Japanese nationalist instigator Shintaro Ishihara dies aged 89

TOKYO (AP) — Shintaro Ishihara, a feisty nationalist politician remembered as the gaffe-prone Tokyo governor who sparked a spat with China by calling for Japan to buy disputed islands in the seas from eastern China, passed away. He was 89 years old.

Ishihara, an award-winning novelist before becoming a politician, is remembered for his controversial opinions and provocative remarks that often angered women and rights groups during his 30 years as a lawmaker. primarily as a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Ishihara, who was being treated for pancreatic cancer and hospitalized since December, was still writing until last week when his condition suddenly deteriorated and he died on Tuesday morning, the family said.

As governor of Tokyo – capital and county seat of Japan – Ishihara sparked a diplomatic row with Beijing over the Japanese-held Senkaku Islands, which China claims and also calls the Diaoyu.

Ishihara proposed in 2012 that the Tokyo governorate buy the islands from their private Japanese owners to defend them against China’s growing territorial claims, sparking opposition from Beijing. To calm the situation, the Japanese government eventually nationalized the islands, but this decision backfired and further escalated the conflict, leading to violent anti-Japanese protests and boycotts of Japanese goods in China.

Bilateral relations have improved somewhat since then, but China has taken increasingly assertive measures around the islands, including sending coastguard vessels. China’s maritime activity in the East and South China Seas has prompted Japan to strengthen the defenses of its southwestern outlying islands.

As governor, Ishihara was also a driving force behind Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics, and pushed through environmental restrictions for diesel-powered vehicles and worked to promote the Tokyo Marathon.

A declared nationalist, Ishihara has never been far from controversy. He proposed that Japan develop nuclear weapons and abandon its Constitution renouncing war.

Ishihara’s sexist and racist remarks have also repeatedly angered women, rights groups, as well as Japan’s neighbors South Korea and China – which he referred to by occupation names Japanese culture of much of East Asia in the early and mid-twentieth century.

Ishihara also angered residents affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami by calling the disaster “divine punishment” for Japan’s selfishness.

In 1995, Ishihara left national politics but returned four years later when he was elected governor of Tokyo and won four consecutive terms, before stepping down in 2012 to serve two years in parliament. He retired from politics in 2014.

Ishihara was born in 1932 in Kobe, a port city in western Japan. He rose to fame after winning the prestigious Akutagawa literary prize for his novel “The Season of the Sun”, published in 1955. He also wrote books on politics, including his 1989 “Japan Who Can Say No”, urging his country to stop still following US policies.

His son, Nobuteru Ishihara, who is also a politician and the eldest of the former governor’s four sons, said his father worked on three books in his last days, including a collection of short stories. “He accomplished his work as a novelist until the end of his life,” said Nobuteru Ishihara.

At a press conference announcing his retirement from politics in 2014, Ishihara said he was grateful to have experienced historic turning points in his career as a politician and novelist – and that he had no regrets about to have sparked controversy.

“I want to do what I love for the rest of my life, even if people hate me when I die,” Ishihara said.

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