Japan's answer to Boris quits governship to challenge PM

New political party demands reform of ‘shameful’ anti-war constitution

Tokyo

The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, has stunned Japan by announcing that he is standing down and quitting the main opposition party to form a new right-wing bloc.

The controversial 80 year-old Mr Ishihara said he wanted to realign Japanese politics and scrap its “ugly” war-renouncing constitution, which he has long criticised as “shameful”.

“There are many contradictions in our politics,” he said. “One contradiction, bigger than anything, is the Japanese constitution, which was imposed by the [post-Second World War US] occupying army, and is rendered in ugly Japanese.”

An outspoken nationalist, Mr Ishihara sparked Japan’s biggest crisis with China in 40 years by launching a private fund to buy islands claimed by both sides. The plan forced the Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to nationalise the Senkakus, known as Diaoyu in China, triggering anti-Japanese riots across 100 Chinese cities last month and a boycott of Japanese goods that has cost millions of dollars.

Despite outraging liberals, Mr Ishihara is – like Boris Johnson in London – a darling of the right. He has for years demanded that Japan rearm, build nuclear weapons and defend itself against a resurgent China. He is known to have courted Japan’s leading nationalist politicians, including its rising star, Toru Hashimoto, the Mayor of Osaka, who is also launching a bid for national power. Mr Hashimoto is a radical conservative who also wants to dismantle much of Japan’s US-sponsored political architecture, particularly its war-renouncing constitution. “Not being able to have a war on its own is the most pitiful thing about Japan,” he has said. Like Mr Ishihara, he makes no bones about “standing up” to China.

Japan’s largest newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri, said today that the two men would attempt to form what Mr Ishihara calls a political “third force” with the tiny, ultra-right Sunrise Party. The Tokyo Governor said he would discuss returning to national politics with his “comrades”.

The move, which is likely further to antagonise China, had political pundits scratching their heads. “He may well be deluded,” said political commentator Koichi Nakano. “He probably thinks that he gained more fame as a result of the Senkaku dispute and can be a real force again in national politics. He may also have forgotten that he became Governor because he failed in national politics.”

A novelist turned politician, Mr Ishihara lost a contest to lead the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in 1989. He has since won four terms in office as Governor of Tokyo, peppering his career with a string of controversial outbursts. Last year he called the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country “divine punishment” for Japan’s modern “greed”. His disparagement of gays, foreigners and older women, whom he once called “useless”, have earned him the epithet “Japan’s Jean Marie Le Pen”.

But it is Mr Ishihara’s decades-long standoff with Communist China that defines him as a politician. He has sparked repeated anger in Japan’s powerful neighbour by denying Japanese war crimes, some of which he denounces as “Chinese propaganda”. Last month, he described China’s claims over Senkaku/Diaoyu as like a burglar “intent to rob someone’s house by force”. He added: “We must prepare to lock up our door tighter.” 

Mr Ishihara’s new party will try to make its mark on national elections, expected soon. Prime Minister Noda’s ruling party, the DPJ, is expected to lose power, opening the door for a shift to the right. Shinzo Abe, the leader of the main opposition LDP, has views similar to Mr Ishihara, although he is known to be more reticent about expressing them.

Ishihara: The Outbursts

The Japanese army’s slaughter of 300,000 civilians in the Rape of Nanking was “made up by the Chinese”.

Women past the age of reproduction are “evil”, “malignant” and “committing a sin” by continuing to live.

Tokyo’s Roppongi district “is a foreign neighbourhood” with crimes committed by Africans. “We should be letting in people who are intelligent.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'