Shinzo Abe — Prime Minister of Japan

by Kristine Bigcas

Shinzo Abe is the was the 57th and is currently the 63rd Prime Minister of Japan, becoming the third longest serving Prime Minister. He is also the current President of the Liberal Democratic Party. He comes from a family of politicians in both his paternal and maternal side. In fact, his maternal grandfather and the brother of his grandfather were both Prime Ministers. He became the youngest Prime Minister since the end of the second world war after his win in 2006 special session of the National Diet. This is the legislature of Japan under a parallel voting system that is responsible for electing Prime Ministers which are composed of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.

Prime Minister Abe resigned after his first year in office on September 12, 2007, due to health-related reasons. His resignation was only the start of successive resignations from Prime Ministers who sat in the office for no more sixteen months. He ran again in the 2012 general elections and defeated Yoshihiko Noda after defeating Shigeru Ishiba for the Liberal Democratic Party Presidential seat. He assumed office on December 26, 2012.

Early Life

He was born on September 21, 1954, in a family of politicians that hail from the Yamaguchi Prefecture. Although born and raised in Tokyo, his official and registered residence is still his hometown Nagato, Yamaguchi. Prime Minister Abe received his education from the Seikei Elementary School, Seikei Junior High School, and the Seikei Senior High School. After finishing high school, he then studied political science at the Seikei University and graduated in 1977.

Prime Minister Abe pursued advanced study in the United States of America. He enrolled at the School of Public Policy of the University of Southern California and completed three semesters. After which, he went back to Japan and worked for Kobe Steel in April 1979. Three years later, he left his work there and started his government work. He also became a member of the Liberal Democratic Party and held positions such as private secretary of the chairperson of the LDP General Council and the private secretary to the LDP secretary-general. At some point, he also became the assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Personal Life

He married the daughter of Morinaga & Company, Ltd., Akie Matsuzaki. She was born on June 10, 1962, as a socialite to a wealthy family. Her father is the former president of the largest confectionary company in the country. She studied at the Sacred Heart School from elementary to high school. She then went to Sacred Heart Professional Training College for her tertiary education and at the Rikkyo University for her Master’s Degree in Social Design Studies.

Before they got married, she worked for Dentsu, the world’s largest advertising agency. She has also worked as a DJ with the nickname “Akky.” She has also opened her own Izakaya but is not very active with the management due to her mother in-law. Aside from being the Prime Minister’s wife, she also is active in social media where she is popularly known as the “democratic opposition party” in which she states her outspoken views which are often in contrast with the Prime Minister’s views.

She and Prime Minister Abe has no child since their marriage. They underwent fertility treatments before but failed to bear children nonetheless. In an interview, she shared “I think it is all fate and I have to accept it – the fact that I married a politician, that he became prime minister and that we were not blessed with children,” accepting their fate. She has also brushed off the idea of adopting a child.

Their home was attacked with Molotov cocktails in 2000 when his local aide refused to hand out cash in support to a mayoral candidate in Shimonoseki. He nor Akie were hurt in the incidents.

Family

His family, especially on his maternal side has made a great impact in the political aspect of Japan. Among his siblings, only Prime Minister Abe and his younger brother has chosen to follow the legacy of their elders. Hironobu Abe, his older brother, chose to be involved in business and now takes the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Mitsubishi Shoji Packaging Corporation.

His younger brother, Nobuo Kishi is a member of the House of Councillors in the Diet. He also became the Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. Like Prime Minister Abe, he is also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party. However, he ignored the fact that Prime Minister Abe was his elder brother back in the days because Nobuo was immediately adopted into the family of their mother. Their uncle, the chairman of Seibu Oil Nobukazu Kishi became his adoptive father.

Shintaro Abe

He is Tokyo-born but was raised in Yamaguchi, the hometown of his father. He was born on April 29, 1924, to Kan Abe and a daughter of a general in the Japanese Army. He studied at the University of Tokyo before he became a political reporter. After entering politics in 1957, he became a legislative aide to then-prime minister Nobusuke Kishi who would, later on, be his father in law. He married Prime Minister Abe’s mother in 1951. Shintaro died of heart failure at the Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo on May 15, 1991, after he was hospitalized in January 1991.

Kan Abe

The grandfather of Prime Minister Abe came from a family of brewers of soy sauce and sake that lived in Yamaguchi. Kan Abe was born on April 29, 1984, and graduated from Tokyo Imperial University. He took a seat in the House of Representatives from 1937 to 1946. He was planning on running for the first postwar general election but unfortunately died while still preparing in January 1946.

Nobusuke Kishi

He is the maternal grandfather of Prime Minister Abe. He was born on November 13, 1896, and served as the 37th Prime Minister of Japan. He grew up in the Yamaguchi Prefecture but later moved in with his uncle to be a part of the Kishi family. Before becoming a member of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, he first studied at the Tokyo Imperial University.

