Governor Ishihara hints that he will stand down
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Tokyo gubernatorial campaign for the next leader will begin in less than one month and it appears that Governor Shintaro Ishihara will stand down. Apparently strong pressure was put on Ishihara to stand once more. However, Ishihara is now 78 and clearly time is against him, therefore, according to reports he will not stand in the election and if this becomes factual then he will release a statement and give further details about his final decision on March 11.
Political sources have stated that Ishihara will not seek re-election and if this is confirmed then this may entice the former Miyazaki Governor, Hideo Higashikokubaru, to run in the Tokyo political race. However, Ishihara, true to himself, appears to be making the announcement more dramatic by not stating his true intention publicly and with Ishihara you never know until it is in ink.
Despite this, if we take what sources are saying at face value then it appears that Tokyo will soon have a new governor. Ishihara came to power in 1999 and in both 2003 and 2007 the majority of people of Tokyo supported continuity. In some sense, it may be continuity if the Governor of Kanagawa decides to enter the fray because Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa is close to Ishihara.
Unlike most politicians in Japan it is clear that Ishihara is divisive and this applies to his anti-foreign comments, brushing off major errors, for example the Shinginko banking scandal and wasting resources on the failed Olympic bid.
However, for others, Ishihara is opinionated and strong unlike many politicians in Japan who appear aloof or too weak. Also, the financial standing of Tokyo is vibrant and the infrastructure continues to tick despite the huge numbers of people who reside or pass through Tokyo.
If Higashikokubaru decides to enter the race then clearly he is also very opinionated and despite negativity involving the foot and mouth issue; it is true to say that Higashikokubaru did put Miyazaki back on the political map. Therefore, he would provide a strong challenge because he is well known because of mass media coverage and like Ishihara, he likes the limelight and he certainly would not adopt a “quietist policy.”
It is expected that the Governor of Kanagawa, Matsuzawa, will enter the Tokyo election and if this happens then he clearly will carry a lot of political weight. Matsuzawa was a former House of Representatives member and despite him representing the Democratic Party of Japan in this period it is also apparent that he shares a good relationship with Ishihara.
In the corridors of power it would appear that Matsuzawa would be the desired next leader for Ishihara because both individuals share a strong relationship with each other. Governor Ishihara and Governor Matsuzawa support issues related to the environment, traffic congestion policies, and other areas. Therefore, Matsuzawa could become an appeasement political leader for both the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan.
Akira Koike and Miki Watanabe have announced that they will run in the Tokyo election and both individuals will add spice to what promises to be an open election. After all, Ishihara was not pushed to the limit in either 2003 or 2007 and the next election for the governor of Tokyo will be more open.
Ishihara since 1999 certainly focused on urban regeneration and the landscape of many parts of Tokyo have been changed. This applies to affluent high-rise office buildings, a mass of new towering condominiums in and around the bay area and other key developments. At the same time Haneda Airport is starting to provide international services and the Tokyo Gaikaku Kanju Expressway is clearly making strides.
However, on the flip side is that while Tokyo continues to grow it is also clear that community ties are not prospering and the number of single households is growing and this is putting more strains on the environment and the quality of life within Tokyo.
Also, it appears that issues like health care and welfare were put on a back burner and clearly the homeless issue needs addressing (to be fair to Ishihara this issue is a major problem in London, Paris, and other major capitals). Maybe more pressing in the long term is that the sewage system needs fresh capital and this applies to other areas like public buildings and so forth.
The upcoming elections throughout Japan will bring a mixture of new political leaders in the local arena and continuity. However, the governorship political race in Tokyo will be focused on heavily within the media because of the power of Tokyo within the body politic of Japan.
Therefore, much will happen between now and voting day but it would appear that Ishihara will not run. If so, then a new leader will emerge but true to the nature of Ishihara he will keep people guessing until he finally announces his true intention.