The year 2020 has been a series of major, at times unprecedented events. Now you can add Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s abrupt resignation into the mix.

Friday afternoon’s announcement came as a political thunderclap that echoed around Nagatacho, Japan’s political epicenter.

Reporters, lawmakers, Cabinet ministers and staff at the Prime Minister’s Office all talk to each other on a daily basis, but none of them seemed to know this was coming.

When the first report of his intention to resign emerged shortly after 2 p.m., reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office rushed to a television screen set up in a corner booth by the entrance. Camera crews hurriedly set up their equipment, and journalists frantically made phone calls to sources to confirm the news.

One Prime Minister Office’s public relations official said she was dumbfounded. “(Our division) is going nuts,” the official said.

Around 4 p.m., ministers one after another trickled into the Prime Minister’s Office for an emergency Cabinet meeting to be notified of Abe’s intention to step down. The scene was utterly chaotic, with reporters desperately huddling around them in an attempt to get their reaction.

“I learned about his resignation on a news report and I am surprised,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, as she was heading into the meeting.

Naokazu Takemoto, information technology minister, said: “He looked fine during (Friday) morning’s Cabinet meeting, so I thought he is in good condition. It was unexpected.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.