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Number 1 Shimbun

From the Archives: Japan's Donald Trump


Shintaro Ishihara, Director-General of the Environment Agency, addresses FCCJ Members on May 23, 1977. Seated to Ishihara’s left is Bill Shinn (Sisa News Agency), then President of the FCCJ, and checking his notes to the right is Peter “Shin” Higashi (AP). That’s former FCCJ president Lee Chia (China News Agency) seated on the far right. All three were Club stalwarts, referred to many times in our history book, Foreign Correspondents in Japan.

SHINTARO ISHIHARA WAS FAMOUS as an author whose novel, Season of the Sun, launched him on his writing career and garnered for him Japan’s top literature award, the Akutagawa Prize, in 1956. His younger brother, Yujiro, appeared in the movie version, and both became famous as icons of the youth culture of the time. As author and adventurer, Ishihara produced a wide range of works – almost 40 books – but he is better known to journalists for co-authoring, with then-Sony Chairman Akio Morita, The Japan That Can Say No. Written in 1989, it was translated into English in 1991.

Ishihara even served briefly as a war correspondent, with a stint in Vietnam from late 1966 to early 1967 for the Yomiuri Shimbun. That experience turned his attention to politics and he subsequently served in the Diet from 1968 until 1995, where he became a controversial figure with rightist tendencies. His early political career ended abruptly, however, with his resignation following the Aum Shinrikyo subway attack in Tokyo.

But Ishihara soon re-entered politics, serving as governor of Tokyo from 1999 until his resignation in 2012 to head his own political party, the Sunrise Party of Japan. Plans to coalesce with other small parties then foundered on policy disagreements. Ishihara went on to form the Party for Future Generations, but he was defeated in 2014 and retired from politics, but not before giving journalists an endless amount of controversial, jaw-dropping comments during his many appearances at the Club.

During Ishihara’s governorship of Tokyo he showed up to push for Tokyo as the venue for the 2016 Olympic Games. A friendly question was put to him by Sam Jameson, long-time Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune and then the Los Angeles Times, who in earlier years had played poker with Ishihara. There was no sign that Ishihara remembered those earlier days, and Sam did not bring it up either.


— Charles Pomeroy

Published in: September 2015

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