Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara told reporters March 14 that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami was “punishment from heaven” because the Japanese people had become greedy.*

Ishihara is a follower of Buddhism and Shinto.

Video still of Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara at a March 14 news conference in Tokyo

Ishihara also told Tokyo residents not to panic about the danger of radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear power plants:

“Due to radioactive discharge at the plants, the words “radiation exposure” are being overly emphasized and unduly arousing fear among people…

“I would like to request that all Tokyoites conduct themselves in a composed manner, and not be misled by any baseless gossip or rumors.”

In another development, Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa announced on March 14 that he would not run against Ishihara, who is seeking a fourth term as mayor of Tokyo.  Matsuzawa will instead back Ishihara’s reelection attempt.  Matsuzaw gave the rationale for his decision in a joint news conference with Ishihara at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, indicating that the heads of two areas hard hit by the March 11 earthquake should not face a change of government during the resulting crisis:

“I will not run for the Tokyo governor election. And I have made my decision to step back and cooperate entirely (with Ishihara) so that the metropolitan area alliance will develop…

“The entire nation is at a loss amid the state crisis.  Will it be tolerated for the top of the (Kanagawa) government to campaign for the Tokyo governor’s election and desert his  prefectural office?”

Tokyo and Kanagawa are members of a developing inter-government cooperative among prefectorates in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The announcement takes the person who would most likely have been Ishihara’s strongest challenger out of the race, leaving only businessman Miki Watanabe and communist Upper House lawmaker Akira Koike to face him in the April 10 election.

*Here is a translation of Ishihara’s statement from Otaku Who News Radio:

The identity of the Japanese people is selfishness. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami as means of washing away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment.