Of all the nations that are important to Japan, Australia is one that stands out — and for some reason I had never visited its capital, Canberra.

My visit this week to the beautiful city of about 450,000, with its impeccable urban planning, made me think of the deepening relationship between our two nations. At the same time, the visit gave me an excellent opportunity to reflect on the strategic implications of the Japan-Australia relationship.

At Shinzo Abe’s state funeral last month, Australia held a special position. Unlike many other nations, Australia sent its incumbent prime minister and three former leaders to Tokyo — Anthony Albanese, John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. In July, Abbott was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun at the Japanese ambassador’s residence. When a congratulatory pre-recorded video message from Abe was shown, those present were reportedly moved to tears.