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Dissatisfaction With Japan's Major Parties Beckons To 3rd Force

Shinataro Ishihara believes that at 80 his time has arrived to influence Japanese politics.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/28/2012, 4:46 PM

Shintaro Ishihara
Shintaro Ishihara
Reuters

It is not yet certain whether Shintaro Ishihara, the 80 year old four-term Governor of Tokyo, will be able to form the third force in Japanese politics; if he can, if will be an interesting ride.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has promised an early election (without specifying a date) as the price for support of his tax legislation by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Almost everybody expects the DPJ to lose, as nothing appears to be going right for Japan - and first and foremost the economy. Japan appears to be facing a demographic cliff as in a few decades it will have the most mature population in the world with a median age of 52.

The problem is that voters have little enthusiasm about rewarding the LDP with a thumping majority either, as the once perennial party of government has also disappointed in recent years.

The exasperation with Japan's leadership is not only the sentiment of the voters but was recently conveyed by a top U.S. official, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. who claims that the revolving door of Japanese prime ministers is dragging Japan down.

Ishihara does not represent a new face in Japanese politics, having been in politics since 1968 and his son Nobuteru recently contested the leadership of the LDP, coming in a close second to the winner-- former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In terms of policies, he is a radical. He would rewrite the Japanese Constitution, which he claims was imposed by the US occupation and worse yet, he complains, is written in deplorable Japanese. He favors massive rearmament including a nuclear force to stand up to China. He has compared the Japanese bureaucrats to feudal shoguns and calls for curbing their power. He is an unabashed a historical revisionist who has called the infamous Japanese massacre of Nanking, China in 1937 a fabrication.

These statements are not likely to endear him to Washington, let alone Beijing and Seoul, but since 1989, Ishihara has written about ending American tutelage in Japan. 

Editorialists in Japan have already condemned his views as overly extreme, but in today's political climate they could find some traction.