My time in Japan has overlapped with some major historical moments: Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima as the first U.S. president to do so; the first ever retirement of an emperor and the subsequent naming of a new era; and now the early retirement of the longest-serving prime minister. The first two moments were filled with hope and a sense of progress. Abe’s early retirement, however, leaves me with mixed feelings.
I wish him all the best in dealing with ulcerative colitis (a truly terrible ailment), but I can’t help but feel a sense of relief that his controversy-ridden career has come to an end. His war-mongering efforts to change Article 9 of the Constitution and countless scandals (Sakura wo Miru Kai and Moritomo to name a few) have always left a bad taste in my mouth.
On the other hand, his tenure has undoubtedly left its mark on Japanese society. It is certainly difficult to imagine a Japan without Abe at the helm after almost eight years. What will happen to Japan now? It’s hard to say. I’m hoping Noda Seiko will take up the mantle, but her chances are slim. Either way, let’s hope that whoever becomes the next prime minister can improve upon the socially progressive projects Abe attempted to implement but couldn’t quite follow through on.