JIN-410 -- The Teflon Governor

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JAPAN INC NEWSLETTER
Commentary on Japan's culture, economy and society
Issue No. 410
Friday April 13, 2007 TOKYO

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CONTENTS:
@@ VIEWPOINT: The Teflon Governor

Shintaro Ishihara, who recently won a third term
as Tokyo Governor, is not one to hold his tongue. In his
years as governor he has spooked foreigners with a warning
to beware rioting 'third country nationals' (code for
Koreans) in the aftermath of a natural disaster in Tokyo;
raised Francophone hackles with the comment French is not
an international language; and insulted older women with the
comment 'The most noxious thing created by civilization is
said to be the old woman. It is pointless for women to live
after they've lost their reproductive capacity. It is a
crime.' He was reportedly quoting a scholar in an
interview with a magazine.

He made what came to be called the 'old woman remark' in
November 2001. In spite of it, in the recent election he
received 51 percent of the female vote, as opposed to
Shiro Asano, his leading rival, with 30 percent. In short,
the distaff vote greatly contributed to Ishihara's reelection.

The Asahi Shimbun, the liberal daily, could not have
welcomed the reelection of the outspoken, nationalist
politician. The paper spoke with several women to discover
how their gender could vote for a man who seems to believe
their post-menopausal existence is a crime.

'I forgot the comment,' said a 28-year-old housewife from
Nerima Ward, Tokyo. Perhaps if I were older I would have
been hurt and remembered." She went on to say she knew
Ishihara as a man not given to empty boasting. 'Many
feel people with sharp tongues are reliable.' In
contrast, she could not forgive Labor Minister Yanagisawa
for his equation of women with baby machines, since, because
he was an unknown, her sole impression was of a man who put
his foot in his mouth.

A 77-year-old woman from Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, said she could
not forgive the governor for his old woman remark 'But these
days television tends to promote people who abuse others.
The groupies supporting Mr. Ishihara are people of my
gender.'

An exit poll conducted by the newspaper on election day, the
8th, disclosed that 49 percent of men voted for Ishihara and
36 percent for Asano, while 51 percent of women voted for
the governor and 30 percent for his closest rival. So the
difference was greater in the case of women than of men.

A 41-year-old woman from Katsukushika Ward remarked that
Asano and other candidates made no gaffes, but did not say
anything of substance either. Though Asano brought to the
fore his accomplishments in Miyagi Prefecture, 'I had to
wonder what he knew about Tokyo.'

Her sentiment was echoed by a 61-year-old housewife from
Itabashi Ward, who said Asano had failed to convey what
he would like to do if elected Tokyo Governor. 'If Asano
or another candidate had made the 'old woman remark, I
would have focused on that alone.' Yet she forgave Ishihara.
'I've been observing him since he was a member of
parliament. Perhaps I'm used to him.'

A 41-year-old female company employee from Kodaira City
confessed that because her mother was a fan of Ishihara's
late younger brother Yujiro, she felt an affinity for the
Ishihara family. She also mentioned great expectations in
education and welfare during the governor's third term.

Ishihara won reelection because of his fame, eloquence,
and record of achievement. He is Shintaro, the
first name as moniker indicative of a celebrity status
stretching back to his receipt of the Akutagawa Prize,
Japan's most coveted literary award, while an undergraduate.
He is a strong leader and a nationalist, a pol in the mold
of Junichiro Koizumi. He is a figure that answers the needs
of the times. For all these reasons, he remains the
'Teflon Governor.' Stay tuned for more outrageous
comments.

-- Burritt Sabin

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