Connect with us


Japan’s Political World Will Never Be the Same Without Shinzo Abe

From when I first started covering Abe some 24 years ago until the day of his death, I never saw Abe waver once in his political convictions, says the author.



Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raises his hand to the press after visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo's Kudanshita district. (Photo by Ikue Mio.)

A double pall of dark clouds now hangs over Japan’s future. 

When former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was felled by an assassin’s bullet on a street in Nara on July 8, our country simultaneously lost the leader who had been the prime architect of the nation’s current economic and security policies, as well as the person who caused a reappraisal of controversial historical issues. 

At the same time, Japanese society suddenly felt a dark premonition that the specter of terror may be stalking near at hand.

Former Prime Minister Abe giving a street speech in front of Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara City just before he was shot on July 8, 2022.

Night Before the Assassination

“Strong momentum is building,” said Abe. “It’s a certainty that the election will be called for that candidate when the polls close at 8:00 PM. In all likelihood the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will secure an outright majority of 60 seats.”

When I spoke with Abe on the evening of July 7 by phone, all he could talk about was the tremendous support being shown for LDP candidates. His voice showed no signs of fatigue although he had been traveling around Japan for several days in a row giving stump speeches. 

Indeed, he seemed in the best of spirits. He did, however, mention that in certain electoral districts some supporters of opposition candidates had been “acting violently.”

Left wing intellectuals and some elements of the mass media have long felt that they were free to write or say whatever they like in criticizing Abe, and have made personal vilification of him an ingrained habit. Their approach of stirring up hatred against the man may well have been one of the factors that led to the outrage in Nara.

In which direction did the criminal who assassinated Abe want to reorient Japan by removing the person who has been so important in setting the course it is currently on? To what final destination did he propose to send the nation? 

To gun down a former prime minister while he was engaged in campaign activities is nothing less than a blatant rejection of democracy itself.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before the 20th ASEAN-Japan Summit. November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan/Pool)

Direction to Survive in a Tempestuous Asia

During his first time as prime minister Abe’s first major political achievement was to revise the Basic Act on Education, which had been enacted during the postwar Occupation. 

He went on to orchestrate the elevation of the Defense Agency to full ministry status. He also proposed the National Referendum Act as a necessary step towards revising the Constitution. The opposition parties blocked its passage at that time.

Abe was even more proactive during his second stint as prime minister, creating the package of economic policies known as Abenomics, designed to raise stock prices and generate employment opportunities. He established the National Security Council (NSC) and accelerated strategic decision-making within the national government. 

Passage of security-related legislation that for the first time explicitly allowed the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense was his achievement. And, against a backdrop of rising tensions in East Asia, Abe also formulated the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets that would punish government employees and others who divulged state secrets.

Other initiatives by Abe that have had a significant impact include examination of the process that led to the statement by then- Chief Cabinet Minister Yohei Kono agreeing with the baseless assertion that wartime comfort women were forced to work in military brothels by the Japanese Imperial Army.

On several occasions Abe stressed the importance of the North Korean abductions issue to former United States President Donald Trump, which resulted in unprecedented US engagement concerning that issue. 

Abe was also the driving force behind the LDP’s effort to have the Self-Defense Forces clearly recognized through revision of Article 9 of the Constitution.

PM Shinzo Abe shaking hands with Megumi Yokota's mother, Sakie at a national rally on the North Korean abductions issue, September 17, 2016, in Tokyo.

Popular, Dedicated Politician

He established the record of being the longest serving prime minister of Japan — with a total of 3,188 days in office. Even after stepping down for the second time, he continued to lead the intra party debate within the LDP.  

Among his proposals were Japan’s acquisition of a “counterattack capability” (the ability to strike enemy bases preparing to attack Japan), and a substantial reinforcement of Japan’s defense strength as well as accompanying increases in defense spending.

Abe also led the forces seeking reinflation of the economy and managed to influence Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in this regard, despite Kishida’s innate inclination towards fiscal discipline. 

It is hard to imagine the current Japanese political landscape without the presence of Shinzo Abe. That is because with its natural propensity to vacillate this way and that, the existence today LDP as a political party in fact as well as name is without a doubt due to the efforts of Abe and his close associates.

Determination and Selflessness

From when he was just a youngster, Abe suffered from ulcerative colitis, an intractable condition. Yet he went on to serve as prime minister two separate times. 


Abe liked to quote Max Weber on committing oneself to politics as a vocation. As Max Weber said in a lecture titled Politics as a Vocation that especially appealed to Abe: 

“Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer. Only he who in the face of all this can say 'In spite of all!' has the calling for politics.”

Those words applied well to Abe and his career in politics. From when I first started covering Abe some 24 years ago until the day of his death, I never saw Abe waver once in his political convictions, even while he always remained kind and sincere. 

The sudden death of such a rare politician who treated public service as a “vocation” is truly lamentable. 


(Read the column in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Rui Abiru

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. sharkeylaw

    July 10, 2022 at 7:38 am

    The world has never been more dependent upon a strong and secure Japan. The CCP enabling democrat party of the United States is a disaster for all. Hope and prayers that Shinzo Abe's legacy will amplify their resolve and encourage Japan's leaders to take up his mantel and be the protectors of freedom in the east.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Our Partners