Abe hospitalized for fatigue, intestinal ills

by Reiji Yoshida

Outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was hospitalized Thursday after being diagnosed with a stomach and intestine disorder as well as whole-body fatigue, one of the causes apparently behind his surprise resignation announcement the previous day.

Abe has been plagued by a “functional gastrointestinal disorder,” whole-body fatigue and mental stress for more than a month, his physician, Toshifumi Hibi of Keio University Hospital, told a news conference in Tokyo.

According to Hibi, Abe has lost 5 kg during the past several months and has become “badly emaciated,” Hibi told reporters.

He will probably be hospitalized for three or four days, the prime minister’s official doctor added.

While Abe is mentally sound and capable of reading and writing, it seems difficult at the present time for him to perform his duties outside the hospital, Hibi said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano told a news conference that the government does not need to appoint an acting prime minister for Abe, who is expected to vacate his position soon in any case.

Abe didn’t mention any health problems during the hastily arranged news conference to announce his resignation Wednesday, but Yosano and other aides said his health probably played a major role in his abrupt departure.

Abe’s explanation for stepping down was to clear the political gridlock surrounding the debate on whether to extend Japan’s controversial support operation for NATO-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

But few took Abe’s remarks at face value and wondered what the real reasons behind his decision were.

Due to his gastrointestinal disorder, Abe has specifically suffered from lack of appetite and pain around the pit of his stomach, symptoms that have been aggravated by physical fatigue and mental stress and created a vicious circle, the doctor said.

“Although (the symptoms) were weak, they started more than one month ago,” Hibi said.

Abe also suffered from a virus-caused inflammation of the intestine a few weeks ago, which further aggravated the symptoms, he said.

Abe’s condition worsened after his return from Australia early Monday, Hibi added.

The doctor recommended that Abe be hospitalized after seeing him Thursday morning. Although Abe said he wanted to attend a plenary meeting of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers scheduled for Thursday afternoon, the doctor stopped him.

Even before becoming prime minister, it was rumored that Abe was suffering from bad health, specifically in his stomach and intestines.

Although Hibi said Abe’s gastrointestinal condition can be termed “sensitive” compared with a healthy person’s, he denied the possibility that he had a serious disease.