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Hi Blog. It was with some measured amount of joy that I saw that a quintessentially awful man, Former Tokyo Governor and Political-Resident Racist Ishihara Shintaro, recently died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 89.
Predictably, the eulogies and hagiographies have minced their words about what an awful man this was, watering down their modifiers to call him a “brash” “hawk” “firebrand”, a ‘fiery nationalist” with “controversial views” etc. (Check out the utter gloss job the NY Times Obits did here.) Even after some admit that he deliberately used his political power to try to start a war with China over some island scraps, and to publicly denigrate and persecute people not only because they crossed him, but also because they were born a certain way. Simply saying he was not a force for good is to have a fundamental misconception of what evil is.
Debito.org has commented on Ishihara’s evil activities umpteen times (most famously here), so I see no need to dwell further. I think Kaori Shoji writes an excellent obit in the Japan Subculture Research Center (aptly titled “A Farewell To Japan’s King of Toxic Masculinity: Shintaro Ishihara“) where she sums up:
The man was a rightist, elitist, racist, misogynist, patriarchal pig. I hope I didn’t leave out anything.
But even she winds up succumbing to a begrudging admiration for a person in power who was granted even more power and wielded it. That’s a pity. Yes, Ishihara had power — the power of yet another racist toxic masculinist born into rich privilege who did everything he could to make sure that privilege is perpetuated for his ilk. And his ilk have caused (and then denied) things like genocides, and should never be allowed to come near power and public service. Alas, an early showing with a prestigious literary award catapulted Ishihara into fame, and people are suckers for celebrities.
Returning to my opening, I say “measured amount of joy” because my joy was restrained by the fact that a recurrence of pancreatic cancer took Ishihara. I hope it hurt real bad in your final days, Ishihara. But no amount of pain you would ever experience would be enough payback for all the pain and suffering you caused other people.
Rot in hell, you monster. Arudou Debito, Ph.D.
PS. Other Debito.org Readers have already commented on Ishihara’s demise in a separate blog post here.
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30 comments on “Ruminations on Ishihara Shintaro’s death: Good riddance to an evil man.”
My family hasn’t really heard of him. I told them he was basically the Strom Thurmond of Japanese politics. They immediately understood.
— Ishihara is worse.
I got caught up in one of his “All Foreigners Are Bicycle Thieves” ownership confirmation campaigns and spent 4 hours in a Kouban while the police tried to track down the previous owner of the bicycle I was riding at the time.
It turned out the owner was ME and the previous owner was not in the country any longer. They were sure I had stolen it and wanted a confession, which I refused to give.
Shocked to hear this news because I thought he was basically immortal. Just like the LDP or Japan’s inability to reform into a real democracy with human rights etc.
The paralysis is so mind-numbingly traumatizing that NJs start to think as Japan as an essentially monolithic, non changing and unchangeable Meiji era 1930s throwback. Thus in this sense, Ishihara was but one head of an essentially immortal hydra. As mayor he encapsulated the end of the forward thinking 90s, the end of the salaryman emancipation into dot.com entrepreneurialism. Nope, he was there to symbolize “stop being fumajime, its back to your desk at the Zaibatsu.’ and “He is just a gaijin, he does not matter” (Coleman, https://web.archive.org/web/20110714184132/http://minamiyama.ning.com/)
I wouldn’t call him evil, rather, “quasi-evil. You’re the margarine of evil. You’re the Diet Coke of evil. Just one calorie, not evil enough.”
Someone with an inferiority complex toward American due to childhood experiences, who thus was in denial about the war, and never got beyond that, spending decades to try to put these perceived wrongs to “right”.
Just a blinkered (pun intended) bygone bigot, now be gone. Bye.
To elaborate my previous comment, “great” (ie. significant) men of history are often evil, think Hitler, Stalin etc. And Ishihara was no great man though he probably wanted to be, but was essentially emasculated and perceived himself as so. His knee jerk actions smack of the perpetually butt-hurt, the tantrums of a spoilt child and as Dr Debito pointed out, he came from a privileged background. His basking in the limelight of his brother Yujiro, the actor/singer, probably inflated his illusory self importance further during his formulative years.
