24, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 16
Stuart Isett/Corbis Sygma for TIME
Ishihara sits down to talk to TIME.
No Need For an Apology'
boisterous governor is back in the headlines
Never one to shy away from trouble, Tokyo's controversial Governor Shintaro
Ishihara made headlines last week when he claimed that foreigners living
in Japan were likely to riot if an earthquake struck the island nation.
Shortly after his election a year ago, Ishihara spoke with TIME. Impatient
and irritated, he stood up at one point, muttered "stupid question" and
walked away from the interview. This month Ishihara sat time with TIME
Tokyo bureau chief Tim Larimer on two occasions--in early April and again
last week. Read the interviews to find out what makes Japan's most controversial
TIME: What does the word sangokujin mean to you?
Ishihara: The primary meaning is "foreigners." The secondary meaning
was (for a certain period of time after World War II) people from former
colonies, such as Taiwan and Korea. Another way it was used was when American
soldiers broke into our houses. We said very big sangokujin broke in.
Were you surprised at the negative reaction to your speech?
Ishihara: I referred to the "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally."
I thought some people would not know that word so I paraphrased it and
used 'gaikokujin,' or foreigners. But it was a newspaper holiday so the
news agencies consciously picked up the sangokujin part, causing the problem.
TIME: Given the derogatory meaning the word has to many people, isn't
it inappropriate to use the word at all?
Ishihara: That's a different perception. After World War II, when
Japan lost, the Chinese of Taiwanese origin and people from the Korean
Peninsula persecuted, robbed and sometimes beat up Japanese. It's at that
time the word was used, so it was not derogatory. Rather we were afraid
TIME: You were a student then. Did you experience such attacks?
Ishihara: Yes, I saw these things. One day in a very crowded train,
a so-called sangokujin came in. We Japanese were all made to stand up,
though there were empty seats. And I was hit by an American. He was drunk.
For people from Taiwan and Korea, it was their revenge. It was their way.
ALSO IN TIME
Mouth of the People
Japan's Shintaro Ishihara triggers controversy once again, but hidden
within the furor is the reality that, for disillusioned citizens,
Tokyo's populist Governor has become an important symbol of change
"There's no need for an apology"
Power Politics: The
local pols begin to assert themselves
TAIWAN: War of Words
Beijing lashes out at the island's Vice President-elect for her outspoken
views on reunification
One System: China
tries to muzzle Hong Kong's press
VIETNAM: History Lesson
Twenty-five years after the end of the war, newly released documents
paint a fascinating picture of its last days
BIOLOGY: The Stud Within
American men (and not only men) eagerly await a new testosterone gel
that promises better sex and bigger muscles. But what does the notorious
hormone actually do?
CRICKET: Bad Form
A match-fixing scandal takes down South Africa's captain
TRAVEL WATCH: Ho Chi Minh City -- An Intriguing Mix of Past
How will this controversy affect your ability to govern?
edition's table of contents
Ishihara: Not at all. Actually, it might help. With this trouble,
we could let Tokyo-ites and foreign tourists know that in Tokyo atrocious
crimes by foreigners are increasing. In that sense, it had a positive
effect. It deepened understanding of this danger.
TIME: Have you reconsidered apologizing for your recent remarks?
Ishihara: There's no need for an apology. I was surprised that there
was a big reaction to my speech. In order not to cause any misunderstanding,
I decided I will no longer use that word. It is regrettable that the word
was interpreted in the way it was.
TIME: Parliament is discussing whether to give voting rights in local
elections to foreign-born residents. Do you support that?
Ishihara: Is there such a case in another country? My view is that
unless somebody is a citizen of a country, he doesn't have the right to
TIME: One of your books, Lost Country, imagines a Japan controlled
by Russia. What inspired you to write this?
Ishihara: The cold war was in its prime. The U.S. could not protect
Japan from the launch of a missile from North Korea. I wrote it as a warning.
TIME: Do you want to be Prime Minister?
Ishihara: Well, I used to. A person like myself, who is outspoken,
cannot climb up the political ladder, especially the LDP. When I became
Governor, one newspaper said [former Prime Minister Keizo] Obuchi could
never be Governor of Tokyo and Ishihara can never be Prime Minister of
Japan. I think that is true.
TIME: Will you form a new party to run candidates for national office?
TIME: Have any political parties approached you to be their leader?
Ishihara: They wouldn't do that.
TIME: But is Tokyo big enough of a stage for you?
Ishihara: By working in Tokyo, changes we make will have a spillover
TIME: Is there a new generation of leaders ready to take charge of
Ishihara: My son (parliament member Nobuteru Ishihara) is an expert
on tax and the fiscal system. When he doesn't listen to the senior politicians'
views, they call him names like "little gangster." He's 40 years old.
So the young generation isn't really that young.
TIME: Is there a movement among local leaders to take control of the
Ishihara: Not yet. Local mayors have not really changed any of their
values or ideas. Japan is the most successful socialist country because
the central bureaucracy really controls the entire nation.
TIME: Where did you learn your political instincts?
Ishihara: I formed my basic stance vis-a-vis politics with experience
in international yacht racing. I was the commodore of an ocean race committee.
Not a small dinghy but a big yacht. Yachting is dangerous Š if several
yachts collide, people could die and a ship worth tens or hundreds of
millions of yen would be lost. After that kind of accident happens, the
international jury holds a court martial, and if you don't assert yourself
there, you lose and all the blame is placed on you. I believe this is
also true in both domestic and international politics.
TIME: How did you manage to turn a nothing job into something?
Ishihara: It's not because I'm aggressive by nature. I'm just doing
what I believe is right, and the judgment of my actions will be determined
at the next election. In the past, there wasn't a governor who tried to
assert themselves vis-a-vis the central government or for the citizens
of Japan. I don't fear failure, and nobody can change me.
TIME: What is your analysis of Japan-U.S. relations?
Ishihara: I'm critical of the U.S. relationship and dissatisfied with
it. The country I dislike most in terms of U.S.-Japan ties is Japan, because
it's a country that can't assert itself.
TIME: How should Japan assert itself?
Ishihara: The American economy is supported by Japanese money. Japan
is buying the highest percentage of government bonds. America is imposing
a super-low interest-rate policy and money flows out of Japan, forced
to buy American financial products. There are several steps that Japan
can take, like selling American government bonds. But the U.S. would panic,
so instead, Japanese should buy American stocks to realize the influence
we have over the U.S. economy.
TIME: What will happen to the two countries' economies?
Ishihara: The U.S. economy will collapse.
TIME: Would that make Japan feel better?
Ishihara: Do we want revenge? No. If there is confusion about America's
economy, it will put the world in chaos. Maybe the yen and the Euro should
cooperate, as a counterbalance to the dollar. But Japan cannot think of
anything like that because it would be like revolting against a god.
TIME: Is Japan too dependent on the U.S.?
Ishihara: The philosophy of fighting for a cause--even if Americans
shed blood--has been lost. In the future, there won't be that kind of
war. American commitment has its limits. What comes after military power
in terms of influence? Money.
TIME: Eiji Sakakibara [the ex-Ministry of Finance official known as
Mr. Yen] compared your tactics to Hitler's.
Ishihara: Who's Sakakibara? He is a bureaucrat to the U.S. and then
they block his appointment to be director of the IMF.
TIME: How did you come up with the plan to tax banks?
Ishihara: We took advantage of the fact that the Ministry of Finance
did not know what we could do. Sakakibara is just angry that the finance
ministry didn't know. And because of that, he calls me Hitler. That's
TIME: What other tricks do you have up your sleeve?
Ishihara: Lots. They're top secret.
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