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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. Sybaris

    It appears Islamic terrorists have been done one better!

    Move over OBL, YWHW is in the house!

    March 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  2. Erika

    If this is how God works, why isn't God wreaking havoc on the Taliban in Afghanistan?

    March 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      ... ummmm... duh (humor) ... he's toooooo busy answering the 'help me to stay off chocolate' prayers... he'll get to the suffering ... later... 😉

      March 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • mythfree

      no money in that for the myth masters... you need war to keep the world economy going...

      millionaires need gods and wars to keep up their standard of living.

      without war there are no profits. without prophets there is no one to send to war.

      the lines in the sand are drawn by those who created the gods who are on the side of the winners and condemn the non-believers.

      choose the wrong god and you loose.. pick the right one and you win...

      choose neither or none... you go home and be happy ..

      gods only kill those who believe in them not those who know they do not exist.

      Picking a god is like picking a card from the deck.. you have more chances of picking the wrong one to lose and less chances to pick the right one to win.

      If you just walk away.. you leave your survival to your intelligence instead of chance.

      March 16, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  3. PAUL

    THIS is a good man of understanding, he said what was in his heart, but he took it back so not to critisize others , i think this man if he ever did make a mistake , has the strength and courage , to set things right, i would vote for this man.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • I.am.who.I.am

      Very good point you made here...

      March 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • mythfree

      WRONG.. he tried to bring a huge feeling of guilt on the grieving survivors.. only to make himself feel superior to those who died and are suffering.
      such a heartless fool should have been the first to drown. opps.. god missed one!

      March 16, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  4. JohnRJ08

    If there is a God or Divine Creator, it is highly doubtful that He is playing checkers with himself here, sacrificing players and demanding that the checkers themselves worship HIM. Francis Schaffer, a renowned Christian philosopher, once said that doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. Without it, there is no faith. Anybody who speaks about God with absolute certainty is deluded and probably insecure about their faith. They are also uneducated about the history of their own belief system. A vengeful God is very Old Testament. A God who doesn't love unconditionally isn't really qualified to be God. Even human beings can love unconditionally. Religion is used by unscrupulous politicians to influence the dumb masses with fear and self-loathing. In this imperfect Universe, things don't go wrong or right. They just happen. Earthquakes happen. Tsunamis happen. Innocent, loving human beings die horrible deaths. It is the nature of nature. Attributing that to some deity is just plain ignorant and sounds like something that cavemen probably did when a member of their clan was eaten by a sabertooth.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • I.am.who.I.am

      I just want to pose to you a question and just being neutral. Whether you believe it or not, but let say that if your soul is eternal and never dies, do you think Father will care what happens to your physical bodies in this life time?

      March 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • brs

      And if there is no soul, then a giant organization has been making billions of dollars on fear of eternal damnation and hasn't paid a dime in taxes for it.

      March 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      There is no such thing as a "soul" if by that is meant a disembodied spirit with no physical essence, etc. that can have existence apart from the body. There is no such thing. According to the bible every person is a living soul. As scripture plainly states: God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breadth of life and man BECAME a living soul. Your a soul ..I'm a soul. Also the soul (person) that sinneth shall die. When a person dies that person is dead i.e. in a state of non-life. Not until the resurrection will life be given to that dead person. That is why the great Christen hope is the resurrection , the first one of course, and for those living at the time of the second coming of Jesus, and are Christians, they shall never experience death.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Bibletruth(??) – how do you know there's no such thing as a "soul" ???

      And how do you know "God formed man out of the dust"???

      Who wrote your "scriptures" ?????

      Why should they not be considered to be anything other than a bunch of ancient fairy tales???????

      March 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  5. SWIRL

    He has his own opinion that kind of offends some people!? How evil of him!

    March 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  6. john

    maybe whale and dolphin retribution......???

    March 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Lawrence E

      That's as good a reason as any.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  7. Erika

    This remarck is totally incomprehensible to me. It would be more understandable to me – how can a man of such deep ignorance be a governor? He should hiang his head in shame. He won't be re-elected. And please please Mr. ignoramous governor, open up a science book and read!!!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • mythfree

      WE had a president preacher who hoodwinked millions of myth believers to elect him in office TWICE.. claiming he was was god's choice... He sent thousands of Americans and others to their death... with all believing they are doing god's work...

      We got Bush wacked.. and many believers are in their graves because of it...

      Those who claim to have god on their side are usually the ones who stay safe from the battle fields they send their worshipers to.

      March 16, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  8. bw

    This moron needs to go... right now... gone.
    That's the only acceptable apology other than seppuku.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Todd

      Be careful about mentioning seppuku. Talk about the next viral video!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  9. meee

    GAAAAK!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  10. Susan N.

    Thank you, Deborah!!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Abigail

    I am not a religious person at all. To me this god business is merely archaic nonsense, so when I read of someone using a god as the reason why people suffer from natural disasters I am disgusted. His words diminish the suffering of his country; his words are cruel.

    Ishihara has brought shame on his office and his family for saying what he did. I hope the people push him to resign.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • mythfree

      he just played the fools card... back fired on him... we all needed a good laugh during these horrible times to break up the reality of the sad work of burying the dead and learning from our mistakes..

      Just shows we still have fools who think the gods are smarter than the myth masters who created them.

      NOPE...

      March 16, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  12. pritiblond

    Hey CNN, if I say pretty words like love, flowers, smile, beauty... will you let my posts go without "moderation"?

    March 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Annexian

    This guy's just a moralist panderer.