I met Ishihara once by accident briefly in 2000, and the interaction was weird yet telling. He was going in, with a crowd of yes men, into a remote restaurant and I was coming out with an attractive young female. He started at the sight of us, visibly, as if he had never seen a gaijin before. Or surprised that a gaijin would be there. Indeed.
Progress is made one funeral at a time.
— Debito here. I’ve received some criticism from people who should know better about writing a “hateful post”. This is my response to them, and to anyone else thinking I’m going too far with my ruminations:
Er, yeah the whole ‘he’s dead now so victims of his hate-filled comments are the lowest of the low for speaking out’ while the wannabe nazis and apologist whitewash and elevate his memory.
Yeah, that’s not going to fly…
Why do the good die so young?
@ Dr Debito “— Ishihara is worse.”
Was. Has been. Now assigned to “The “ash heap of history”, also called “dustbin of history” or “garbage heap of history” or “landfill of history”, is a figurative speech about people, events, artifacts, and ideologies. It is used about people that are forgotten or things that will be forgotten in history. ”
I think this approach is not particularly hateful either, so there’s my little compromise.
— Except that his ilk are already whitewashing his history, and people who know better are pulling their punches in terms of descriptors. His evil is already being passed off as merely a part of Japanese context. He won’t be forgotten or relegated. He’ll remain (future tense, not past) an exemplar.
btw I have been reading and watching his novels, like Crazed Fruit and his attitude toward women is incredibly misogynistic, even for the time. Ishihara a is often erroneously compared to Mishima but as Kaori Shoji wrote, he was “heterosexual Mishima without the finesse”. At least Mishima had important female characters (Kyoko no ie) and was of course gay, had many western friends and lived an essentially western lifestyle (despite his nationalistic role playing). Mishima also hated politicians.
I was not going to post this but Ishihara’s anti western stance makes him an enemy of democracy and the west, surely.
In another country he would be called out for what he said, but here, he is just an outspoken man. So his behavior is tolerated, and this is the problem. His kind of people are still around. He won how many elections? That is the scary thing. As governor he won by a plurality, I think. I cannot remember if he got 50% of the vote since usually, there are so many people running for Tokyo governor.
I read today a Buddhist aphorism: “You become what you hate.”
That may be nourishing food for thought.
—- Maybe. We’ll see. I don’t see myself becoming an elected official promoting racism, however.
@Dr Debito, then Ishihara’s legacy as part of the immortal hydra warned of in the Global Times link I provided in an earlier comment is valid.
In death Ishihara becomes part of either the Japanese exceptionalism apologist movement (as portrayed by Hollywood like the Japanese yakuza guy bowing to Robocop but then absconding scott free in his limo due to “cultural reasons” ie defeat being punishment enough and we should “respect his authoriteh” for some reason,or shock horror be given a window seat as punishment at the end of Rising Sun because again, that’s apparently equal to a woman being murdered?!?)
The other side of the coin: part of the tradition of the rape of Nanjing, unit 731 and being a mate of Hitler.
It all comes down to picking which side you choose to highlight. If you’re trying to live in Japan, some may gutlessly choose the former and lamely buy into the Japan as victim/exceptionalism narrative, kowaiso Japan surrounded by nasty Western imperialists staving them of oil and allowing them their nature right to Lebensraum (ooops) over the Chinese Untermensch (oops again), and Ishihara by his own choosing becomes a latter day part of this shameful narrative.
I take comfort in this though, as I can just dismiss him as a Nazi apologist, “one of Hitler’s mates” – ironically the title of a play by Mishima who commented “was a figure as dark as the 20th century itself”.
“I want to do what I like for the rest of my life, even if people hate me when I die,” Ishihara said. ((Taiwan News).
Yep, a self absorbed egoist who didn’t care about other people’s feelings, a typical misogynist chauvinistic man child product of a J-priveliged background.
Well, he gets his wish.
