Recalling lunch with Ishihara and a tall tale
I read with sadness the passing of the great novelist and politician, Shintaro Ishihara, on February 1, 2022, at the age of 89.
As a writer, I had long been interested in Ishihara’s career. I had read the book “Taiyo No Kisetsu, which won Ishihara the Akutagawa award at age 24, and launched his remarkable career. It was a brilliant depiction of amoral youth in the postwar era, set in Kamakura. I also saw the film version which helped make Ishihara’s brother a movie star who would be known as the James Dean of Japan. He and his brother (Yujiro) became the center of a youth cult.
He was a magnet for trouble because of his outspoken ways. In 1962, he drew flak for commentary at the end of the 1962 September sumo tournament after Kashiwado had upset the great White Russian Taiho in the final match. In a newspaper op-ed published the next morning in the Nikkan Sports, Ishihara deemed it a fake. A yao-cho.
He charged that Taiho had intentionally lost to help further the rivalry between the two wrestlers and generate more interest in sumo, which had waned somewhat in the onslaught of consecutive championships by Taiho, who had won 11 of the previous 12 tournament championships.
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