Ishihara Shintaro, Japanese film producer, ‘Sun Tribe’ novelist and ultra-nationalist politician, dies at 89

Ishihara Shintaro, the former governor of Tokyo, first known as the chronicler of the “sun tribe”, privileged children living a life of leisure and license amid the poverty of post-war Japan, died at the age of 89. The cause of death was given as pancreatic cancer.

Ishihara’s award-winning 1955 novel “Season of the Sun” served as the basis for Nakahira Ko’s 1956 film “Crazed Fruit” which started the “Sun Tribe” boom. Ishihara scripted the film, and he and his younger brother Ishihara Yujiro appeared in it. Yujiro has become a major star, starting with his early films “Sun Tribe” for studio Nikkatsu, as well as a successful singer.

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Born in 1932 in Kobe, Ishihara Shintaro was raised in upper-middle-class affluence – his father was a successful maritime executive – and graduated from the elite Hitosubashi University in 1955. Propelled by his Sun Tribe success, he directed, acted in and produced films, although he became better known in Japan as a conservative politician after his election to the upper house of parliament in 1968.

Ishihara served as governor of Tokyo from 1999 to 2012, winning three re-elections despite his extreme nationalist views and controversial statements. In an April 2000 speech, he used the slur “sangokujin” (“people from a third country”), once used to pejoratively refer to Koreans and Taiwanese in Japan, but survived calls for his resignation.

He was a Holocaust denier who described the rape of Nanjing, a 1937 siege and massacre by Japanese soldiers, as fiction. He then supported the 2007 film “The Truth About Nanjing”.

Ishihara also co-wrote a book with Sony founder Morita Akio urging the Japanese to stand up to the Americans.

However, he did not direct his anger only at strangers. Following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, Ishihara said it was “punishment from heaven” for the greed of the Japanese people.

Ishihara’s most recent film was as an executive producer, writer and actor in “Aokigahara”, a 2012 film set in Japan’s notorious “suicide forest”.

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Marie A. Evans