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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. myklds

    EGOISM and POPULISM combined, lacks substance to merit a "TEMBATSU", but ATHEISM does. IT has it ALL.

    March 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  2. http://www.a3shgk.com

    ؟؟

    March 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  3. iveeno

    Which more closely is truth: an atheists clearly and rightly pointing out that they have the right not to believe in god, or that they cannot allow others the same rights and allow them to maintain their beliefs intact? Which is truth: the words or the action?
    Most who have a faith can allow others their thoughts, untainted. We are confident in our personal choice and our adoption.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You wrote: "Most who have a faith can allow others their thoughts, untainted."

      Please read some history...

      March 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  4. Rose

    I truly feel sorry for all you who continue to deny God, make jokes, and say such horrible things. My guess, is that your lack of faith is making you ignorant and too stupid to see what is all of the things that are happening right before your eyes. The immorality and disregard for humanity is what is destroying this world. YOU are part of the problem. How did you become so cynical and heartless.? I 'd like to see how you react in a desperate situation. Will you cry out to God to help you? Start praying...its not too late.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I feel truly sorry for people who run their lives according to a bunch of ancient fairy-tales...+

      March 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  5. Gabe

    I'm a Christian, but I don't believe natural disasters are divine retribution. I believe we live on a planet with dynamic tectonics and vulcanism been going on for millions of years, and may continue for millions more. The closed-minded doomsayers bring nothing but shame and ignorance to Christianity.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • iveeno

      A flood is coming.
      Man hears cop car blaring, "Evacuate! The waters are rising." The man says, God will take care of me. Y'all go ahead."
      Later, the man standing in the window on the second floor, sees a boat motoring up the street. "Get in the boat. We'll take you to safely!" The man says, "Don't worry about me. God's gonna take care of me!"
      Later, man is perched on his chimney. A helo is lowering rope. "Take hold of the rope. We will take you to safety!" The man says, "God will take care of me! Go get someone who needs it"
      Next week see the man near the Gates of Heaven, with his head hung low, humiliated. God says, "Why are you sad?"
      Man says, "I told everyone you would care for me! You made me feel like a fool! I died after uplifting YOU!"
      God says, "We sent a car, a boat and a helicopter, what do you want?"

      March 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      Gabe, I agree. Christianity and science need not be enemies. It's the people involved in these subjects that make enemies of each other. The subjects themselves are not at odds as much as some like to believe.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  6. Ray

    Yep, I'm with you more common sense guys. I got my edumucation that teaches the common sense way that we all came from sea monkeys which magically appeared one day from outta nowhere, ate some burritos and then made the big bang which in turn created us and everything else.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  7. zacharia

    it is divine retribution from the whales. Theyve killed so many that God got some payback

    March 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Anon

      I can almost buy that, except I think of all the childrend that died too. And they are innocent.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • iveeno

      Anon – innocence whatsoever has nothing to do with it. What if all the kids were brats, bullies and pulled the wings off of flies? Would that make it OK?

      You look at death as a punishment, which it is not. If it were, what are all of the really old people doing to p!ss God off?

      If goodness or innocence were a shield against death, don't you think society would look a little different?

      If, in order to find out who is responsible for death we asked who benefits from it, there wouldn't be a mortician on the planet.

      "If there really is a God, why is anyone unhappy?"

      Is God here to make sure you never have a bad hair day or to make sure that you, like a dog, are rewarded each time you do something you ought to be doing, anyway?

      March 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • iveeno

      Z[e]acharia, God will not be mocked.

      Now read this: Mark13:23. (It's short, maybe 8 or 10 words, and not too much literature for you to absorb.)

      March 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  8. icedawg

    Romans 8:19-25 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Very Good !!!! Can you also quote from Mother Goose??

      March 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  9. Nubia

    Can anyone imagine what God has in store for us?

    March 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Anon

      According to Bible – death and destruction for all, but believers!

      March 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • iveeno

      More aptly and less sarcastically, Anon, more like separation from God and all of the benefit therefrom, like life, consciousness and hope. If you don't believe in these things, then you will not be disappointed.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Anon: and who wrote this bible of which you speak?

      March 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  10. PraiseTheLard

    Nice to see that there are idiots in some other field of supernatural myth-following than the Western religions...

