In the late 1980s, Japanese politician Shintaro Ishihara co-wrote a book titled The Japan That Can Say No. In it, he urged Japan's leaders to say no to American demands.
Now he's saying no to diesel engines.
As governor of Tokyo Prefecture, Ishihara wants to limit the use of diesel-powered cars. He also wants to require the installation of particulate filters on all diesel engines.
Because the filters are costly and virtually nonexistent in Japan, his proposal would amount to a virtual ban on diesels. Carmakers are taking him seriously.
'We see this as a possible first step down a slippery slope' toward Singapore-style restrictions on all vehicles in the city's central business district, said Antony Millington, Tokyo representative for the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers.
Ishihara got a boost from a landmark court ruling in early February. The Kobe District Court ordered the central government to reduce vehicle emissions in the city of Amagasaki, near Osaka Bay. The ruling also ordered the defendants to pay compensation of 330 million yen, or $3.1 million, to 50 residents who suffered respiratory illnesses.
In a similar case pending in Tokyo, the defendants include seven makers of diesel trucks, buses and cars, plus the central and Tokyo governments and the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp.