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It’s no secret that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s most valuable public relations resource at the moment is his wife, Akie, whose candor contrasts vividly with the demure demeanor of most Japanese leaders’ wives. The weekly magazine Aera has suggested that Akie’s press ubiquity has been strategic in nature, meaning that the prime minister’s office not only approves of these appearances but is promoting them, despite the fact that, as Akie herself says, she is the only “opposition party” in her husband’s immediate circle.

This situation isn’t as counterintuitive as it might sound. The fact that Akie says she’s opposed to nuclear power and is trying to counter her husband’s poisoned relationship with South Korea with her own personal brand of diplomacy does not mean she is working to undermine his policies. She’s the first to admit that her views make no difference, but the media always tries to present the relationship as one where Akie functions as Abe’s conscience. His handlers can thus feel assured that she makes him look more humane, but that there is no danger of his own views being compromised.

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