.
And Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, did all he could to restore prewar elitism to the postwar governing system, by destroying any “Western” ideals of individuality, human rights, and pacifism; and (unsuccessfully) trying to “revise” Japan’s postwar Constitution.
But all of these horrible little men still pale in comparison to a man as irredeemably evil as Shintaro Ishihara.
WHITEWASHING THE RECORD THROUGH WEASEL WORDS
Most obits have used weasel words to describe Ishihara’s life: “Controversial,“ “brash,” “charismatic,” “unapologetic,” “chauvinistic,” “contentious,” a “firebrand (or fiery) nationalist,” “staunch right-winger,” “outspoken conservative,” even “gaffe-prone,” woefully understating his misdeeds.
Some went even further, looking for some good in him: His establishment of the Shinginko Tokyo bank using public monies (which failed, becoming a windfall for the yakuza), involvement with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (and we’ve written here what a nationalist mess that became), restrictions on diesel cars in Tokyo (yes, less air pollution is good, but rarely were his policies green), and an “outspokenness” towards anything he didn’t like (that’s not a virtue; just a guilty pleasure to watch).
One of the harsher ones, after calling him a “rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig,” still fell for his “unmistakable, evocative allure,” and concluded that “Tokyo has lost something” with his death.
What we lost was a legitimizer of hatred.
Revealingly, one of Ishihara’s elitist co-conspirators described him as “a politician who challenged what became the norms in the postwar era… He was not afraid of criticisms and insisted on what he had to say” (Shinzo Abe). Translation: Ishihara’s extreme stances and policies helped our right-wing policy aims seem less extreme.
INSTEAD, MEMORIALIZE ISHIHARA’S HATEFUL DEEDS
So let’s recount Ishihara’s actual record, starting with his peerless sense of entitlement.
Born into wealth, he got lucky getting a prestigious book award at an early age which catapulted him into celebrity status. This enabled him to hobnob with elites and attain elected national office for several decades. After all, electorates in any society are suckers for celebrities.
He eventually found himself in a position of real power, elected multiple times to the governorship of the world’s largest and richest city. And he used that bully pulpit to further aims explicitly motivated by hate, admitting in 2014, “Until I die, I want to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, and I want to die hated by people.”
Accordingly, Ishihara infused hate and spite into just about any public policy he sponsored. Remember how mere weeks into his first term as Tokyo Governor he called for the Japanese military to actively round up foreigners (using the racist epithet “Sankokujin”) in the event of a natural disaster? How were they to do that? Unclear — probably just arrest anyone who “looks foreign.” Why? Because in his words, foreigners are “heinous” and will of course riot and run amok when given the opportunity.
That claim was put to the test during the Tohoku Tsunami, and surprise, no foreigner riots. Any retractions from Ishihara? Of course not. Men of no conscience or sense of consequence for their actions never apologize unless they’re forced to.
For Ishihara was a man who unapologetically said that he loathed Koreans and Chinese, and went out of his way not only to justify Japan’s occupation of its Asian neighbors, but also deny its colonial and wartime atrocities. (All while calling the US atomic bombing of Japan racist.) Ishihara even claimed, in his regular Sankei Shinbun columns, that Chinese were innately criminal due to their “ethnic DNA.”
A hateful man who poured his hate into concrete policies, Ishihara installed Japan’s first neighborhood surveillance cameras specifically in areas of Tokyo he claimed were “hotbeds of foreign crime,” and went on TV at regular intervals to propagandize that Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Roppongi at night were no longer Japan.
He also said that Japanese politicians who support more civil and human rights for foreign residents must have “foreign ancestors” themselves, and abetted political witch hunts and loyalty tests to root out politicians with international connections.
Essentially, Ishihara was trying to ethnically cleanse Japan, undoing the “internationalization” phase of the 1980s and 1990s of openness and tolerance.
In its place, he sponsored overt racism and normalized xenophobia. He fueled Japan’s reflexive self-victimization by scapegoating foreigners, accusing them of crime, terrorism, subversive activities, and a general undermining of all things “Japanese.”
And it worked. To this day, entire political parties, candidates, and hate groups publicly rally for the expulsion of foreigners and the extermination of Koreans. That’s why current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can’t easily lift the world’s longest, most draconian and unscientific Covid border policies–because polls say 57% of the fearful Japanese public want them kept.
In his spare time, Ishihara also found ways to hate anyone who wasn’t like him, even blaming his own citizens for their woes. Such as the time he said the 2011 Tohoku Disasters were “divine punishment for Japanese people’s egoism.”
Ever the misogynist in his novels and policy statements (one obit called him “the King of Toxic Masculinity”), he called women who survived past menopause “a waste” and “a disease of civilization” (as opposed to men, however senile, who can still “propagate the species until their 80s and 90s”), said that a woman euthanized for having ALS suffered from a “karmic disease due to the sins of a past life,” and averred that gays and lesbians are “genetically subnormal.” There’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there.
STOP EULOGIZING A HITLER PROTOTYPE
That’s why I find it so jarring that obituarists minced their words. Stop it, because you are complicit in historical revisionism.
To find any redeeming qualities in a man like Ishihara is like noting that Hitler liked dogs, built Germany’s autobahns, or created Volkswagen. But that shouldn’t be the focus of any honest historical accounting of a balance sheet of evil.
And yes, I made a comparison to Hitler. That’s not Godwin’s Law. Think about it: If Ishihara had been given the powers Hitler had, do you think he would have done much different?
Other people of Ishihara’s ilk (such as Prime Minister Taro Aso) have expressed admiration for Hitler, saying he had the “right motives,” because that enables politicians to achieve results. Shucks, if only Japanese politicians’ power wasn’t so diluted by Japanese bureaucracy, and the Japanese military freed to project more power wherever it wanted, what could we accomplish?
Well, that was precisely what Ishihara was trying to do whenever he had power.
Remember when Governor Ishihara tried to leverage public and private monies (eventually forcing the national government’s hand to do so) to buy up the Senkakus, some disputed rocks in the East China Sea? That was, in his words, his attempt to “start a war with China and win.” To this day, major world media that should know better blithely portray this conflict as merely a “feud,” a “row,” and a “spat.”
Given that Ishihara was also calling for Japan to develop nuclear weapons, that means, if Ishihara had achieved his results, he would have mass-murdered the people he hated.
Thus comparisons with Hitler are not hyperbole. They’re history.
DEATH BY “KARMIC DISEASE” IS NOT ENOUGH
Ishihara died at age 89 of recurring pancreatic cancer. I’m told it’s a painful way to go. Good. But no amount of pain he would ever feel would make up for the suffering he caused out of purely personal animus and spite. He was a cruel man who spent his life persecuting people not only because they crossed him, but also simply because they were born a certain way.
So this is my obit: Shintaro Ishihara was a monster and now he is dead. May he rot in hell.
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