Tokyo governor apologizes for calling quake divine retribution
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara in 2009.
March 15th, 2011
02:23 PM ET

Tokyo governor apologizes for calling quake divine retribution

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The governor of Tokyo apologized on Tuesday for saying the earthquake and resulting tsunami that left thousands dead were divine punishment for Japanese egoism, a leading Japanese news service reported.

"I will take back (the remark) and offer a deep apology," Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said at a Tuesday news conference, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.

On Monday, Ishihara had told reporters, "I think (the disaster) is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims," according to Kyodo News, which translated Ishihara's remarks from Japanese.

“Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism,” Ishihara had said Monday, according to Kyodo News. “We need to use tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of Japanese over a long period of time."

Read about how Japan's religions respond to tragedy

The death toll from Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake off the east coast of Honshu grew to 3,373 on Tuesday.

John Nelson, the chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco, said Ishihara’s remarks about divine retribution hark back to Japanese Buddhist ideas that fell out of favor decades ago.

He said the Japanese term “tembatsu” could also be translated as heavenly punishment.

“The way [Ishihara] used it was a prewar understanding of the will of heaven or the gods to discipline the Japanese people,” Nelson said.

“That understating of the gods having an agenda was instrumental to the ideology of the prewar years, when it was said to be Japan’s divine mission to conquer Asia and establish an empire," Nelson said.

Ishihara, 78, had said he was leaving politics but announced after the earthquake that he will seek a fourth term as governor in this year's elections.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • Japan

soundoff (1,146 Responses)
  1. Shinji

    Wow, has a Tea Party too!

    March 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  2. Mark

    I always find it interesting when people are praised for attributing good things or miracles to God or some divine intervention, but not the bad things. I didn't know you could have it both ways. One could go back to the atrocities committed during WWII if you want to follow that line of thinking.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  3. sobekind

    So sad of how he comes to be in this high position to have stupid brain to say that to his own people.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  4. art

    The laws of physics must conform to laws of nature. Don't build nuclear reactors in faultlines and in regions prone to tsunamis.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  5. true sage

    Some would disagree with the "divine" part of the statement, but I for one totally agree that Mother Earth has been trying for years to cull this human herd that has been devastating this planet for so long (Eathquakes, floods, aids, famine, etc...) The vast majority of the world's problems would simply disappear if the population were reduced by, say, 50% or more. I say we need more of the same in order to truly appreciate not only what the planet has to offer us in terms of sustenance but also each other as members of one human family.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Mark

      People build in areas they know are unsafe and then complain when disaster strikes.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Amber

      How about you volunteer you and your loved ones first! Think about it...

      March 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  6. Paul

    He's pretty warped to have said that - most of the greed is right there in Tokyo, not where the quake wiped out entire small towns. Strange when you see an intelligent looking person in a suit, etc, and they end up being a total throwback to the days of primitive thinking when it comes to theology.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Cherokee

      Well it looks like he is not out for greed now but thinking that the end time might be near for him. He has taken off the face of a politician and put on the face of one thinking about his mortality.

      March 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  7. DaveK

    This cleansing is like a high colonic.
    There is another one coming and nothing we can do about it. Nobody knows where it will occur and when it will happen. Basically, we're helpless against these forces. All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. When the worst happens we come together and rebuild.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  8. allwegotisus

    Um...sympathy training?

    March 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  9. bailoutsos

    CNN, when you going to have a Stupid Blog tab?

    March 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  10. waldob

    Religion is myth, and myth is NOT reality. He confused reality with the foolish fabrications of religion.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • edjmusic

      I guess you won't be invited on the ark.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  11. Kevin

    I guess all countries have a Pat Robertson of their own.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • alix

      You're so right about that! What's funny about these logics is that they always target other people as deserving of the calamity but never themselves!

      March 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  12. George Greek

    What a pathetic, simpleton MORON! This is the kind of comment you would expect to hear from clueless 'bible belt' Jesus freak zealots!

    March 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  13. hotpatata

    Jeez, man. If you wanted to teach humility, don't you think you could've just offered sensitivity training courses instead?

    March 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  14. Tuut

    Sounds like something you'd expect to hear from those Westboro morons.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  15. Ykcyc

    Not to worry. There is another one coming and nothing we can say or do is going to change that. The Earth is going through a cleanzing cycle.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • moornook

      wearing the tin foil a little tight today?

      March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Cliff Vegas

      hmmm.... you might be a tad more convincing if you worked on those spelling skills.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • sobekind

      Please do not forget to take your medicine, if it comes in the bottle please do not forget to shake the bottle.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. james

    He looks like a decent man. Wow, looks can certainly deceive!

