Tokyo governor re-elected despite tsunami gaffe

AP News
Posted: Apr 10, 2011 9:25 AM
Tokyo governor re-elected despite tsunami gaffe

Tokyo's governor won re-election Sunday, exit polls showed, despite a gaffe in which he suggested a March earthquake and tsunami were "divine punishment" for Japan.

Shintaro Ishihara, 78, had been expected to secure his fourth four-year-term in the gubernatorial race, and polls by public broadcaster NHK confirmed his victory after voting finished late Sunday.

Election official Yuji Miura said official results would be available Monday.

Just days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami swept over the country's northeast, Ishihara caused a stir with his comments.

"We need to wash away our egoism with this tsunami. Really, I believe this is divine punishment," he told reporters on March 14.

After a public outcry, he retracted the remarks and apologized a day later.

On Sunday, though, he appeared unrepentant, calling on Japanese to live more humble lives and railing against wasted electricity in one of the most plugged-in countries in the world.

"Japanese beauty remains in Japanese people, but unless we suppress our egoism, Japan will not revive," Ishihara told a televised news conference as he accepted victory. "We'd better change our lifestyle. Our convenient, consumerist lifestyle cannot last. You can live without vending machines."

The twin disasters decimated much of northeastern Japan and are believed to have killed more than 25,000 people. The tsunami also damaged a coastal nuclear power plant, causing it to leak radiation into the air, soil and ocean.

Ishihara and his main challengers _ former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru and Miki Watanabe, the founder of a popular Japanese-style restaurant chain _ devoted much of their campaigns to disaster management.