Ishihara: A governor for all the people

Opinions Tokyo Life - May 12th, 2000
Robert J. Collins

by Robert J. Collins

“May I have your attention-ion-ion-ion!” The crowd, restless and on edge, was slow respond­ing.

“Your attention please-ease-ease-ease.”

Tokyo Dome was full. The speaker was on a raised platform in what would otherwise be center field.

“It’s time-ime-ime-ime… for the meeting-ing-ing-ing…to start-art-art-art.”

(As a courtesy, the writer will henceforth omit the echo effect. One might, however, continue to imagine it.)

“I will take a roll call. First, Koreans.”

From the first and second tier, mostly along the first base side, the Koreans cheered loudly and waved a variety of flags—two from the homeland peninsula and, of course, the Japanese flag.


The crowd on the third base side of the Dome erupted with cheers and whistles. Some tossed minia­ture toy dragons into the air.


About a third of the people massed in the stands behind home plate cheered with abandon. “And, ah, the Chinese.”

Another third of the people massed in the stands behind home plate cheered with abandon. “Plus, the Chinese.”

The final third of the people massed in the stands be­hind home plate cheered with abandon; some North Kore­ans politely applauded this group. A big county is China.

“All right. That covers Governor Ishihara’s official sangokujin group. Let’s get to the others.”

The speaker then continued the roll call of Tokyo’s foreigners. Iranians whooped, Pakistanis shouted and folks from the Philippines burst into song. Colorfully attired Africans danced, drably attired Europeans glowered. South Americans jumped up and down. North Americans smiled and self-consciously waved (mostly at each other). The Australians had to be called twice—a barbecue had started around second base.

“Now, to the business of the day,” announced the speaker. “The first category is… pillaging.”

And so it went. The speaker worked his way through plunder, ravishment and seditious behavior. A considerable amount of time was spent debating the quality and extent of violence required in these acts—and the general consensus was that pillaging and plundering required more than ravishing, depend­ing, of course, upon the circumstances, and that sedi­tion could be accomplished with relatively little vio­lence. Specific assignments were eventually made.

“No,” counseled the speaker at one point, “we can’t have everyone just running amok. I know running amok is easier, requires less practice and is generally more fun, but we are nothing if we’re not organized.”

“And, no,” added the speaker to a question origi­nating from the third tier in the rear. “Just walking around exposing our private parts does not fit Gover­nor Ishihara’s expectations of us.”

There were some moments of high comedy—par­ticularly when the U.S. foreigners were practicing the swaggering walk the good Governor had described in one of his fabulous books.

“Knees apart, knees apart,” the speaker instructed. “And swing your shoulders and elbows so as to knock down little old ladies.”

The U.S. foreigners kept getting it wrong, and in fact had to stop often to catch their breath. Strutting can be stressful—something Ishihara should know.

And the tipping-over-the-beer-vending-machine-and-kicking-the-living-crap-out-of-it rehearsals—as­signed to a coalition of Middle Easterners (who, be­cause they had to do something, just wanted to run amok)—became a hilarious hopping about danse extraordinaire. (Sandals. Kicking a big metal thing. Ouch.) As unanticipated hang-up occurred when the Korean teams assigned to arson reported that it would take between 14 and 21 days before they could actually torch anything. Now into at least the fifth generation in Japan, torchees could be rela­tives, and that would have to be sorted out before any nastiness could occur. (Chinese raised the same issue, and requested to be excused from any assignments in Roppongi, Shinjuku and parts of Toranomon.)

The question about whether or not foreigners should wear special insignias—clearly identifying them as non-Japanese—brought sympathetic nods from the Asians in attendance, but nevertheless raucous laugh­ter from everyone else. The gentleman raising the point reported he was Nigerian. Some Germans smiled.

The last question was the most significant question.

“Governor Ishihara,” observed a Peruvian who cer­tainly looked Japanese, “said that foreigners have com­mitted atrocious crimes again and again, and we can expect them to riot in the event of a disastrous earth­quake. He said that, but how do we foreigners know what is a disastrous earthquake?”

“Yeah,” said someone else. “What number? A four? A five? A six?”

“The scale? Richter? Japanese? And what the hell is the difference anyway?”

“Or, if I’m in Yoyogi Park with my family? Can I take them home first, before I begin committing hor­rible crimes? Even if trees topple over?”

“I work on construction jobs. Do I have to start running amok from the top of the scaffold?”

“We English teachers have to help the students evacuate the school house. Can we do that first before the plunder part and ripping phones from the walls?”

“What if I’m the only one ravishing? Any earth­quake to me could be disastrous, but if no one else is ravishing, I’d be embarrassed…”

“Okay, okay,” said the speaker. “I see the problem. We need a defining standard before we send up the action balloon. Let’s wait a few weeks. Ishihara is bound to make an insensitive, completely boneheaded remark by then to clarify matters, and that’ll make it easier for us. Maybe he just means the thought of an earthquake.”

People began to file out of the Dome.

“See you,” said the speaker, “next month-onth-onth-onth.”