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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. Dave

    If God isn't capable of enacting his retribution against specific individuals and directs it towards innocents, he's either 1) not all-powerful or 2) kind of a jerk.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  2. Saved one

    this is only the beginning...REPENT YOU SINNERS. The world is ending starting May 21 2011.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • wikiIeaks

      when will the ending end?

      March 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  3. big d

    horton hears a hooski

    March 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  4. Chaos

    Well, thinking you can keep radioactive material under control is an egoism.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  5. Rick Rude

    Anyone watch 2012?

    March 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Big one

      yeah, ron Jeremy was AWOSOME

      March 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  6. scott

    Yeah because his ego doesn't have him combing his hair over.....oh snapppola!

    March 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  7. peter

    A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God, but God has nothing to do with this world shaking event! Talk about sleepwalkers. Sinners despise the God of heaven as he destroys their evil worlds. That sounds like a headline...

    March 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • wikiIeaks

      actually that scripture says not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing. He didn't cause it. Have no fear, you are worth more than many sparrows.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  8. rex edie

    its necessary to keep an open mind.... the quotes from the koran were an interesting read.... much of which sounds like anything from any other book of prophecy written down by humans.... to quote the great "messiah" George Carlin..
    there's an invisible man who lives in the sky..... he knows everything you do.... and if you go against his will.... he will punish you with torture and burning and agony into the depths of eternity.... but...." he loves you"..... talk about hypocrisy !!!

    i theorize ....the earth is a living being....a self balancing mechanism.... so much negative energy has been created by humans in the past ten years.....illegal wars...killing of innocents.... uprising of masses against government... wall st criminals..with no justice served.... talk about a "MAGNITUDE" of crap.... the earth has to release the pressure...
    just like a boil... earthquakes are that release.... god help america when its turn comes....for all the evil perpetrated in the name of god....! ! !! humans are a disease on the earth's surface.... and it will eventually cleanse its self of it...and just move on

    March 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • just saying

      Yes, we have been abusing this planet long enough...now she's going to cleanse herself and too bad for humans if it would be an inconvenience. It"s probably a huge inconvenience for earth when we pour poisons into her system and destroy the natural processes. Blow her up for fun just to sadistically see what would happen...duh or to make a PROFIT. Well, she has had enough, and now it's time to pay for all our ignorrant pleasure. I don't have to be religious to see that.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  9. scott

    Y'all fight nice, ya hear.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  10. scorching rod

    The FOOL hath saith in his heart, there is no God! April 1
    Denial, desertion,deception at its best in these posts....the winner{s}; the deity complex who won the peeing contest!

    March 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • La Crema Del Pinga

      time for your meds, coo coo man

      March 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  11. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara

    Ya ya, i really mean it. FU everybody

    March 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  12. What?

    He didn't mean to say that. That was wrong. Look at Indonesia. They get blasted all the time. Look at evil dictators. They get away with murder. No God dictates anything or America would be toast.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  13. Felicitations

    I only had to read the headline to know that this story would bring out all the nutcases. I wasn't disappointed.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  14. Pinga Muy Grande

    Send me $25.00 and I will pray for you and save your soul. For $1,000.00 I can reserve a spot in Heaven for you.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • fabian

      Only if I get my 7 virgins. lol

      March 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  15. Shinea

    The ultimate conceit. Do any of you actually think that Gaia cares one whit about humans? In less than the blink of her eye, everything we have done will be less than dust. The planet will not even know we were here. Dinosaurs were here for millions of years and we hardly know they existed. I don't think a few thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years will leave even that much of a trace of us.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  16. Baldev Gill

    Did not have to wait long before the morally bankrupt religious nut cases blamed it on the undoctrinated to scare one into believing that there is that long bearded, never before seen Dog oops sorry God, did this to punish his " children" for bad behaviour. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

    March 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • me

      Hey but it's great to watch them running around talking about the end being near. Hopefully they will start offering up their worldly belongs to the unclean. I for one have a sweet ride eyed thats in the driveway of the bible thumper that lives beside me.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Al-Anaam 06:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Praise be to Allah, Who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath appointed darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve ascribe rivals unto their Lord. (1) He it is Who hath created you from clay, and hath decreed a term for you. A term is fixed with Him. Yet still ye doubt! (2) He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth. He knoweth both your secret and your utterance, and He knoweth what ye earn. (3) Never came there unto them a revelation of the revelations of Allah but they did turn away from it. (4) And they denied the truth when it came unto them. But there will come unto them the tidings of that which they used to deride. (5).

