On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention to resign.

Ulcerative colitis — an ailment that took him out of office when he first became prime minister more than a decade ago — has claimed his tenure once again, with Abe’s announcement surprising many even those who claim to be close to Abe.

Although Abe will stay in the office until the Liberal Democratic Party elects its new leader, leadership transition in Japan has begun with the country’s longest-serving prime minister’s departure imminent.