    He's trying to get Manga banned because some of it's "Dirty" despite HIS "Literary" contributions as a published writer which seem to revolve around grown men r-ping/mole-ting young girls, killing 'em too, I think. So I've heard.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Deborah Catalan

    I'm Pastor G – I have been reading all your remarks in the past and some are totally stupid.
    I'm finally have to come and tell you all not to criticize one another for all this things must come and yet worst things are coming this just the beginning and don't tell me that this is not the End!!!!!!!! and your are right but it sure is very very close. We all must look for God now if we don't when we die it will be to late for you.
    If you don't believe in God you are not human there is a God whether you believe or not.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • billf

      yous tarded girl.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Sybaris

      THAT is the funniest thing I've read all day!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • JanetMermaid

      If your idea of god is a being that would unleash this type of destruction on people, or who would allow it to happen, I want no part of this god. Either your god is all loving and all knowing, in which case he screwed up big time by allowing (or sending) this disaster, or he is a vengeful, hateful god that sends death and disaster on entire populations for the he|| of it. You can't have both a loving and a judgmental god - so which is it? I vote... NEITHER! God is weak humans' excuse for not taking personal responsibility - for themselves, for others, for the environment, etc.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • I.am.who.I.am

      I agree with you pastor! I feel sad that there are many lost souls out there. Father knows.

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

      You sir, are an idiot. Go kill your kids for talking back to you, like a good christ eater. And please tell me you aren't wearing mixed fabrics. God doesn't like that.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      i'm guessing... you should pray to your 'dog' .. i mean 'god' ... to let you remember the english language and grammer.. quick!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • barabbas2010

      All people who do not believe in your god are not human?
      This is theocratic drivel .. simpering illiterate deistic drivel i say.
      A pox on your house and the houses of your sheeple.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • yazen

      RE: Janet,

      God has many attributes, infinite actually but he has shown us some understandings of many of them. Indeed he is the infinitely-merciful (ar-rahman) and continuously merciful (ar-rahiim), as well as al-wadud (the Loving one). However, just because he loves us and forgives our sins (if we sincerely repent), does not mean that he has not established rules and guidance for us. There are consequences for breaking his rules heedlessly, just like a loving parent can punish their beloved children for transgressions. You seem to take an issue with God allowing disasters to take place. Where would you have him draw the line? Allow small disasters? or none at all? but then, don't stop there....are you going to have him not allow motor vehicle collisions? or how about murder? or even forbid a bully attacking a small kid in school? or where, have him prevent all evil??? If that were the case, then there would be no purpose for humans to be tested on this Earth. He would have simply kept us in Heaven, but then there would be no purpose to even creating us.

      March 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • mythfree

      you believe in the supernatural... and you call us STUPID? LOL...

      The tooth fairy and the gods all come from the same place..

      human imagination...one is cute and childish.. the other stupid and deadly...

      Ahh. the legacy of the Age of Stupidity..

      March 16, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Cherokee

      John3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and whosoever believeth in his shall not perish but have everlasting(eternal) life. That son's name is JESUS! Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD!

      March 17, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  15. alex

    another one who is clueless about cause and effect (95% of the population are)

    March 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  16. Dan

    I guess that'll shut the mouths of all the Buddhist who come here in one shrill after another reminding everybody that there religion is "beyond" such thinking.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • I.am.who.I.am

      Please help those in need and stop exchanging negative words among each other!

      March 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  17. Leilani

    God has nothing to do with the mess we've made here on this planet. WHY do we build on sea level in an earthquake zone? Have we no brains? WHY in anyones name do we put nuclear planets in an earthquake zone? Whose running this show here on earth anyway? we are ALL stuck on stupid, and this includes me.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Steve

      It's because we have short memories and a massive invincibility complex. Add lack of foresight to that as well.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Todd

      Throw in a few nuclear reactors in an earth quake zone, and you are set for all sorts of comedic hijinx.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      ok... i'll agree.. you're included!

      March 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • mythfree

      thats why this time will be called the Age of Stupidity's by our descendants.. if there are any who manage to survive past the Age of Planet Mass Destruction..... time to dust off that copy of Ishmael and Story of B by Daniel Quinn and re-read those parts about the flying?? airplanes and the real anti-christ...
      its not about the myth but the reality of our stupidity.

      Wanted- Student who wants to save the world...

      With Gorillas gone, will there be hope for man?

      We know.. we just ignore the message... and our children and this planet will pay the price..

      Will be the first time the earth will have a mass extinction.. caused by a species that evolved on it.

      They will find our legacy on the mud with all the other specie failures before us..

      The world will not end.. just evolve to another, which we will never imagine...

      perhaps the next intelligent species will not make the same mistakes as we did. At least we will leave a lot of evidence of our stupidity for them to study and be amazed at..

      March 16, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • mythfree

      humanity has enough intelligence to create gods and machines. but do not have "enough" intelligence to keep either one from killing us or our planet.
      our legacy:

      The Age of Stupidity

      March 16, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Cherokee

      Man is so stupid but yet he thinks he is so smart. It looks lke man is destroying himself.

      March 17, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  18. Diego

    He looks like Fujimori, Peru's former president

    March 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  19. conrad

    could wake people up and cause a sea-change in the way we think and operate in the world. It is unfortunate that the view that too much ego is detrimental to society is considered antiquated ... because it's still true. (in the west we might call ego 'self-service' in the form of greed/corruption – putting ones own interests above the interests of the rest of society ...)

    March 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  20. NewRome

    They have Republicans too.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • nepawoods

      Then they must have Democrats too, because he seems to be blaming, and neither one can do that without the other.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Frederick Lee

      There they go again.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • mythfree

      American politics can cause party obsessive compulsive disorders...forcing the patient from seeing the world as nothing but a party of extremes and goofiness...
      A new profound compulsion to label and categorize all things and people as political party members based on imaginary rules of behaviors. AKA political pigeon holing Disorder ...PPHD

      aka– poo poo head disease..

      March 16, 2011 at 1:08 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.