Where’s the 倭? Everyone else has to lead lives of servitude for country and company, repressing their emotions, and working a 10-hour day, but not Ishihara. I disagree, the old establishment will miss him, he represented, the Japan they wished still existed. The Japan of the mid to late 20th century. Wealthy, the world was watching, and no one dared question the power’s that be. Somewhere, some of Japan’s old patriarchs are crying in their sake.
I am not optimistic. Later I think Ishihara joined or at least supported Ishin no Kai and this morning ex-Osaka governor was talking about him, remembering their meeting in 2008. In the photo Hashimoto has a big smile on his face. I cannot remember, maybe Ishihara campaigned for him back then.
My wife said Ishihara had support since he said what he thought, i think he wanted Japan to have its own nuclear weapons and not rely on America,
Brooks said ‘ since he said what he thought, i think he wanted Japan to have its own nuclear weapons and not rely on America’ and it’s valid, but Ishihara was just cosplaying along with all the other right wingers and spiteful old entitled men; Japanese people have to do what their told because there just ‘Monday moneys living for the weekend’ (to paraphrase the poster in Futurama).
They’ll never be the way they want to be ‘in real life’.
There aren’t going to be Japanese nukes.
The world won’t shudder at their voices.
They’re just cosplaying at not being emasculated.
Back crammed in their rush hour trains…wage slaves for J-inc that doesn’t care.
Ishihara was really just a visible manifestation of ethno-nationalistic inferiority complexes that are rife in (not only) Japan. It’s a poison that turns everything it touches into a toxic cesspool, even figure skating.
On skater Hanyu; ‘ this kind of turn towards a sort of ethnic identity’ and as a result ‘The thing that sets him apart from other skaters is his skill, but (also) in terms of popular cultural cachet’, but leads to such negativity since racism absolutely denies the possibility of inferiority to others- ‘ stacking the deck against Hanyu by underscoring his routines and boosting the scores of American rival Chen’.
Good grief. What would Ishihara think of a slightly built male figure skater as the vanguard of Japanese chauvinistic nationalism?
@ anonymous and Brooks, yeah I remember some low level manager getting testy when I said he was a mild racist/nationalist and saying the old “he just wants a strong Japan”. And a woman saying “Ishihara can speak out. I wish more Japanese (men) could do that”. I wish types like these would stop trying to bait NJs in Japan; the common sense response (which they half expect, I suspect) is quite simply “I am an American so therefore I oppose any anti American politician”- I only have loyalty to my own country (“as any honest man would” to paraphrase George the 3rd to Samuel Adams).
It never ceases to amaze me when certain Japanese expect “loyalty” from NJs in return for…what? The right to work and be taxed here? A nice bit of sushi and four unique seasons? Does this mean we have to say things like Nanjing or 731 are “difficult issues” or historically doubtful?
No, no we have no rights, no representation and therefore no loyalty can there be. We remain aliens, citizens of a foreign power and there is absolutely no reason why any NJ should make excuses for Ishihara and co.
I hate to tell them this but the reality is- and a lot of Japanese elites also think this and have told me so- that postwar brand Japan is in fact the creation of America and exists because of America. It cannot possibly stand let alone lead on its own (without alienating the rest of Asia through gaffes and intolerance). Furthermore, even if it can, it cannot be allowed to, because of all the reactionaries like Ishihara waiting to crawl out the woodwork and start “killing the Koreans” (remember that Osakan schoolgirl) and starting a war with China etc.
The sad reality is the American bases are here for two reasons, the unofficial one tacitly being to stop a resurgence of imperialist Japan invading the rest of Asia willy-nilly. To ensure the SDF remains limited, and that Japan does not “need” nuclear weapons of its own because America will “protect” them.
“Scratch the veneer and Japan has not changed since the Tokugawa era” (Psychologist cited in Powers, Working in Japan, 1990).
FInally, Ishihara, Taro Assho’, Kishi Nobusuke and their ilk should be called out for what they are; enemies of the west and democracy. Any westerner should of course say so. There is no longer much to gain from saying otherwise. We tried be polite and obtuse in the 80s and 90s but we never got that promotion despite learning the language etc, so we may as well call it out for what is, and indeed who is responsible for the lack of progress.
