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book review

How Japan has been shaped by Shinzo Abe

12 Comments
By Henry Hilton

Cards straight up on the table : "The Abe Legacy" is instant history at its best.

It will prove invaluable for lecturers, students suddenly faced with urgent essay deadlines and those simply curious about the man who for so long ruled Japan and is said to be still as active as ever half-hidden behind the political curtain.

In 14 chapters the book asks how the record-breaking prime minister managed to retain power for so long and, more importantly, tackles the mighty controversial question of what he actually achieved during his eight years plus on the job.

Of course, the authors differ somewhat in their answers but a quasi-collective consensus does gradually emerge. It appears in their view, that Shinzo Abe did rather less at home than he had hoped for (the economy is hardly something to write home about, despite the acres of newsprint devoted to Abenomics, and his determination to re-write the postwar Constitution failed) but that he did make major strides over at least some of his foreign policies.

This approximate conclusion can be seen in the fact that at least nine chapters concentrate on Abe and his world beyond Japan. We hear of efforts with near neighbors ( Japan-South Korean messes, lots of personal diplomacy with Russia but little to show for all those meetings ) and distant regions ( the Middle East and Africa ). It is noticeable that the European Union gets short shrift and that Abe's supposedly personal interest in human rights, democracy and female empowerment is rather ignored, though you can hardly ask for everything in just over 300 pages.

It would have been nice, though, to have been treated to a slightly lengthier portrait of Shinzo Abe the man. We are told that at the singularly young age of 52 he had got his first real taste of power (a disastrous year as premier from September 2006 ) but the extent of his comeback to the same post from 2012 is still far from clear. This must surely have taken guts, lots of promptings from both his mother and wife, an approximate vision of where he wanted to take his nation, and dollops of luck en route.

Yes, the opposition may have been clueless and never seemed capable of nailing Abe when personal scandals emerged and yes, his own Liberal Democratic Party was happy to play along with their vote winner in chief. Yet the fact remains that much of the electorate was less than enthusiastic and hardly enamoured by Abe's wish to revert to the past. A past particularly associated with his conservative grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who did indeed get the U.S.-Japan security pact revised but in the process lost his job in 1960.

Abe may not have been a great prime minister ( who else was anywhere in the world at the turn of the last century and in the two decades since ?) but he made Tokyo a force to be reckoned with once again in global affairs. Both his friends and opponents abroad knew this and those who had to face him will have been relieved when he eventually quit the stage. A second comeback would have them gritting their teeth once again.

"The Abe Legacy: How Japan Has Been Shaped by Abe Shinzo"

Edited by James Brown, Guibourg Delamotte & Robert Dujarric

Lexington Books, London

Price: Kindle (5,653 yen), hardcover (15,254 yen)

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Cards straight up on the table : "The Abe Legacy" is instant history at its best.

And a sorry legacy it has been. Comparable to the legacy of Reagan and his voodoo economics who is lionized by one side of the political aisle. Slashing corporate taxes leading to an era of disenfranchised workers and stagnant wages, making Social Security benefits taxable...Leading to the socialism for the rich we see today.

So Abe's legacy is comparable to one like Reagan or Thatcher.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

"The Abe Legacy"

An utter waste of eight years. Catastrophic failure in every department, except in tightening the far right's death grip on the country's throat.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

The ‘shape’ of Abe’s legacy? - Barely covers your mouth & nose, often found dirty, unreasonably costly, and an obsolete surplus they now have to pay to dispose of.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Yes, cover you mouth & nose as something continues to ‘stink here’:

*- “at age 52, a disastrous year as premier from Sep 2006 but the extent of his 2012 comeback is still far from clear. This must surely have taken guts, lots of promptings from both his mother & wife, an approximate vision of where he wanted to take his nation, and dollops of luck [??]en route.*

*- “the opposition may have been clueless and never seemed capable of nailing Abe when personal scandals emerged and yes, his own Liberal Democratic Party was happy to play along with their vote winner in chief.” *

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

"...he made Tokyo a force to be reckoned with..." Really? No one takes Japan seriously, not even Japanese. Abe's legacy will be his Abenomask, his failed Abenomics, all his scandals, and quitting the job, when it became uncomfortable for him citing health problems. Twice, I might add.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Deeply disappointed to see him so tolerant and appeasing with Trump.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Gotta say, "conservative grandfather" is a pretty generous euphemism for "war criminal."

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The good thing is that nepotism won't occur in his family anymore.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Who writes this utter rubbish.

Abe was a terrible leader and someone most decent Japanese people are ashamed of.

Right wing and unashamedly so, friends with Trump and a coward, cheat and liar.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"The Abe Legacy" sponsored by Shinzo Abe. I will give him credit for keeping his cool when the last US President was in power. Those were crazy times and Abe-san was a helpful cool head.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The Abe Legacy" 

They should write 2 sequels:

The Abe Identity and The Abe Ultimatum

I mean since we're dealing in utter fiction..

1 ( +4 / -3 )

His legacy will be millions of useless facemasks

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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