    Al-Anaam
    Had we sent down unto thee (Muhammad) (actual) writing upon parchment, so that they could feel it with their hands, those who disbelieve would have said: This is naught else than mere magic. (7) They say: Why hath not an angel been sent down unto him? If We sent down an angel, then the matter would be judged; no further time would be allowed them (for reflection). (8) Had we appointed him an angel (Our messenger), We assuredly had made him (as) a man (that he might speak to men); and (thus) obscured for them (the truth) they (now) obscure. (9) Messengers (of Allah) have been derided before thee, but that whereat they scoffed surrounded such of them as did deride. (10) Say (unto the disbelievers): Travel in the land, and see the nature of the consequence for the rejecters! (11) Say: Unto whom belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth? Say: Unto Allah. He hath prescribed for Himself mercy, that He may bring you all together to the Day of Resurrection whereof there is no doubt. Those who ruin their souls will not believe. (12).

    Al-Anaam 
    Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognise (this revelation) as they recognise their sons. Those who ruin their own souls will not believe. (20) Who doth greater wrong than he who inventeth a lie against Allah or denieth His revelations? Lo! the wrongdoers will not be successful. (21).

    Al-Anaam
    And this is a blessed Scripture which We have revealed, confirming that which (was revealed) before it, that thou mayst warn the Mother of Villages and those around her. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe herein, and they are careful of their worship. (92) Who is guilty of more wrong than he who forgeth a lie against Allah, or saith: I am inspired, when he is not inspired in aught; and who saith: I will reveal the like of that which Allah hath revealed? If thou couldst see, when the wrong-doers reach the pangs of death and the angels stretch their hands out saying: Deliver up your souls. This day ye are awarded doom of degradation for that ye spake concerning Allah other than the truth, and scorned His portents. (93) Now have ye come unto Us solitary as We did create you at the first, and ye have left behind you all that We bestowed upon you, and We behold not with you those your intercessors, of whom ye claimed that they possessed a share in you. Now is the bond between you severed, and that which ye presumed hath failed you. (94).

    Al-Anaam
    Perfected is the Word of thy Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words. He is the Hearer, the Knower. (115) If thou obeyedst most of those on earth they would mislead thee far from Allah's way. They follow naught but an opinion, and they do but guess. (116) Lo! thy Lord, He knoweth best who erreth from His way; and He knoweth best (who are) the rightly guided. (117).

    Al-Anaam
    And whomsoever it is Allah's will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender, and whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not. (125) This is the path of thy Lord, a straight path. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who take heed. (126).

    March 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Muneef

      What is religion story;

      Al-Anaam sura 06:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath forbidden to you: that ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents, and that ye slay not your children because of penury – We provide for you and for them – and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath command you, in order that ye may discern. (151) And approach not the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better, till he reach maturity. Give full measure and full weight, in justice. We task not any soul beyond its scope. And if ye give your word, do justice thereunto, even though it be (against) a kinsman; and fulfil the covenant of Allah. This He commandeth you that haply ye may remember. (152) And (He commandeth you, saying): This is My straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way. This hath He ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil). (153) Again, We gave the Scripture unto Moses, complete for him who would do good, an explanation of all things, a guidance and a mercy, that they might believe in the meeting with their Lord. (154) And this is a blessed Scripture which We have revealed. So follow it and ward off (evil), that ye may find mercy. (155) Lest ye should say: The Scripture was revealed only to two sects before us, and we in sooth were unaware of what they read; (156) Or lest ye should say: If the Scripture had been revealed unto us, we surely had been better guided than are they. Now hath there come unto you a clear proof from your Lord, a guidance and mercy; and who doeth greater wrong than he who denieth the revelations of Allah, and turneth away from them? We award unto those who turn away from Our revelations an evil doom because of their aversion. (157) Wait they, indeed, for nothing less than that the angels should come unto them, or thy Lord should come, or there should come one of the portents from thy Lord? In the day when one of the portents from thy Lord cometh, its belief availeth naught a soul which theretofore believed not, nor in its belief earned good (by works). Say: Wait ye! Lo! We (too) are waiting. (158) Lo! As for those who sunder their religion and become schismatics, no concern at all hast thou with them. Their case will go to Allah, Who then will tell them what they used to do. (159) Whoso bringeth a good deed will receive tenfold the like thereof, while whoso bringeth an ill-deed will be awarded but the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. (160) Say: Lo! As for me, my Lord hath guided me unto a straight path, a right religion, the community of Abraham, the upright, who was no idolater. (161) Say: Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the Worlds. (162) He hath no partner. This am I commanded, and I am first of those who surrender (unto Him). (163) Say: Shall I seek another than Allah for Lord, when He is Lord of all things? Each soul earneth only on its own account, nor doth any laden bear another's load. Then unto your Lord is your return and He will tell you that wherein ye differed. (164) He it is Who hath placed you as viceroys of the earth and hath exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by (the test of) that which He hath given you. Lo! Thy Lord is swift in prosecution, and Lo! He verily is Forgiving, Merciful. (165).

