Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara dies: Economics, nationalism, and legacy

Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara dies: Economics, nationalism, and legacy

Kanako Mita, Sawako Utsumi, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The former Tokyo Governor, Shintaro Ishihara, passed away today aged 89. Concerning the economy of Tokyo and the environment, his legacy is extremely positive. Hence, Tokyo under his leadership became an economic powerhouse that broke the back of indebtedness. Also, Ishihara focused on reducing pollution and making the capital more environmentally friendly for nature – even if the destruction of forest areas related to Minamiyama was berated.

He was a maverick in many ways and unafraid to speak his mind. Thus he espoused anti-Chinese and anti-Korean comments from time to time – while believing that Japan should stand up to America and become more independent.

Ishihara was miffed by Japan’s slavish pro-America policy that relegated the geopolitical interests of Japan. He said, “The country I dislike most in terms of US-Japan ties is Japan – because it’s a country that can’t assert itself.”

Regarding immigration from certain nations. Ishihara once more was rebuked for his nationalist thinking and anti-African comment. He said, “Roppongi is now virtually a foreign neighborhood. Africans—I don’t mean African-Americans—who don’t speak English are there doing who knows what. This is leading to new forms of crime such as car theft. We should be letting in people who are intelligent.”

He disparagingly said about older women, “Old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin,” adding that he “couldn’t say this as a politician.” 

France 24 reports, “A former novelist and popular four-term governor of the capital, Ishihara frequently stoked outrage at home and abroad with his public comments on everything from homosexuality to history.”

However, unlike nationalists in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in modern times who rebuke China at the drop of a hat, Ishihara was popular among many voters. After all, Ishihara supported a Japan that would break the chains of Washington’s dominance, unlike the ruling LDP that hides behind the coattails of America concerning foreign policy. Therefore, in an often staid political system – even if people opposed the sentiments of Ishihara – he was deemed a person of fresh political air.

Reuters, in 2008, more kindly reported, “Tokyo’s governor Shintaro Ishihara is a prize-winning author and former ruling party politician known for his efforts to clean up the city’s air, as well as for his tough talk against China.”

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) faced dire economic problems and was in the red before Ishihara became the Governor of Tokyo. After all, the bubble economy had taken a heavy toll on Tokyo and other regions of Japan. However, Ishihara turned things around by curbing expenditure, introducing a new tax system for banks, reducing the TMG workforce where possible, the regeneration of the Odaiba area to a higher level than past leaders of the TMG, and other sound policy initiatives.

Environmental issues were also addressed by Ishihara. This includes diesel vehicle exhaust policies to reduce pollution and other environmental concerns.

Overall, Ishihara’s economic, environmental, and regeneration legacy is high. Hence, while this political maverick often stirred up the hornets’ nest, he was elected several times in Tokyo. Therefore, his legacy is the political support he garnered in Tokyo on several occasions and preparing this city for the twenty-first century on a potent economic footing.


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