[OUTLOOK]Courage to Say Yes to Neighbors' AdviceDear Mr. Shintaro Ishihara.
Although we have never met,and even though I know you are 12years older than I am, I write this letter to you more because you were once one of the most celebrated novelists in Japan than because you are now one of the most popular politicians as the governor of Tokyo.
During your days in college, you were a talented all-round athlete who played judo and soccer.At the age of 22, you made a sensational literary debut with "The Season of the Sun," a novel depicting the outsiders of the young generations of the 1950s resisting against the establishment, for which you won the prestigious
You once directed movies and also appeared in them as an actor. Together with your late younger brother, the immensely popular actor Yujiro Ishihara, you became one of the most sought-after celebrities in the Japanese society, then entered politics and became one of the most influential politicians in Japan today.
I even read a recent newspaper article that compared your family to the Kennedys of the United States.
But of all your achievements, I remember you best as the creator of a social phenomenon among the post-war Japanese youth who mimicked the unrestrained and rebellious lifestyle of the "Sun tribe" graphically depicted in your
best-selling novel "The Season of the Sun." I still vividly remember the shocking scene of a man pushing his manhood through a paperscreened door into his lover.
I also remember Yukio Mishima, considered by many critics as the most important Japanese novelist of the 20th century, making this comment of you: "Mr. Ishihara opened an era of contempt for everything that is intellectual. The era of military dictatorship before World War II had been one of non-intellectual forces holding the intellectuals in contempt. But the era ushered in by Mr. Ishihara is different, which can be called an intellectual revolt."
As Mr. Mishima said, you can be called a revolutionist who initiated an intellectual revolt against lies and deceptions. You have consistently maintained a liberal position and consequently called for the freedom to say "no" to the United States, the dominant world power. As a politician, you also adopted an extreme right-wing position by describing continuous Chinese and Korean protests and anger against distortions of the past in Japanese textbooks as acts of intervention in Japan's domestic affairs.
But Mr. Ishihara, how can you of all the people hold such an attitude? Even if Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and the seven cabinet ministers resort to the anachronistic act of trying to cover up the deep wounds Japan inflicted against China and Korea by encouraging the movements of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform to distort history, at least you, Mr. Ishihara, should not hold the ultra-rightist perception of regarding the two countries' protests as intervention in Japan's internal affairs.
Because you were the famed writer who advocated love for
humanity and who also inspired the "Sun tribe" that resisted so fiercely against the deceptions of Japan's militarism.
Japan deeply wounded Korea, Mr. Ishihara. Like the mentally
deranged woman in your book "Total Amusement," Korea was
gang raped by Japan. Like the protagonist in your book "Execution Room," Korea was lynched by Japan's militarism for 36 years, and Korea's young women, robbed of language and of their names, were forced to become prostitutes in the name of "comfort women."
Even more intolerable is the fact that after having won its liberation when Japan was defeated in World War II, Korea had to be divided into two and even today remains as the only divided nation in the world. Japan is the country
that lost in the war. If any country had to be divided, shouldn't it have been Japan, as Germany had been? Why did Korea have to suffer from national division when it had nothing to do with the war that Japan launched?
Precisely what kind of a nation is Japan? It is an uncomprehending nation that believes in the saying, "Good medicine tastes bitter," and yet seems to suffer from a
mental block against honestly dealing with its past history. It adamantly refuses to accept the bitter, but beneficial, advice from China and Korea as good medicine. It is an immature and infantile country that refuses to trulya tone for its past aggression.
Mr. Shintaro Ishihara, you raised the pride of Japanese by
calling for the freedom to say "no" to the powerful United States. If you are a true champion of freedom, then I think it is time that you, as a mature intellectual, tore down the mental block Japan seems to be suffering from, to talk about the wisdom of accepting Korea's and China's advice, not as intervention in domestic issues but as a sound advice.
I think that it is time that you became an ideologist who can talk about the courage to say "yes" to the advice of Japan's neighbors, which might taste bitter but is the
best medicine for Japan.
The truth is bitter medicine, but a full dose of it is the prescription for Japan to outgrow its immaturity.
by Choe In-ho