    March 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  17. Brent

    lol not really... the stupidity he has done.... he will try to 'outstupid' his last stupidity.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • wow

      Obama is a decent looking man too

      March 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  18. liza

    He is right....cause this is only the beginning unfortunately

    March 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • moornook

      and tell me how exactly do you know this?

      March 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • waldob

      Does an invisible man tell you these things? How long have you been hearing voices in your head?

      March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Chris

      Please provide some facts to back this one up. kthx

      March 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • J

      The flying bowl of Spaghetti deemed it so in its last inter-dimensional podcast... from second space.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Cliff Vegas

      Liza has her God-induction gear on today – required apparatus to know the mind of God. It consists of a tinfoilhat with pages from Revelations taped to the inside of her clothing. Lord knows we need more prophets. Good going Liza. We need more like you (not).

      March 15, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Liza Null

      In a disaster, the devout and the heretic will perish together, and dead is DEAD, regardless of personal belief.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • GUY

      read the book of revelation from the bible and find out for yourself. I also believe this is just the beginning.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • PlagueDoc

      Whether you skeptics choose to believe it or not, the end is near. Do you really think it's possible that liza, Pat Robertson, and the disheveled guy that I see every morning in Times Square prophesizing about the end of the world could ALL be wrong about the same thing?!! The rapture is coming, people, REPENT! REPENT!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Book of Revelations wins first prize for the most absurb chapter of the bible, with Leviticus coming a close second.
      7 headed dragons that breathe torrents of water and follow pregnant women around to eat their babies? Grasshoppers with human faces and tiny little crowns?

      March 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Cherokee

      I would like to recommend people watch the movie"The Book of Eli". This a movie that will make you think about the end time and what it MIGHT be like.

      March 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    Google "boobquake" for a recent debunking of earthquakes as divine retribution.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. The Bobinator

    Finally someone who claims this as an act of the supernatural realizes how stupid they were being.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • SummerGS

      We ALL know deep within ourselves when we have not been living in favor with our creator. Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has recanted his words, but his heart has spoken because he knows the truth. It saddens me to see so many people feel that a personal relationship with our creator is foolish and stupid. Those of us that have a personal relationship with the creator know within our hearts that we have shammed ourselves, and we have shammed ourselves as a people, before the creator (again), and our turn for sorrow is coming soon, very soon. If you seek the creator with all your heart and with all your soul, you will find Him, and you will understand. Otherwise, it may not be wise to make fun of what we do not know or understand.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • stejo

      @Summer – "shammed ourselves"...lol...couldn't have said it better!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Otherwise, it may not be wise to make fun of what we do not know or understand.

      You people always assume that someone who now doens't believe wasn't a believer before. I grew up Roman Catholic, I was considering being a priest. It's only when I looked at the bible, the entire bible, not just the cherry picked areas, how silly and idiotic it actually is.

      It's not that I don't understand what you're feeling. I was just smart enough to realize what was happening to me.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Magic

      "Those of us that have a personal relationship with the creator..."

      A relationship is a two-way activity. How do you know that you are not just talking to yourself?

      March 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Floyd

      Sure Bobinator, sure. You left the seminary to become an insulting meanie. Ya, that's enlightened, alright. You "looked" at the Bible, well that is very different than reading and comprehending it. Your choice of words certainly does not make sense then. No wonder you lost your way. Hope you find it, 'cause it certainly is not in belittling people. Maybe you should have read, studied and comprehended the text, instead of "looking" at it.

      March 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Magic


      I can't speak for The Bobinator, but if you are so obtuse that you can't understand that "when I looked at the bible, the entire bible, not just the cherry picked areas," he means that he read and examined it thoroughly, well then, it's no wonder that you believe all of that primitive Middle Eastern desert tribe nonsense.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Floyd

      @Magicman – Sounds like you are speaking for him actually. Was he your recruit? My point is that, apparently like you, he is an insulting person and of mean spirit. I do not believe using his terms/words that he actually really “studied” it or really fully contemplated the priesthood. Nor do I believe him to be a nice person being so insulting. You certainly are not one. I know people, family included that have backed out, but did not become mean-spirited. Some did not retain their faith and are still nice to people, some did keep their deep faith but decided it was not their vocation, and that is okay. You are on a Belief blog for a reason. Either to be mean or something inside wishes you understood real faith. Sorry that you are so empty and devoid of compassion. Believe or don’t believe but one doesn’t have to be mean just because they lost their faith. Sounds more like other personal issues at play. Get some help, either psychological or spiritual.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Magic


      Pot, meet Kettle.

      You are not behaving in a way that I would consider, 'nice'.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.