Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tokyo Dynamo May Rock Japan Yesterday's Election of a Top Nationalist as Tokyo Governor Might Not

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tokyo Dynamo May Rock Japan Yesterday's Election of a Top Nationalist as Tokyo Governor Might Not

Article excerpt

Tokyo voters are tired of the "yes" men in Japanese government. They made that clear Sunday by electing a man famous for saying "no" as the next governor of Tokyo.

Shintaro Ishihara, who co-wrote the 1989 anti-American treatise "The Japan That Can Say No," made the election an affair of international interest by calling for the US to relinquish one of its major military bases near Tokyo.

That demand, along with Mr. Ishihara's reputation as a nationalist, might suggest that his victory is a reflection of growing Japanese assertiveness. Indeed, the perception of rising nationalism may cause problems for Japan's leaders, but analysts and ordinary Tokyoites say Ishihara's victory is mainly a vote against politics-as-usual. "Voters aren't really looking at Ishihara's policies," says Minoru Morita, a Tokyo-based political analyst who points to more pressing issues like Japan's long recession and record unemployment. "They're leaning toward Ishihara because they want someone outspoken, a man with leadership. They want the complete opposite of the {ruling} Liberal Democratic Party {LDP}." 'He's outspoken, he's cool' Ishihara, who quit the LDP in disgust four years ago and ran as an independent, received at least 25 percent of the vote, enough to ensure his victory in a crowded field. Despite day-long rain that stripped blossoms from the cherry trees, almost 58 percent of Tokyo's voters came out to choose from 19 candidates. "People found no value in the existing parties and that's why they voted for me," Ishihara said in declaring victory, which must have tasted sweet. Ishihara lost his first bid for the Tokyo governor's job in 1975, when the incumbent made Ishihara's hawkish views a campaign issue. Takayuki Mochizuki, a young company employee in soaked blue jeans, pedaled his bike through the downpour to vote. "I wouldn't have come if Ishihara hadn't been running," he said. "He's outspoken. He's cool. I voted for his leadership." Ishihara, a handsome man who campaigned with a bevy of celebrity supporters, entered the race late and immediately led the polls. "Younger voters like his decisiveness, older voters feel nostalgic about him," explains Takashi Mikuriya, politics professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Ishihara burst onto the Japanese scene as a university student in the mid-1950s when he won a prestigious literary prize. Since then, fame has become an Ishihara family franchise. His late brother was a major film star, one of his sons is an actor, and another is a legislator - all of which helped his campaign. Ishihara himself entered national politics in 1969 as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party. He quit in 1995 with a speech eviscerating his fellow legislators for their lack of vision. Stressing self-reliance His own vision for Japan stresses independence and self- determination, and the country's dependence on the US for security rubs him the wrong way. …

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