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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. Chciago Nick

    How does anyone know he's not right? Take a look around and see where the global disasters hit time after time. Maybe God's plan isn't our plan and frankly in my opinion three quarters of the globe needs to be cleansed after what we've seen happen in the past 10 years alone. And that includes much of America along with the decaying and declining illegal alien sanctuary dump ghetto I live outside of here in "CHEE CAGO mang".....(btw that's Amigo for Chicago, Man for those who can't speak ghetto Illegal ).

    March 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  2. Faber McMullen

    This guy, like Pat Robertson, just prove that you can't fix stupid.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  3. dave

    and if this so-called god created us in her image---how pathetic of a god is she?!

    March 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  4. just saying

    Religion causes war...the truth is in your face!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  5. Faber McMullen

    Maybe this is just nature doing what nature does to stay in balance. When we build houses and developments on fault lines and in tectonic zones this sort of stuff happens. If you build a house where hurricanes blow, then don't be shocked when they come and blow your house down. Same with earthquake zones.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. PraiseTheLard

    I read something that was printed in a john, once...

    March 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  7. dave

    ok ok ok...lets go down that imaginary road you call GOD?
    so,who created god?his mommy?who created her mommy and dada?

    March 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  8. Child of a Lesser God

    For those of you who keep saying this is a sign from your religion that some end is near or that judgement is coming, maybe. However, most all religions have rumors of the end of the world and have had them for thousands of years. Up to the present, NONE of them have been true. Each religion likes to hit the panic button over any human suffering and then preach to others to repent (or some such action). It is beginning to look like religions simply take atvantage of tragic events such as this earthquake to try to convince people to believe their way. It's like a salesman convincing you to buy his insurance, because s**t happens. In these tragic situations, it is more useful to remain focused on what is happening in this life (rescue operations, aid, rebuilding), not flaking out over what might happen in the next.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  9. qwerty

    Everyone needs to read up on the crazy governor of Tokyo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shintar%C5%8D_Ishihara

    The best sections are on his xenophobia and extremely inappropriate controversial statements.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  10. amvoiceofreason

    Silent Bob,
    Do you believe extraterrestrials have visited the earth?

    March 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Tom

    the friggin planet been here for 4 1/2 billilon years. What's all the hub bub about the end times? We humans have to become extinct some day. The planet will do just fine without us, probably much better

    March 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  12. thegadfly

    Nah, if it were divine retribution, all the politicians and CEOs would be dead, and everyone else would be fine.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  13. Tom

    If god made man in his own image, how big of an underacheiver is this made believe diety?

    March 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  14. Spiritual Warming

    Job 34 1 Then Elihu said:2 “Hear my words, you wise men listen to me, you men of learning.3 For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food.4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;let us learn together what is good. 9 For he says, ‘There is no profit in trying to please God.’ It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,.that the Almighty would pervert justice. If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit[a] and breath,15 all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  15. 3rdMLNM

    yes, Jesus already foretold about these difficult times, and these historic "giant Waves"
    just before the advent of this "Son of Man" in this Last Day/Millennium! (Luke 21/25-28)
    So please, immediately awake, before it is too late then;
    because that promised "Messianic Salvation" is already at hand now
    and here:
    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com

    March 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Prophet

      ob 34 1 Then Elihu said:2 “Hear my words, you wise men listen to me, you men of learning.3 For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food.4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;let us learn together what is good. 9 For he says, ‘There is no profit in trying to please God.’ It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,.that the Almighty would pervert justice. If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit[a] and breath,15 all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • just saying

      So seriously, if I go to your website, I will not pay for my sins?...Hold on, just a couple more, then I'll go to your website to be saved. When are we leaving, cause I want to let a few people know?, OK?

      March 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • lesleypalmer

      Oh, here we go again...these are the last days as prophesized by (insert name of prophet here), before the Apocalypse and the return of Jesus...or maybe, it's the last days as prophesized by a stone Mayan calendar...or maybe it's the last days before the anti-Christ (Obama) joins with his minions to take over the earth...you people never stop...every year, every decade, every century it's the last days...and when it's not, the cycle repeats over and over and over and over...why don't you just do everyone a favor and store your possessions in your cave of solitude and wait out the "last days" and leave us in peace.