    March 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  11. ItsRainingInSeattle

    I don't believe there is a God, but I do believe in nature.As George Carlin said (paraphrased): "Save the Earth? How egotistical of us. The Earth will spit us out and be just fine". Just because the universe is out of our control doesn't mean there is intent or even thought behind it.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  12. Apeasant

    Can we accept that maybe this man is hoping to bring an end to divisive politics around a national tragedy and get over it?!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  13. Bibletruth

    Love one another, and dont be so sure you know so much if what you think you know is basically out of your own mind based on your education (usually faulty) and your personal lifes experiences (usually a mess)...lol

    March 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • CTS

      "dont be so sure you know so much if what you think you know is basically out of your own mind based on your education"

      Fair enough. I will agree to do that if you agree that you won't be so sure that you know so much, if what you think you know about the world is basically out of a book written at a time when the world's leading scientists thought the Earth was flat and only several thousand years old.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  14. Bibletruth

    Biblelsfalse...If you knew what was at stake and why Satan wasnt destroyed in the beginning of his open rebellion in heaven, or even when he began working rebellion before doing it in the open, you would admire God and be in awe of his person.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      You could be in awe of a lot more than your own personel beliefs, if you would open youself to the vast majority of life and ideas that exist outside of them.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Bibletruth(??) – you wrote: ".If you knew what was at stake and why Satan wasnt destroyed in the beginning of his open rebellion in heaven, or even when he began working rebellion before doing it in the open, you would admire God and be in awe of his person."

      And you do know what was at stake? Where did you acquire this knowledge? The bible? Who wrote it and when?

      Since you mentioned the word "stake"... I assume you're aware that many bible followers burned people who didn't follow their beliefs at the stake... so I guess we know what was at stake...

      March 16, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  15. Tbard

    My opinion: No need to discuss if God is going to destroy the world. The human race will take care of that. Besides the 'world ends" for many people every day.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      True. And, the world will end eventually, despite any human's beliefs or lack there of. Our belief systems matter very little to nature.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  16. steama

    bottom line—belief sucks.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Tiffany

      Do you believe that?

      March 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Jason

      If people spent as much time exercising the intent of faith, which in my mind is to heal those in need in the name of God, then the debate would be rendered mute. There are too many people of faith who spend more time trying to win converts (whilst being nasty disrespectful sacks about it) and not enough time putting their savior's words into daily practice by giving of themselves as much as they take from others.

      On the flip side, atheists spend so much time staining their own carpet by stabbing faith to death. Over and over, there must always be a final word as to why science is an absolute that can never be challenged with reason. The level of arrogance in this is equal to those of faith.

      Neither side own the truth any more than I do, but both sides are too arrogant to accept this.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • iveeno

      Jason, I was once screaming at an extremist who happened to be on TV. Man, was I upset at this guy. My wife comes by and says, "You are just like he is." I said, "What? Are you nuts? Are you saying I'm as looney as this guy!!?" Her answer was, "Maybe one in a million of the people who believe like he does goes as far as he does, screaming at all who will listen to him scream. He is not the majority but a very small, irritating and to others, an embarrassing minority. So are you if you spend your time screaming back at him."

      C'est la vie
      Sea lo que sea
      live and let live – it is what it is

      March 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • iveeno

      Tiffany – hilarious.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  17. history0625

    This comment is for everyoneiswrong. You really must be bitter and full of anger. Or is it that you are another that don't believe in absolutes. I will pray for you to the God that does not "exist" for your sake, I hope that I am wrong but I doubt it. God Bless!!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  18. Flipper

    Silly governor...doesn't he know that massive earthquakes & tsunamis are caused by global warming? I'm a snobby, pretentious intellect and even I know that! What a peasant.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Obvious

      I also hate people who read books from the non-fiction aisle.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Wow

      That's the dumbest thing I've ever read.

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

      Your feeble minded attempt to tie American liberals and elitism to this tragedy is proof how undereducated, stupid, ignorant, unproductive, meaningless and pitiful your life is.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  19. Joel Weymouth

    Is it such a foolish thing to ponder the possibility that some tragedy might have some purpose from a Supreme Being. Okay so you are an atheist. Do you know 50% of all wisdom and knowledge? I will give you that much. So if that is the case, you are ignorant of the other 50% of all the Wisdom and Knowledge in the Universe. You mean to tell me that it is a certainty that God is not in that 50% that you DON'T know???? There is one thing sure, you will never come up with a new idea.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Obvious

      Yes, it is foolish.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Dani H

      So, you must be an agnostic. It's obvious that you are willing to accept the fact that there may or may not be a God (since I'll give you credit for knowing 50% of everything as well). I'm so pleased that you aren't some riteous zealot just trying to say that your knowledge is greater than someone elses.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Will E.