@ anonymous, “Where’s the 倭? Everyone else has to lead lives of servitude for country and company, repressing their emotions, and working a 10-hour day, but not Ishihara. ”
Yeah, indeed Ishihara was (lauded for) not being a typical Japanese. And yet he would use that to shut up his critics- are you really Japanese?
Which of course is a charge which could also be levelled back at him. Or at the very least, that he was “rude”.
This in fact carries a lot of weight in arguments, I was reading a book about the Kwantung army and this old colleague said “Oh, they were “rude”. Not, “oh, they were war criminals”, but that they were rude.
And Ishihara certainly was extremely rude. “Shitsureina urusai yatsu” might be an appropriate one liner comeback eulogy in the bars and ramen shops when the J barflies get in their cups.
Hey, I was right about this- “Ishihara revealed that as a young man, he always considered himself better looking than Yujiro. And he recalled feeling “somewhat humiliated” as he watched Yujiro’s career and popularity soar.” And thus, his attention seeking inferioirity complex driven career.
Lately there has been a lot about Ishihara on TV. One thing I cannot get is he would often call Japanese stupid. Which Japanese was he talking about?
Since I have never lived in the Tokyo region, I have never thought much about Ishihara when he was governor, or even when he led the small far-right Sunrise Party (Taiyō no Tō 太陽の党), formerly known as the Sunrise Party of Japan (Tachiagare Nippon たちあがれ日本). However, I am recently very concerned about the recent popularity of the conservative right-wing populist Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai 日本維新の会), as it is essentially an Ishihara-lite party, after the Sunrise Party merged into the party. We will have to see how the party fares in the House of Councillors election to be held this year.
“Ishihara had support since he said what he thought”
Like a small child or a golden retriever. It wasn’t brains that got him where he was. (apologies to Margin Call)
Predictably, Hanyu’s ethno-nationalist ideology cosplay necessitates that his failing to perform a jump and ending the short program in 8th place CANNOT be due to his lack of skill, nor the superior performance of NJ skaters.
It was the ice.
Despite being good enough for the first-placed guy to get a record breaking score, it wasn’t good enough quality ice for Hanyu to attempt a jump (it had a divet at his take off spot- most likely made by him during his warm-up practice).
In fact, Hanyu even goes so far as to say that this (Chinese) ice ‘hates’ him. Ooh, slip a ‘Japan as victim’ angle in there too!
I’m going to miss old Blinky. One less person to endlessly poke fun at.
Interestingly, it seems that Chinese netizens are oblivious to the way Hanyu plays up to the ethnio-nationalism of his home crowd;
Still, I’d be interested to hear Osaka’s take on the criticism Zhu Yi is getting;
Good riddance to bad rubbish! Now we just have to wait to the dinosaurs over at the Nippon Kaigi to drop off the perch and maybe this society can start moving forward.
Ben from Oz,
I have a feeling that won’t be happening any time soon.
As an example, an ad for Uppopoy magazine from the National Ainu Museum on Facebook has over 170 comments, well over 90% of them negative.
(Common comments are “the Ainu are not aboriginal people, they came afterwards”, “it’s all a plot by Chinese”, “they will demand independence, so that the Russians will invade”, etc.)
I sometimes despair that it is getting harder to not bump into rabid right-wingers, or that at least it is becoming more and more acceptable to show right wing tendencies.
Ishihara was both a cause and effect.
I lived in Japan from 2011-2014, and I remember thinking that the day I hear of Ishihara’s death, I’d throw a big party. He lived rent-free in my head at the time and I wanted him to die in the most horrible way. Made a mental note that I’ll read the news every day to know if he croaked yet or not.
But to be honest, once I left Japan forever and returned to Europe, that morbid fascination of him and the Japan he represented, went away almost immediately. Nowadays I rarely think about the country anymore – it’s such a negative, gloomy society not worth spending any thought on, and it’s so far away and so self-centered that it’s easy to forget another country to the east of China even exists.
So of course I missed the news of his death – I just read about it. I still felt a deep satisfaction and joy when I read the cause of his death – as pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful types.