In 2016, Abe appeared dressed as Super Mario for the handover ceremony at the close of the Rio Olympics Photo: AFP/File

Super Mario, Trump buddy: Remembering the Abe era

By Natsuko FUKUE

Shinzo Abe resigned Wednesday as Japan's longest-serving prime minister, ending a tenure studded with headline-grabbing moments, from a turn as Super Mario to a controversial shrine visit that sparked regional anger.

Here are some of the most memorable moments of Abe's record-breaking time in office.

The Bromance

Abe made building a close personal relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump a cornerstone of protecting the key alliance.

In 2016, he flew to New York to chat with the then president-elect, becoming the first foreign leader to meet Trump at his Manhattan skyscraper.

The pair regularly golfed together, and Trump was the first head of state to meet Japan's new emperor.

But there were plenty of awkward moments.

In 2017, a video went viral of Trump almost wrestling with Abe in a handshake that lasted 19 seconds and ended with the Japanese leader visibly grimacing and appearing relieved the encounter was over.

And then there was their 2018 golf game, when Abe tumbled backwards into a bunker and Trump marched down the fairway seemingly oblivious.

Super Mario

It was about the last thing anyone expected from Japan's straight-laced prime minister, but in 2016, Abe decided to show his commitment to the Tokyo Olympics in rather unusual fashion -- by appearing as video game icon Super Mario.

He donned the disguise for the official handover ceremony after the Rio Games, appearing thanks to some digital trickery to tunnel through the earth from Japan to Brazil where he popped up in full costume.

"I wanted to show Japan's soft power to the world with the help of Japanese characters," he told reporters.

It was a far cry from the seriousness with which he controversially declared the stricken Fukushima power plant "under control" in 2013, two years after a nuclear meltdown, as he pitched for the Games.

And with coronavirus forcing a historic year-long delay to the 2020 Games, Abe will now miss out on appearing at the Tokyo opening ceremony.


Few political leaders can say their tenure literally involved the end of an era, but in Japan, the abdication of former Emperor Akihito meant the Heisei imperial era came to an end in 2019.

The new Reiwa era began in May 2019 and Emperor Naruhito formally ascended the Chrysanthemum throne in October, in a ceremony steeped in tradition and grandeur.

As prime minister, Abe had a once-in-a-generation role at centre stage, and addressed the new monarch, pledging the people of Japan would "respect your highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people."

He then raised his hands three times, shouting the phrase: "Banzai!" or "Long live the emperor!"

Controversial shrine trip

There were plenty of less light-hearted moments in Abe's tenure, including his 2013 visit to Yasukuni, a shrine that venerates the souls of Japan's war dead, including some convicted by a U.S. tribunal of war crimes.

The shrine is seen by some in the region as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism and Abe's visit prompted outrage from China and South Korea and even a U.S. rebuke.

Abe said the trip was not intended to inflame tensions, but he stayed away afterwards, sending only ritual offerings in following years.

Hiroshima & Pearl Harbor

Abe has said little about what he thinks his legacy will be, but he has cited one particular point of pride: bringing then-U.S. President Barack Obama to Hiroshima in 2016.

Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site, where he paid tribute to victims of the world's first atomic attack, though stopping short of offering an apology for the bombing.

Later that year, the two leaders made a poignant joint pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor, the first visit by a sitting Japanese leader to the memorial there, issuing symbolic declarations about the power of reconciliation and warning against the drumbeat of conflict.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Abe will be remembered as the revanchist Japanese "Robin Hood" who with his phony "three arrows" robbed the poor and gave to the rich and who, despite his long tenure, left his mark on the Heisei "lost decades" with a lack of accomplishments thereafter known to posterity as "Abenomics".

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I’ll remember Abe for his Teflon coat amid various allegations of corruption.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

If Trump and "Super Mario" are the things to remember from Abe's term, it's a pretty damn sad statement about how he led Japan!

The sooner articles like this disappear, the faster people can forget about how much he screwed things up!

ANY leader that has a majority number of seats in the country"s parliament and can not get through legislation to make effective and worthwhile changes to improve the quality of life for ALL it's citizens, should never be glorified or looked up to!

Abe's abject failure to accomplish anything worthwhile should be a subject about how NOT to rule!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Abe Maria, Super Mario, Trump casino, Abenomics, Abeno mask, amem!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Yeah, just focus on the so-called, highlights. No mention of his massive failures like, free child care, reducing waiting lists for childcare to zero, getting women into the workforce, increasing salaries, using the two sales tax increases to pay off the national debt and that really dumb concept of Abenomics.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A legacy full of scandals. Plus, higher taxes, useless masks, poor response to covid, and broken arrows. Thank god I don't have to look at that greasy pomade anymore. Now, it's just a barcode comb-over.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

He is not going to be missed, what did he actually achieve....nothing well not nothing lowering living standards that weren't great to begin with. Good job.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Super Mario, Abenomics. All down the tubes. Next!

Business as usual japan style.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Jurassic Farce

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Abe can rest on his laurels and say :Mission Accomplished.

His arrows have succeeded in draining the obsessively working and saving Japanese working classes, transferring wealth to the rent-seeking and capital-holding and creating a stable if not permanent underclass labor pool of younger Japanese and foreigners.

By the measures by which he came to office he is an unqualified success.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The tumble into the golf course bunker will probably his most indelible image.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The sad part about Abe is that J-media is glorifying his rein especially in Foreign policy, his kissing Trumps backside is indeed a great achievement to the J-media,

What I will never forget about him is he waiting for Ivanka infront of a restaurant.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese will forget his corruption, Fukushima Dainichi will continue silently and nobody will be able to name the names of the last 7 PM’s.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The most corrupt Japanese P.M. hands down.Never saw a scandal he wouldn't avoid,so he could help out his crony friends in business.His Damenomics and broken arrows were just that.Born with a silver spoon in his mouth that he could not relate to normal people lives. Internationally? North Korea? Teased the families but achieved nothing or any returns.No change with Russia despite 28 meetings with Putin. Tried to get the constitution changed to go look for trouble overseas and that failed... thankfully.In short, a disaster of a premiership that made living standards lower. He's got time to look back now on how bad he was.I feel for the lives of others he ruined whilst Prime Minister.Maybe there is a karma around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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