During his service during the World War II, he earned the nickname Showa no Yokai or the Showa era monster for his brutal rule. He was also called “America’s Favorite War Criminal” after being imprisoned as a Class A war crime suspect at the Sugamo Prison. The hardest part of being in prison according to him was the absence of women thus leading him into forced celibacy. He was used to sleeping with women many times in a day. He was a known womanizer especially in the 1930s when he slept a lot in Manchuria. In one account he recalled: “I came so much, it was hard to clean it all up.” He was freed later on in 1948 even without a trial.

While in jail, he has already planned his comeback in politics. He served as a public official and became the Prime Minister later on. After his term, he became Japan’s official representative during Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. He died on August 07, 1987, while in Fukuoka, Japan.

Eisaku Sato

Brother to his maternal grandfather, Eisaku Sato is Prime Minister Abe’s granduncle. He and his wife come from a long line of samurai heritage. He was born on Mach 27, 1901, and grew up in the Yamaguchi Prefecture. He studied at Tokyo Imperial University, taking up German Law. He is also a senior civil service passer which was the key for him to work in the Ministry of Railways.

He joined politics and became a member of the diet under the liberal party in 1949. During the reign of his brother, he served as the Minister of Finance in his cabinet. He too rose in position and became the 39th Prime Minister of Japan. He is the second longest serving Prime Minister and the first Asian recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize that he shares with Sean MacBride.

On May 19, 1975, he had a stroke that led to a coma while in a restaurant. He died a few weeks later on June 03, 1975 at 12:55 a.m. at the Jikei University Medical Center. He was 74 when he died and his ashes were buried at Tabuse in their family cemetery.

Political Career

He became the first district of Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1993 just two years after his father’s death. He then became the Director of the Social Affairs Division in 1999, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, and the Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party. He gains popularity after he negotiated for the Japanese government and demanded the abducted Japanese visiting Japan remains in the country instead of being taken to North Korea.

He was elected as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on September 20, 2006, defeating Sadakazu Tanigaki and Taro Aso. Six days later, he was elected as the new prime minister, earning 339 votes from the overall 475 members of the lower house and the majority votes of the upper house. He has passed domestic policies as well as foreign policies during his short period as a minister.

Resignation in 2007

The approval rating of Prime Minister Abe went down after successive mishaps in his political reign. The Liberal Democratic Party suffered lost its control of the upper house after 52 years when it lost in the upper house election. Apart from that, the agricultural minister that was appointed by the prime minister was also involved in a funding scandal. The new minister, Takehiko Endo, was appointed as a replacement was then again involved in another finance scandal and resigned a week after. This led to Prime Minister Abe’s resignation on September 12, 2007.

He had an unscheduled press conference where he announced that he was stepping down from office. He said that his unpopularity has hindered him from passing the anti-terrorism law and that his health was in no condition to pursue his job. He had ulcerative colitis which was treatable by Asacol. The drug was not available at that time in Japan just yet. He was officially replaced by Yasuo Fukuda on September 26, 2007. Despite that, he continued to be a part of the National Diet and secured his original position in the Yamaguchi 4th District during the 2009 election.

Return in 2012

Prime Minister Abe defeated Defense Minister Shigey Ishiba in an election for the presidential seat of the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP pressured then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda into calling a snap general election in exchange of the passing of the Consumption Tax bill. He, later on, announced that a general election would be held on December 16, 2012. Prime Minister Abe was one of the candidates and ran with the slogan “Nippon o Torimodosu” which translates to “Take back Japan.” He was formally elected ten days after the election. He earned 328 votes from the 480 members of the House of Representatives.

After winning, he announced his list of cabinet members and gave a speech that said: “With the strength of my entire cabinet, I will implement bold monetary policy, flexible fiscal policy and a growth strategy that encourages private investment, and with these three policy pillars, achieve results.” He continued making new domestic and foreign policies that were beneficial locally and internationally. On December 24, 2014, he was re-elected as the third-term prime minister. The only change he made was the replacement of defense minister Akinori Eto. he was also re-elected as the Liberal Democratic Party President.

He has recently reshuffled his cabinet and party members saying “I reshuffled my cabinet with a determination to go back to the high point we occupied when we regained control of the government five years ago.” He has done this in hopes of getting his approval ratings back up. In the 72nd memorial for the victims of the Hiroshima bombing, Prime Minister Abe gave the audience his regular speech.

“For us to truly pursue the world without nuclear weapons, we need participation from both nuclear-weapons and non-nuclear weapons states.” He continued “Our country is committed to leading the international community by encouraging both sides” to make progress towards abolishing nuclear arms, Abe added without directly referring to the UN treaty.”

Other Work

he has published his own book, Toward a Beautiful Nation or also called  Utsukushii Kuni e in July 2006. He has received multiple awards as well from different countries.

Net Worth

His net worth is assumed to be at $10 million.