• Kyodo

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Mariko Suga, Japan's new first lady, gave a rare public speech Wednesday to a crowd of her husband's supporters in his constituency in Yokohama, where the Akita Prefecture native started his political career more than 30 years ago.

"Thanks to you, people of Yokohama, who supported Suga despite his lack of local acquaintances or relatives, he was elected to the (Yokohama) Municipal Assembly 33 years ago," said the wife of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Mariko Suga has earned a reputation as a devoted, behind-the-scenes supporter of her husband's political endeavors.

"He then became a member of the Diet, and chief Cabinet secretary, and today, he was elected prime minister. I am immensely indebted to you for your support," the 67-year-old said in a speech that lasted roughly a minute. She bowed deeply to the crowd, which responded with a storm of applause.

Her quiet demeanor is a stark contrast to that of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, Akie, a socialite who has often posted on social media about meeting with celebrities and other public figures.

Some speculate that Mariko Suga, a native of Shizuoka Prefecture, will likely hold back from diplomatic engagements as the first lady.

She has tirelessly assisted her husband throughout his career. But the new prime minister has rarely slept at their home in Yokohama in recent years, instead staying in lawmaker's accommodations near the Prime Minister's Office to be able to swiftly respond to any emergencies.

Suga, who is also known for his aversion to the limelight, has said he had a hard time convincing his wife to let him run as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But in the end, she chose the tie he wore on Sept. 2 when he announced his candidacy.

The couple met while Suga was working as a secretary for the late Hikosaburo Okonogi, a former House of Representatives lawmaker. They have three sons.

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