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Tokyo Governor Ishihara says earthquake and tsunami was “divine punishment”

Tokyo Governor Ishihara says earthquake and tsunami was “divine punishment”

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara 

Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara

 The Governor of Tokyo who often gets attention in Japan because of his outlandish comments was true to himself.  Shintaro Ishihara who is the Governor of Tokyo linked the earthquake and tsunami with “divine punishment” because of the egoism of Japanese people.

Therefore, Ishihara believes that “divine punishment” was inflicted on communities in Iwate and Miyagi, and other areas badly damaged, because of “egoism.” However, does he mean the “egoism of Tokyo” and “political elites?”

The coastal towns and hamlets in Iwate and Miyagi are very far from the glitzy lights of Tokyo. Given the economic downturn in recent decades then it would be more appropriate to comment that the people of these coastal towns are “the real backbone of Japan.”

After all, life is not easy in these coastal towns and many people have to work in adverse conditions because of the weakness of the economy of Japan.  It would be more accurate to say that the coastal people are “the salt of the earth” because they do not seek the easy life or easy solutions. 

I am not stressing that everyone is poor in the coastal towns and hamlets in Iwate or Miyagi.  However, the income gap between coastal towns in Iwate and places like Ebisu and Nihonbashi, in Tokyo, is huge.  Therefore, why would “divine punishment” be inflicted on people who work hard despite residing in adverse conditions?

I hasten to add that “divine punishment” is a concept that I can’t comprehend because events like the recent earthquake and tsunami is because of the natural forces of nature.  Also, many people in Tokyo have great stress because of the cost of living, working long hours, and so forth; however, unlike the infrastructure of the coastal towns of Iwate and Miyagi, it is clear that Tokyoites are spoilt for choice because Tokyo provides great comfort and a wealth of places to visit or things to do.

Ishihara told reporters that ”Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism. We need to use tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of Japanese over a long period of time.”

”I think (the disaster) is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims.”

Ishihara does stress that he feels sorry for “disaster victims” and he is aiming this at political elites.  However, he clearly did not think about the “real victims” and this applies to hard workers who struggle in difficult economic conditions but still remain loyal to their place of birth.

The Governor of Miyagi, Yoshihiro Murai, was unhappy about the comments by Ishihara and later on Ishihara did issue an apology and he announced that Tokyo would send economic aid to areas that have been badly hit.

True to the maverick nature of Ishihara he even hogs the limelight when he is far from the real issue.  Also, true to his nature, on the one hand he mentions “divine punishment” and then announces enormous economic support to areas which have been badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

It must be stated that many people support Ishihara because of a multitude of factors. 

This applies to Japan’s lack of identity and following in the shadow of America.  Also, others point to the lost spirit based on strength and responding to adversity because the younger generation is seen to be weak and the old traditional values have been crushed by shallowness.

The spirit of Soichiro Honda was based on taking responsibility for himself and going against the corporate logic of consensus and not taking responsibility.  Ishihara is not Soichiro Honda but he does speak freely and in Japan this is seen to be positive. 

Therefore, while some supporters of Ishihara will have flinched by his comments they will still welcome what he stated because of his individuality and because he is accountable for himself.

However, he clearly did not think deeply about his comments because the people who have suffered the most will be the same people of strength which Ishihara desires to see within the hearts of Tokyoites and the political elites of Japan.

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