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.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star