Shintaro Ishihara is one of Japan's great writers. He's also the Governor of Tokyo, and according to some, a racist.
The Tokyo Government is attempting to re-introduce legislation regarding censorship in mass entertainment like manga and video games, and Ishihara is lending his support to the cause. But he isn't only keen to stop the appearance of sexual stimulating material in manga, anime and video games.
"This isn't just about the kids," Ishihara said at a recent PTA meeting. "Gays are appearing on television no problem. Japan is going way unchecked. I'm doing this with a sense of duty." Some are left wondering if Ishihara plans stricter regulation for Japanese television that goes well beyond what is currently being proposed.
Regardless, this is hardly the first time Ishihara shot off his mouth. Here is a man who was sued for calling French a "failed language", a man who referred to Korean-Japanese and Taiwanese-Japanese as sangokujin, a man who blames Chinese and Africans for increased crime and a man who denounced The Rape of Nanking as "fiction" created by the Chinese in a Japanese magazine.
Controversial and opinionated, Ishihara was elected Governor of cosmopolitan Tokyo in 1999 after a lifetime in the public spotlight. This "sense of duty", Ishihara told the PTA, conflicts with much of what made Ishihara who he is today.
In 1955, a 23-year-old Ishihara won Japan's most prestigious literary award with his novel Season of the Sun. The book depicted the country's post-War rebellious youth culture: gambling, fighting and having sex. In its day, the novel's frank depiction of sexuality shocked readers — yet, here Ishihara is decades later trying to tell other artists what they can and cannot do.
A film version appeared the following year. The movie starred Ishihara's brother, Yujiro Ishihara, who would go onto become one of Japan's biggest stars. With an emerging Ishihara entertainment dynasty, the young writer befriended the likes of Yukio Mishima, the brilliant novelist and far-right extremist. The famed writer supported and mentored Ishihara's work. Mishima, who was very close with Akihiro Miwa, was a homosexual. Yet, now Ishihara is upset that there are homosexuals on Japanese television.
Whether it's co-authoring books with Sony founder Akio Morita, Ishihara always has something to say. It may not be the right thing, it may not even make sense. It may come out all wrong and rub everyone the wrong way, but it's something. One Tokyo resident once summed up the Governor's appeal for me: "Ishihara says things many people feel, but wouldn't dare to say."
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