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. Muneef

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Lo! this Qur'an guideth unto that which is straightest, and giveth tidings unto the believers who do good works that theirs will be a great reward. (9) And that those who believe not in the Hereafter, for them We have prepared a painful doom. (10) Man prayeth for evil as he prayeth for good; for man was ever hasty. (11).

    The Best in West About Islam

    March 16, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • creece

      Amin. Allah Kareem

      March 16, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  2. chuchingirl

    this event is part of nature......it's been happening for many years, many times.....humans have settled in those areas where earthquakes and tsunamis have always occurred.......since there has been a rapid increase in population along with infrastructure of all types, of course, when nature takes its course it translates into a major disaster like the one we are seeing now......religion is a creation of man along with the idea of punishment by the god/gods/superior being to people......i think the focus of the situation should be to help the affected ones and, hopefully, try to prevent more problems than there are already and forget about blaming anyone for something that was out of the control of any human being........it's a very sad situation

    March 16, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  3. Candy

    Throughout history and time, world events of this proportion have occurred, with reasons we can't comprehend. I can understand the Tokyo governor's remark, due to the culture displaying submission and respect first to God. Noah and flood in the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah, Pompeii...way too many to list. See where this goes?
    God is not mocked; we reap what we sow. Period.
    This will never change...thank you for reading.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  4. N

    We all know it was because they kill whales.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  5. Gumby

    tamtampamela is the governor of Tokyo?

    March 16, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  6. portiasmom

    So I guess every country has its Pat Robertson.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  7. redeemed-11

    These things are happening (tsunami,wars,famine etc) to warn us believer to wake up and be serious its no horsp play anymore and to the non-believer the HOLY BIBLE is full of warning that at the end times there will trouble and chaos open your eyes still JESUS is waiting for to accept him but not for long!

    March 16, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  8. Robert E.

    There are no atheists. I don't believe in them. They're a myth. Atheism is a crutch held onto by weak-minded people who only want to control others.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • athiest

      so, I guess I don't exist then. good thing since a world full of invisible, squabbling, imaginary friends just is too much rubbish for anyone over the age of four can believe in.

      every religion is a minority compared to the entire population of the earth.
      every major religion is on the decline (by population %)

      in a few generations perhaps we'll finally be rid of this turd

      March 16, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  9. Cheryl

    You may drive out Nature
    with a pitchfork, yet she will ever hurry back,
    and, ere you know it, will burst through your
    foolish contempt in triumph.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  10. redeemed-11

    India please wake up you will suffer the same fate if you still continue insisting your foolishness only Jesus can help you not your momkey,elephant and many more millions god you have!

    March 16, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • jimmy the gent

      Lol elephant...thats hilarious

      March 16, 2011 at 6:09 am |
    • Ken Holland

      Your great great great great granny was fathered by an Indian ancestor dude when Jesus was not yet born in the stable.

      March 16, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Prasad

      Please respect all believers of GOD...don't misconstrue the understanding behind the teachings of any religion...Even in the Hindu religion there is only 1 GOD ... each form / name portrays a significant focal point for the followers to directly communicate with GOD... when you approach the right form you will receive the correct response you deserve... It takes a lifetime to understand GOD...I am a Hindu but for me all religions provide the same end result depending on you’re believe and respect of GOD... When I pass a Church, Mosque or a Buddhist temple ... the divine vibrations I receive is the same as that I receive when I pray in the Hindu Temple... So "redeem 11" please redeem yourself from the wrong path you are taking ... you may not achieve full success in your life if you go on making fun of other religions...Thank you GOD Bless You...

      March 16, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  11. redeemed-11

    The at the end still his pride overcome him! Remember your creator JESUS while you excist before its too late like what happened days ago !

    March 16, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  12. Arturo

    Don't be sorry! Not divine intervention, Godzilla!

    March 16, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  13. dsortiz


    Shintaro Ishihara is a nutjob and few take him seriously. "Tembatsu" is about as has about as much religious connotation as hippies saying "karma", it's just a FIGURE OF SPEECH.

    March 16, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  14. Buck Adams

    I think the real egoism is a government official presuming he has correctly interpreted "divine will". For all he knows the souls/minds or spirits, whatever you care to call it, are in a much better place now than their earthly existence, and catastrophes such as this are so mankind will come together in a spirit of cooperation instead of conflict. We won't know for sure during our lifetimes.

    March 16, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  15. Andy

    it is a wall-street conspiracy of stock brokerage, they are making money from short-sell. come on wake up, and get real people !

    March 16, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  16. Hotwheels842

    Tokyo's own version of Fred Phelps , what a loon

    March 16, 2011 at 5:11 am |
  17. Man

    The bible prophacy took place on last few days
    The Psalms 46

    God Is Our Refuge and Strength
    To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Al'amoth.

    1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.

    2 Therefore will not we fear,
    though the earth be removed,
    and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

    3 though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
    though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

    4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,
    the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.

    March 16, 2011 at 5:10 am |
  18. Tamer Kirac

    Keep Gods, spirits, divine beings and other mumbo-jumbo out of it!
    It is what it is. Nature will take on its course and human beings will adapt to them.

    March 16, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  19. Prasad

    I think GOD wants all humans to realize that they have no right to destroy other lives... if they do so their generations will have to face the brunt of the punishments...what the ???? did in WW2... their children and grandchildren will face the punishments... Just the thought WHAT their children and their future genrerations will have to face... for the misdeeds of their forefathers may deter them from destroying their fellow beings...

    March 16, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • Phage0070

      Prasad, how can you justify punishing later innocent generations for the actions of their forefathers? Does that seem moral in the slightest?

      March 16, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • Joe

      S you're saying th

      March 16, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  20. Eagle from davao

    (Gal 6:7) Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. You will reap exactly what you plant.
    (Gal 6:8) If you plant in the field of your natural desires, from it you will gather the harvest of death; if you plant in the field of the Spirit, from the Spirit you will gather the harvest of eternal life.

    (Ecc 12:13) The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
    (Ecc 12:14) For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

    March 16, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Chris

      ...so sayeth the Easter Bunny

      March 16, 2011 at 5:44 am |
    • Abel


      March 16, 2011 at 6:18 am |
    • SpiderMan


      there's one cultist lemming that has lost the ability to think for itself.

      how sad is that...............no wonder this world is in a turmoil of hatred and violence of the lemmings against one another.....LOL

      "my cult and the god it follows is the RIGHT one."................"no, my lemming god is the RIGHT one!"

      "nope........you're both wrong............my cult and its god is the absolute correct one.....it says so in this book i have here so it must be true."


      i have to stop now...my stomach is hurting too much from the major laught attack about such a lemming, follower concept.

      March 16, 2011 at 6:37 am |
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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.