      March 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  16. just saying

    Did we all forget the old saying, "don't mess with mother nature". Now its time to clean up, but don't worry, EARTH will take care of it. Aw, no more whaling ships...

    March 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  17. Moondogg

    I say...
    You all believe that God/Allah/Yaweh/whatever still has something to do with this modern world... Bah! What blind fools are you! He has now taken up the position of a judge, can't you see? When, I ask, was the last major miracle?

    The world is now comparable to a test in school: fate is the test paper and God is the teacher. His angels are the assistant proctors that given us minor comfort. Your job: answer it as correctly as you can, before the bell rings....

    March 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • BV13021

      When was the last miracle you ask? How about the miracle on the Hudson? Miracles happen every single day to many many people. Just because they are not publicized or YOU yourself do not hear about it does not mean that they are not happening. God is VERY much involved with the world today. If you don't know that, you are not in touch with God. It's much more than simply "believing".

      March 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Dweezil

      Miracle on the Hudson is a great example, when the Almighty's plan to kill 150 people was thwarted by cool heads and steady hands. We could use more miracles like that.

      March 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Please

      Come on BV13021, simple minded religious folks can assign any wonderful thing in life as a "miracle." It's a bit childish. I could say my good health is a miracle, or I could say I eat right and exercise. The question for you is, when have you seen thousands of people fed with just a couple of fish and loaves lately? When have you heard a donkey talk (besides when you were tripping)? When have you seen a blind person made to see with spit and dirt? You haven't. You are desparate to proclaim that miracles exist, but merely interpret wonderful occurances as "miracles" because it validates your own beliefs within your own mind. Sometimes things like the mircale on the Hudson happen, sometimes they don't. I'm not saying that God doesn't have ahand in things (even though I believe he does not). But I'd like to see you raise Lazurus from the dead, then come and talk to me of miracles.

      March 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Steve

      Last miracle ......while the earth and the Universe are evidence to all that He exists so that all all will be accountable in the end. And if we doubt He is the first cause... try reading interviews with scientific geniuses....in this modern age.....Their best guess for origins.......Aliens. (Dawkins I believe) Always reccomend reading the Bible its quite instructive.

      March 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Try harder

      @ Steve
      Your claim of the universe being evidence to all of Him, what do you mean? Break this evidence down, so that the less enlightened of us may feel your wisdom. It seems pretentious to me that you make a claim for all, but are only one yourself. The Bible is instructive...to those who believe in it. But then again, so is my defensive driving manual. And, this may seem out of left field for one as sure as yourself, but aliens ARE out there. We just haven't seen them yet. Math, which I dare you to challenge, seems to say that the probability of humans being the only life in the universe is very, very slim. Of course, I expect you to ignore the logic of math, as it is not a large part of your instruction manual.

      March 16, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  18. Shaan Phillips

    you all republicans out there Stop claiming that you represent God in America and if you hold on that belief your end is coming in 05/21/2011 and you will face the same as what liberals will face. the facts is you all are fighting agains God and 05/21/2011 will show you that if we all don't start crying to God for mercy.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • MLW

      Moron

      March 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Proffiteer

      I'll see you on 5/22/2011 be sure to wear your sad face. 🙁

      March 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  19. Joe

    We now have found the Pat Robertson of Tokyo! I guess ever country has to have at least one.

    March 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Woody Bailey

      Joe, you took the words right out of my mouth, now give them back! LOL!

      March 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Prophet

      Job 34 1 Then Elihu said:2 “Hear my words, you wise men listen to me, you men of learning.3 For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food.4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;let us learn together what is good. 9 For he says, ‘There is no profit in trying to please God.’ It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,.that the Almighty would pervert justice. If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit[a] and breath,15 all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • norcalmojo

      I haven't heard of Robertson commenting, but I've seen a lot of people who think the earth is punishing them for carbon and whaling.

      We have a new doom cult now.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  20. scott

    does anyone know whose pants these are?

    March 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Fichts

      They appear to be the emperor's, good sir or madam.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Urinepants

      Mine.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Bluesoft44

      Nature is unbelievable just; these people had no regard for marine life (massacring dolphins and whales) I guess it was nature’s paid back. Stubborn and selfish human beings…

      March 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Muneef

      BlueSoft44.

      You are dead right here....what was the name of that bay they butcher all these smart animals at?

      March 16, 2011 at 6:41 am |
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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.