First ladies have never played a prominent role in Japan. But under Akie Abe, things have changed.
The wife of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister grabbed headlines by embracing socially liberal views like LGBT rights and opposition to nuclear power, softening Shinzo Abe’s image. However, Akie Abe is now in the center of a political scandal that involves possible corruption over a land deal and ties to a ultra-nationalist school.
For critics of Shinzo Abe’s ‘womenomics,’ designed to pull more women into the Japanese workforce, Akie Abe’s role in this scandal exposes the underlying suspicion that the Abes harbor far right tendencies, providing leverage for the Japanese opposition party and further damaging his reputation domestically and internationally.
We discuss Akie Abe’s role, the scandal as well as the history of Japan’s first ladies with Linda Hasunuma, an assistant professor of government at Franklin and Marshall College.