Shinzo Abe

Political Leader

Born: 21 September 1954
Birthplace: Nagato, Honshu, Japan
Best known as:

Prime Minister of Japan, 2006-07

Shinzo Abe was Japan's prime minister from September of 2006 until his sudden resignation in September of 2007 -- and then his return to power in 2012. Shinzo Abe (pronounced "ah-bay") was born to politics: his father and paternal grandfather were both high-ranking members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and his mother's father was Nobusuki Kishi, Japan's prime minister from 1957-60. Abe studied politics at Seikei University and the University of Southern California and went to work for Kobe Steel in 1979. Abe soon entered government work, getting a leg up from his dad, Shintaro Abe. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the first of five times in 1993 and began moving up the party ranks. He served as the deputy chief cabinet secretary for prime ministers Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi from 2000-03, and made a name for himself when he stood up to North Korea's Kim Jong Il over the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. In 2003 he became the secretary general for the LDP, the ruling party in Japan for most of the previous 50 years. Shinzo Abe succeeded Koizumi as prime minister on 26 September 2006. Abe advocated a strong national defense and firmer ties to the United States as a counterweight to future threats from China and North Korea. However, he was weakened by a series of gaffes, financial scandals and accusations of cronyism, and made a surprise resignation announcement less than a year later, on 12 September 2007. He was succeeded as prime minister by another LDP member, Yasuo Fukuda. In 2010 the center-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power, in 2012 Abe and the LDP made a comeback in 2012, winning power on a platform of increased federal spending and fiscal reform (called "Abenomics" by the local press) and a more aggressive attitude toward China. Shinzo Abe was formally elected prime minister by the lower house of the Diet on 26 December 2012, replacing Yoshihiko Noda.

Extra credit:

Shinzo Abe's official reason for resigning was a "chronic bowel ailment," which he later said he had been able to control with medication... Shinzo Abe's critics have often accused him of being too nationalistic, and he raised eyebrows with his interpretation of World War II history, which questioned the validity of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. Less than a month before becoming prime minister in 2006, Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial for Japanese soldiers that includes the graves of convicted war criminals. He pooh-poohed complaints from the Chinese and North Korean governments and explained his visit as non-official and private.

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