On April 8 and April 22 nationwide local elections were held throughout Japan, gubernatorial elections on the 8th and local assembly and municipal elections on the 22nd. Among 13 gubernatorial elections, the Tokyo elections attracted the most attention, with incumbent Ishihara Shintarou running for a third term. Over the previous two terms, Ishihara's comments on various sensitive issues, notably on the topics of foreigner communities, crime, and women's issues, have sparked numerous debates in and outside of Japan. Although he won over 50% of the votes, a sizeable group of Tokyo citizens as well as people elsewhere voiced concern and disappointment at the result. Discussions on the outcome continued for a period of time following the election, with bloggers on various sides of the issue presenting their views.
A housewife in her 40s, blogging anonymously, expresses her relief at Ishihara's re-election victory:
まあ、まずは ホッ としました。—-
Well, I am relieved…
We have made great efforts to crack down on illegal foreigners and to get rid of fanatic anti-Japan teachers from schools that were controlled by the Japan Teachers’ Union. If Asano, who was supported by the Korean Residents Union in Japan, North Korea sympathizers, the Social Democratic Party and feminist groups, had been elected by mistake, we would have not only gone back to where we were but we would also have had a city where foreigners would feel free to do what they like.
Another blogger, Aiharaharu, comments on the anti-crime and security policies that Ishihara was pushing for during his election campaign:
Ishihara is the best person to be the Tokyo governor!
Because, based on comments he made in TV interviews, he has a stronger sense of the need for security than other candidates.
It's better that we have security. I feel relieved when I hear that we have security. In fact, it's like, when you hear about crimes, you think that it's somebody else's business, but you never know when you yourself might encounter them.
Especially in terms of sex crimes, there is a possibility that the number could increase, so I want Mr. Ishihara to implement measures soon. According to the experts, the media doesn't cover sex crimes in much detail. The rate of repeat offenders among sex offenders is very high. On top of that, they can't stop on their own. I would like to see strong measures to tell these people that if they do this kind of thing they will have no future. And I also think that individuals need to properly defend themselves.
Also, people say that crime committed by foreigners will increase more and more. As the flow of people into and out of Tokyo increases, there will be more foreigners coming into the city. When this happens, a lot of groups of people who might commit crimes will enter Tokyo. To avoid giving them an impression that Tokyo is an easy place to commit crimes, I want Mr. Ishihara, who is trying to take measures against crime committed by foreigners, to become the governor of Tokyo again. Mr. Asano apparently asked ethnic Chinese groups for their support, so there is an element of danger.
There are various problems with Mr. Ishihara, but compared to other candidates, I feel that it's a good deal to cast a vote for Ishihara, who has a strong sense for the issue of security. I myself am a Saitama resident, so I can't participate in the Tokyo gubernatorial elections. If I were a Tokyo resident, I would vote for Mr. Ishihara.
Another pro-Ishihara blogger, momonga_seven, points out that the Olympic bid was a factor in his choosing Ishihara:
I voted for Mr. Ishihara without any hesitation this time, indeed he is the only choice. In terms of the issue of the bid for the Tokyo Olympics, if a person who opposed this bid had been elected, it could have been very critical for the Japanese national interest, and there would have been a chance that we would not be able to hold the event.
Although other candidates were saying that “we should cancel the Olympics and spend the money on welfare”, the content of their platforms lacked concreteness. Despite this fact, the opposition parties were not able to limit the number of candidates and there was no solidarity among them, and I think that was the problem.
On the other hand, bloggers like this one, an anonymous blogger from Heiwa e no michi (平和への道), expressed their concern about the political awareness of Tokyo citizens:
Ishihara won the election for the third time. What the result of this election shows is how low the cultural level of the Tokyoites is. Now no one can complain even if Ishihara wastes our tax money. It's like saying please do whatever you want. Many Tokyoites are selfish people who do not even think about areas outside of Tokyo and are only able to care about themselves. I guess people don't realize until they hit the very bottom.
Blogger Kuni, a Japanese photographer based in the U.S., compares the Tokyo election to the U.S. presidential election in 2004:
A while ago, when I found out that Tokyo Governor Ishihara was re-elected, I felt similar to the way I did following Bush's re-election in 2004, a feeling of desperation mixed with depression that I cannot even describe.
It's similar to the case of Bush's election, in that it is certainly true that the opposition candidates weren't very appealing. But even so, in the presidential election — although based on ignorance — his re-election was achieved by the will of the conservative Americans, mainly in the American Midwest, who voted for him truly believing in him.
However, I don't think Ishihara's re-election was a result of the will of these kind of people. More likely, the majority of Tokyo residents’ indifference and frivolousness to political issues ultimately managed to somehow result in governor Ishihara's re-election.
I wonder if the citizens of Tokyo are ashamed of, or feeling angry about, having such a person as their leader. If you think about it, it's hard to believe that this person got re-elected. It was the same when Health and Labour Minister Yagisawa made his insulting comment. The Japanese people have become numb to these kind of insensitive comments and discrimination; there are too many people who just detach themselves from these issues, thinking that they have nothing to do with their lives.
Therefore these people were thinking: there's really no point in going to the polling station to prevent Ishihara's re-election, there probably won't be any difference to my life whether or not somebody else gets elected.
I think indifference is a very scary thing. Although you may realize the misfortune of having such a governor when you are personally affected, by this time I think it will be too late, because the damage to the Metropolitan Government, like the destruction caused by cancer cells, will already be well underway.
Finally, many people have cited the comment Ishihara made in 1975 about then-Tokyo governor Minobe:
The period of time in which an old person in their 60s or 70s, with worn-out frontal lobes, was put in charge of politics is over, isn't it?
As many have pointed out, Governor Ishihara is now 74 years old.