      March 15, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Baldev Gill

      Another nut case whose only so called evidence is the so called morally repugnant Quran

      March 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Baldev Gill

      I think Muneef wants his 7 virgins

      March 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • me

      I love reading this section as all the religious nut jobs come out of the wood work.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • just saying

      OMG can someone put this guy back in the library!

      March 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Pinga Muy Grande

      coo coo

      March 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Xugos

      Any one who decides to randomly quote "holy books" isn't actually a part of that particular religion, but is a troll.

      Learn to identify them!

      March 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • 2nd Post, Different Name

      I was going to read this, but I don't have two hours to spare, so I'll leave you with, "Shalom," my friend, "Shalom."

      March 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Silent Bob

      oh ch-rist....of all the religious whack jobs on here....this guy takes the cake....i admit, i only read the first line and skipped all the BS just so i could get to the reply button.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • wikiIeaks

      why are you speaking in old english?

      March 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Silent Bob

      @wikileaks.....he copied and pasted the quran english edition

      March 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • What?

      Your Islamic Muslims BS is the same as ANY OTHER religious BS – all it is, is BS. You will find life so much more fulfilling if you get off the fairy tale ride and get down with reality.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • 3rd

      @ wikileaks

      Wither hath thou tounge fro? Thou art befitting of a bafoon!

      March 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  18. Chuck

    I'm not at all suprised by the Tokyo Governor's comment. I figured it would have been made by Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck , Sarah Palin or their ilk.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Keri

      If only dolphins could talk..

      March 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • me

      Your simply brilliant. Some people need to have everything be political. How do people like you survive child birth?

      March 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara

      why you no surprise?

      March 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  19. Carmine Monoxide

    Fascinating theory – what a shame he recanted. My recollection of reading a geology text is that earthquakes are the result of plate tectonics. Oddly the book had nothing to say about egoism, populism and the resulting divine response being causally linked in this process. Who would have thought that the entire discipline of geology could have missed such obvious factors.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Mark

      ah yes – the earth is ruled strictly by science. Poor carmine. Poor poor confused carmine.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • SAR

      Ok I'm confused. Yes..the earth IS ruled by science..or rather described by science. Earthquakes are natural, as are tsunamis. That dosn't make them good for humans, but they are natural. Trees do in fact fall in the forest..even if no one is around to hear them.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • cityguy

      My brother used to think that he was a Chicken. We would have taken him to the doctor, but we needed the eggs...

      March 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  20. Roger DAT

    Mend Your Ways – People – on dealing with mother Nature Or we face natures wrath.

    Whale hunting ( Happens to be a sport back there from as early as the 12th century) is cruel too – They are innocent too !

    You don't expect the whales to come back to the hunters to even out do ya ? Nature answers that call.

    Do the math if one wants to compare the innocent men Vs whales in terms of numbers or size over the period.

    ~ SAVE THE PLANET ~ Be kind not abusive or taking things for granted.

    Wipe out your egoism, Its not what I do, Its what We will do beginning with YOU.. act NOW

    March 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • joe

      Is it more humane to kill 1 Whale, or hundreds of Tuna/ thousands of Cod for the same meat?

      March 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Pinga Muy Grande

      I love cows and steak. YUM

      March 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tom

      Who is to say that the guy is wrong? Maybe he's right? Nobody knows for sure.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Vah Jay Jay

      @ Roger DAT- Nature is mad again? You poor son of a b...

      @ Pinga Muy Grande- Quiero comer tu carne!

      March 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Pinga Muy Grande

      Oh Si, verdad.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Shchmukola

      I still think that the GMC brand is better than Ford

      March 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • wikiIeaks

      I'd kill flipper for a good tuna sandwich.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • rabidmob

      Joe – both are bad choices

      March 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • cityguy

      Drink some more Tiger Blood Charlie...

      March 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
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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.