After eight years in the limelight as the governor of Tokyo it seems that 74 year old Shintaro Ishihara (石原慎太郎) has once again been successful in winning the hearts of the Tokyo tomin (都民, citizens). Despite the fact that 73% of Tokyo’s registered voting population (*) did not vote for him, Ishihara is beginning his third (and apparent final) period in Nishi-Shinjuku. Besides more overseas trips for his wife and job offers for his sons, what does that mean for us, the gaijin population of Tokyo? I happened to be walking through the streets of Shinbashi (新橋) on the weekend and stumbled across Ishihara’s campaign office so I decided to invite myself in for a fact finding mission. Although I didn’t buy one of the 200 yen pro-Ishihara arm bands, I did ask a few questions on behalf of stippy.com.
Unfortunately, Ishihara was hugging babies (or shouting into a loud microphone) outside Shinagawa station, so instead speak with one of his right hand men who was holding the fort. As it was an unplanned visit I found myself a little unprepared debating with the smooth talker behind the desk but thankfully had my wife with me who for some reason seemed to be completely on top of Ishihara’s anti immigration policies and beat the poor guy around the ears a couple of times before we left.
It turns out that Ishihara’s key manifesto this time was to make Tokyo a safe city. Supposedly a lot of his policy was modeled on Giuliani’s successful policy that lowered NYC crime levels in the 90s. This must have appealed to Giuliani’s ego as there was very large bunch of flowers in Ishihara’s office from a Mr. ジュリアーニ! According to Ishihara, crime rates in Tokyo are rising due to the recent increase in the power of the foreign (probably Chinese) mafia in the streets of Kabukicho. By clamping down on illegal immigrants and tightening immigration policies, Ishihara hopes to disarm the foreign mafia before they increase their footprint even further.
While this probably has some truth to it, what shocked me was his lack of policy in regards to homegrown crime. Ishihara’s manifesto doesn’t seem to have anything to say about either Roppongi or the Japanese Mafia. Correct me if I’m wrong but surely a local Yakuza shoot-out during broad daylight is something to worry about. Why isn’t this an issue on Ishihara’s campaign list? Oh that’s right, the Yakuza have the right to vote but we gaijin don’t – I nearly forgot.
Needless to say, some of what Ishihara does have its merits. Clearly we (or should I say they) shouldn’t be tolerating illegal workers and foreigners who come to Japan (or Tokyo) should abide by the laws. With the huge number of retirees expected in the next three years as the baby boomer generation retires, Japan Inc is going to suffer a brain drain of immense proportions. This is disasterous timing to be tightening immigration rules. The solution is more than just allowing a few dozen Philippina maids into the country to help out with the shortage of nursing home workers (which is what Ishihara seems to be suggesting). Politicians need to make sure that there is a sturdy system to educate and support immigrants so that they understand that they are protected by the state and guaranteed a better lifestyle when playing by the rules. That probably means increased rights for foreigners and the ability to get involved in politics. To his credit, I was impressed that Ishihara’s campaign man was willing to talk with me, even if he didn’t really answer my questions. I wonder what it would have been like if I had’ve visited Toyama Koichi (外山恒一)’s campaign office? (check out his election speech on japundit)
(*) While most news reports were celebrating Ishihara’s win as a landslide with “over 51% of the vote”, they generally fail to mention that only slightly more than 50% of Tokyo’s registered voter population even bothered to vote yesterday. The population of Tokyo is approximately 12.6 million of which registered citizens of voting age are approximately 10.4 million. While Ishihara’s 2.8 million votes was much higher than Asano’s 1.7 million it does raise a few questions in my eyes about the quality of the conclusions that people draw from them.