Shinzo Abe funeral service in Tokyo, Japan


Akie Abe, the wife of the assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Osaka, Japan, in 2019.
Akie Abe, the wife of the assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Osaka, Japan, in 2019. (Nicolas Datiche/Pool/Getty Images/FILE)

When Akie Matsuzaki married Shinzo Abe, then a rising political aide, in 1987, she followed a path well trodden by Japanese wives and gave up her job at the country’s largest advertising agency.

But over more than three decades of marriage — including nine years as Japan’s first lady — she proved to be anything but a conventional political wife.

In Japan, Akie Abe is best known for her outspoken and progressive views. Unlike her predecessors, she refused to stay in the shadow of her husband. Instead, the socialite carved out a public role for herself in a style more akin to American first ladies.

Her support for progressive causes, freewheeling ways and cheerful confidence endeared her to the Japanese public. Among Japanese media, Akie Abe earned a nickname — Shinzo Abe’s “domestic opposition party.”

With a penchant for speaking her mind, she openly challenged a raft of her husband’s policies, from his push for nuclear power to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. In 2016, she met protesters in Okinawa who opposed expansion of a United States Marine Corps base, which Shinzo Abe supported.

Her progressive views sometimes appeared to be at odds with more conservative values.

Akie Abe has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights, joining a gay pride parade in Tokyo in 2014. She also supports the use of medical marijuana, having posed for photos in a sprawling cannabis field in 2015.

The funeral and wake: Akie Abe, 60, was widowed on Friday after the former Japanese Prime Minister was fatally shot in broad daylight while delivering a speech in the city of Nara, in an assassination that has shocked and angered the nation.

On Friday, she took an hours-long train journey to rush to her husband’s side in a Nara hospital. The next day, she brought his body back home to Tokyo by car. On Monday, she mourned alongside relatives and guests at a private wake at the Zojo-ji Temple.

Through it all, Akie Abe has remained outwardly composed and quiet when appearing in public.

On Tuesday, she will host a private funeral, to be followed by larger ceremonies at a later date.

Read a full profile of Akie Abe here.


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