      I want to see every religious person's rationale for rejecting the god(s) and tenets of other faiths before they start complaining about atheists. Why are Baptists not Zoroastrians? Why are Shia Muslims not Jews? Why are Jews not Mormons? Why are Hindus not Episcopalians? The only reason the word "atheist" exists is because we have to define ourselves *against* theists. I prefer the term realist. The universe is indeed greater and more complex than we can imagine, but I'm virtually certain every religion that has ever existed is wrong about reality. No invisible man exists outside the space/time continuum.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Mark

      All I know about God is what I've been told.
      From people who heard from other people and a poorly written book.

      I'll believe if he ever shows up.
      I find this to be a very unlikely event.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      Do you propose that religion is a wealth of new ideas, Joel? All the religions I have studied have basically pitched the same ideas since their inception. All the new ideas I see come from science and art on a daily basis. You probably don't pay attention to them, I could guess, and allow what is probably a lack of faith in yourself to guide your opinion of any ideas not coming from religion as bad ones. Now, the essence of this discussion is the idea of atheists vs. religion and which is the root of the world's problems. The vast majority of the world is population religious, and it has been this way for a long time. Do you really think that the minority is causing more problems than the majority? At times, maybe, but most of the time the majority and its relation to the collective human psyche rules.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      No, I am a firm believer in God, I am just pointing out how "closed" minded atheists are. In reality any atheist's knowledge of all the truth and wisdom would be contain less than 1% of all that is in the Universe. With that stubbornness to categorically deny the existence of God shows how supremely stupid all of you are; and frankly very limited mentally. If I have to explain it more to you, that will prove my point.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      You speak of percentages in an idea (theology or the oppisite) that simply cannot be expressed in such a manner. Where in the world are you getting this 1% foolishness? And, how on Earth can a mere mortal such as yourself calim to know what percentage of the available knowledge in the universe is even there to be known by anyone. You're really gabbing at straws here, Joel. I assume (let me know if I am wrong) that your beleif in God comes from a specific religion. If so, it is you who are limited in knowledge, because specific religions have certain parameters within which knowledge must comply, therfore limiting what can be called knowledge in that belief system. Atheists, which by the way I am not, have no such limitations. It is not enlightenment from which your comments originate, but a pretentious belief in your own point of view that reisits any other. To say that all the knowledge in the universe lies within religious borders only is very stupid. There are plenty of facts about the universe and nature that have been discovered and proven and were never mentioned in any religious text. Therefore one cannot expect to gain all viable knowledge from religion. Open your mind, Joel. There is depth outside of your own opinion that you may benefit from.

      March 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Oriental

      Folks here have absolutely no idea about eastern philosophies, they make a fools of themselves when tag mid-eastern religions with Hinduism and Buddhism… Atheists are the worst lot

      March 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  20. jgmetko

    The invisible Sky-Man works in mysterious ways... or something.
    In this case, by killing thousands of people. What a swell guy.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Joel Weymouth

      And if He did- He would relate to you like you relate to an ant -so what of it? You are either extremely brave or extremely stupid.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • gabbo

      You sound like you're trying to convince yourself. The mystery of God is lost on fools.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Christopher

      I agree.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Christopher

      I agree with.....jgmetko.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Ray

      Yep, I'm with you more common sense guys. I got my edumucation that teaches the common sense way that we all came from sea monkeys which magically appeared one day from outta nowhere, ate some burritos and then made the big bang which in turn created us and everything else.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Anon

      @gabbo – wow, can you unveil the mistery to us, please!

      March 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • friend of jesus

      God is not a respector of persons–thats what he says–meaning he likes everyone the same. If bad things happen it is not of God–because God is good. Satan however comes to steal, kill, and destroy that is what the bible says is satans intent.

      March 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Scott

      Thousands? That's it? To the best of my knowledge everyone who has ever walked on the face of the earth dies. Don't sell God short dude.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • wikiIeaks

      1 Corinthians 15:26. as the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. also revelation 21:3,4. God doesn't cause death. He will relieve us of it

      March 15, 2011 at 9:31 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.