Tokyo’s 78-year-old governor Shintaro Ishihara has said he will not stand for election to a fourth term as Tokyo governor.
Previously he had apparently indicated he would stand, but his son, who in the best traditions of Japan’s cronyistic hereditary democracy is also the secretary general of the LDP, recently told party supporters his father did not intend to stand for re-election.
Whether he could actually win another election is not clear, but optimism about the prospects for repealing his manga ban may yet be misplaced – the LDP, with which he is most closely associated, fiercely supported the ban and is packed with pro-censorship authoritarian conservatives, whilst the main opposition party, the supposedly liberal DPJ, went along with the ban after it was reworded to be even more draconian.
The other parties and candidates are none too reassuring either – the Koumeito is run by a Buddhist cult of fervently moralistic character, and wealthy restaurant entrepreneur Miki Watanabe’s independent candidacy has already been marred by his response to questions about what he would do about the ban.
Watanabe’s statement with respect to the ban that “a restoration of confidence and consideration of revision is required,” along with his pro-business outlook, is on the face of things promising, but the manner in which he arrived at this statement is far from reassuring – his first tweet on the subject:
“I don’t normally look at adult manga so I asked my secretary to buy me 4 representative examples, and I read them, and frankly I was sickened by the content.”
[The "adult manga" language he uses actually suggests he was brought 18+ ero-manga which are unaffected by the ban in any case, rather indicating an abysmal level of familiarity and research on the topic]
He goes on to condemn freedom of expression:
“I can’t understand how people can defend complete freedom as ‘freedom of expression.’ So I definitely think the manga ban was the right choice.”
However, he soon changes his tune when he realises this might actually cost him some votes – his response to people calling him out as a neo-Ishihara:
“I apologise for my comments about the manga ban, which were based on a lack of understanding. I think restoration of industry confidence in the government and due consideration of a revision of the law is necessary.
Many people became worried about me and were kind enough to explain the situation in emails. Thank you very much. I was talking about a situation in which I wanted to do something about the excess of harmful material, but it seems that is not the matter at issue here. I didn’t know enough about what I was talking about.”
A disturbing reflection on his candidacy in several aspects, from his willingness to make statements about topics he knows nothing about to his complete lack of familiarity with the entire issue and clear preference for political expediency over support for freedom of expression or the publishing industry.
Only the Japanese Communist Party’s candidate Akira Koike has said unequivocally that he would repeal the legislation entirely if elected – however, even the most ardent opponents of the ban could be forgiven for being sceptical of the merits of electing a full-blown communist to office just to get rid of the ban, given the rest of his political agenda.
The election, due in April, has been described as “a free-for-all,” so just who will be elected is not clear – though what is clear is no candidate even approaches Ishihara in terms of their demented hostility towards manga, freedom of expression and foreigners, so even the worst case scenario is likely to be an improvement.