Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is eager to rub elbows with first ladies from other countries to improve mutual understanding.
“I wish to build friendships with the wives of other leaders by going beyond politics and without being bound by political debates by our husbands who are responsible for national interests,” she said.
“Japan is a beautiful country, and I want to play a role in conveying what is good about the country because there are a lot of people in the world who love Japan,” she added.
Akie Abe came under fire for attending a cultural exchange event between Japan and South Korea in Tokyo last month as the countries remain at loggerheads over territorial and historical issues.
But she rejects such criticism.
“It is better to get along well with a neighboring country than to be on bad terms,” said Abe, who is a fan of Korean TV dramas. “My husband has been saying that the door is always open for dialogue, so I also wish to actively communicate with people in South Korea.”
She also desires to build friendly relations with people in China, regardless of politics. China and Japan are also locked in a dispute over territorial issues.
Akie Abe left Tokyo Sunday afternoon to go to Bali with the prime minister to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, which will be held on the sidelines.
Abe said she was surprised to learn on one overseas trip that many people knew about “Abenomics,” the deflation-busting economic plan named after her husband.
“I think my husband has confidence in himself because he is sticking to his ideas and his policies have produced favorable results,” she said.
Asked about his high public support ratings, Abe said it was very significant that her husband is prime minister this year, noting, that “the year 2013 is a special year for Japan” because two major Shinto shrines — Ise in Mie Prefecture and Izumo Taisha in Yamaguchi — transferred their deities to new buildings, Mount Fuji was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site and Tokyo was selected to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
“I think my husband’s firm determination has helped him win understanding from the public (for his policies),” she said.
Abe backed the prime minister’s decision earlier this month to go ahead with the first stage of the consumption tax hike to 8 percent from 5 percent in April 2014.
“I think the decision to raise the tax when the economy is in good shape was not wrong,” she said. But she then admitted with a laugh: “I continued whispering into his ear ‘you better not go ahead with the hike’ until the day before it was announced.”
Akie Abe publicly said June that she was opposed to nuclear power and acted as “the opposition party at home,” adding that her heart aches to see her husband promoting atomic power overseas.