Writer-politician Ishihara’s posthumous autobiography released

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The cover of Shintaro Ishihara’s autobiograhy, “‘Watashi’ toiu Otoko no Shogai” (The life of a man, ‘myself’)

Shintaro Ishihara, a writer and former governor of Tokyo who died in February at the age of 89, left behind an autobiography to be published after his and his wife’s deaths. The writing contains an undisguised account of his childhood, literature, politics and love affairs. The book is titled “‘Watashi’ toiu Otoko no Shogai” (The life of a man, ‘myself’) and was published by Gentosha Inc. on Friday.

Ishihara resigned from the House of Representatives in 1995 at the age of 62, after receiving an award for 25 years of service in the Diet. According to the autobiography, he began writing the manuscript before he turned 65 “out of the blue, just for my own sake.”

As a writer who loved the sea, he started the book from his memories of yacht sailing. He wrote about his distrust of schoolteachers who suddenly changed their militaristic attitude after World War II. He also wrote about his father’s death, his younger actor brother Yujiro’s debauchery, his enrollment at Hitotsubashi University and his debut as a writer.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The phrase “watashi no shogai” (my life) written in Shintaro Ishihara’s own calligraphy, right, and pages from the manuscript of his autobiography

Regarding his political activities, he wrote, “For me, it was never a perfect self-expression, nor did it give me satisfaction in body and soul.” On the balance between literature and politics, he complained that “the narrow-mindedness of Japanese society tends not to allow prominent politicians to write good novels.”

He expressed satisfaction with the activities of the Liberal Democratic Party’s hawkish group Seirankai and recalled that he cut his finger with a razor to make a blood seal.

About his personal life, he wrote, “I owe most of my life to my wife, without exaggeration,” expressing gratitude to his wife, Noriko, who died in March at the age of 84. On the other hand, he also wrote that he was promiscuous, revealing the existence of several mistresses and a child born out wedlock.

The writing of his autobiography apparently slowed down after he was elected governor of Tokyo in 1999. Toru Kenjo, 71, the president of Gentosha, was informed about the book about 10 years ago.

Kenjo was said to have been told by Ishihara to keep the autobiography secret even from his children. On Dec. 9, 2021, Kenjo delivered another book by Ishihara to the author’s house in Ota Ward, Tokyo, while he was at home with his family. Ishihara shed tears and told Kenjo, “This will be my swan song,” but he said nothing about the autobiography.

Toward the end of the book, Ishihara wrote more about death, which he considered the “last unknown” for him. “I am a believer in Buddhism, but I have no faith in the next life,” he wrote, showing his realistic aspect, but he also referred to his view of the unknowable, saying, “I have no doubt about the power of the human soul.”

He then summed up his life and concluded, “Somehow my life was very much blessed, despite a great deal of folly on my part.”

Ishihara wrote political memoirs, such as “Kokka naru Genei” (The phantom that is a nation) and novels with strong autobiographical elements such as “Ototo” (My younger brother). His final book is one that he worked on until shortly before his death.