And Kan begat Shintaro…

Where does Japan’s new neoconservative overlord Shinzo Abe come from?

We’ll start in Yamaguchi Prefecture. By the late 19th century, one of the most powerful families in the area was the Abe family of sake and soy brewers. A child named Kan Abe was born into the family in 1894, but instead of hanging around vats, he decided to go to Tokyo and study law at the Imperial University. Upon his return to Yamaguchi he became mayor of the family’s village, and then entered the Diet.

Also in the area lived two other affluent families, the Kishi and Sato families. One of the Sato patriarchs had been among the Choshu samurai who overthrew the shogun, and so he had served as governor of several areas of western Japan in the late 1800s. The families entered a merger of sorts when Shusuke Kishi married into the Sato family and adopted their name. As Shusuke Sato, he sired three sons: Ichiro, Nobusuke and Eisaku.

Ichiro joined the Imperial Japanese Navy and became commandant of a naval base in China, resigning shortly before World War II broke out in the Pacific. Nobusuke was adopted by the Kishi family (which had no male heirs), studied law in Tokyo, became Hideki Tojo’s commercial advisor, got through the purges under Douglas MacArthur and became Prime Minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960. Eisaku also studied law in Tokyo, administered the railways during the war years, became prime minister from 1964 to 1972, and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, Kan Abe’s son Shintaro Abe joined the navy during the war, graduated from the University of Tokyo afterward, and worked at the Mainichi Shimbun in Tokyo. It was here that he met Yoko Kishi, the daughter of Nobusuke Kishi (a cabinet minister at the time), and decided to marry her. Not long after their marriage, Kishi became prime minister and Shintaro Abe was appointed as his secretary. He went on to serve in many senior cabinet posts through the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in an appointment as Director-General of the Liberal Democratic Party from 1987 to 1989 before his political career ended due to old age and the Recruit Scandal.

So Shintaro and Yoko Abe had three sons. The eldest married a prominent businessman’s daughter and has lived a relatively uneventful life. The youngest was back-adopted into the Kishi family and now has a political career as Nobuo Kishi. And then there’s the middle kid, Shinzo Abe, who as of next week will be the 90th Prime Minister of Japan. Fear him, because he wants to kick your ass… as soon as the constitution is amended to allow it, of course.

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4 thoughts on “And Kan begat Shintaro…”

  1. He’s actually the going to be the 57th Prime Minster-but with the 90th cabinet since the parliamentary system was created under the Meiji constitution. But still, 57? The US has had only 42 presidents in about double that timespan!

  2. How many of those Prime Ministers served in the 90s? There was quite the revolving door at that time. I guess I should actually look it up.

    Love him or hate him, one thing Koizumi did was bring some stability and inertia to the position. It’ll be interesting to see if Abe can hold on long enough to actually get anything done, or if he’ll just un-do the Koizumi reforms and be out in 9 months like the old (pre-Koizumi) days…

  3. Well before this coronation there was talk that the first post-Koizumi PM would be a sacrifice of sorts–the guy they sent up to raise the consumption tax, at which point the public would rise up and the LDP would lose a bunch of seats in an election and the guy would have to step down again. Then they could pick the one they wanted to sit in the driver’s seat longer.

    The upcoming elections will be key ones. There are local contests coming up in Okinawa, most importantly, and the LDP isn’t too confident about its chances in many of them. And if it loses its grip on the House of Councillors, a distinct possibility, you get total gridlock on the legislation front . . . and again, the PM ends up stepping down.

    I don’t think anyone believes Abe will enjoy a run as long as Koizumi’s. (There are a few people who think the post-post-Koizumi leader will be Koizumi, but I’m not sure about that.)

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