On Sunday, Japan’s first lady Akie Abe – wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – chose to show her support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities of Japan by taking part in the third annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride event. The 51-year-old wife of the highly conservative premier stood in all white on a float with a drag queen as the parade with over 3,000 participants plowed through the streets of Tokyo’s Shibuya district.
The first lady is popular for her somewhat liberal inclinations, a fresh approach to balance her husband’s hawkish politics. Abe wrote on her Facebook later after the parade that she has also been involved in LBGT awareness efforts since she joined a commission set up by UNAIDS and the Lancet medical journal last year. “I want to help build a society where anyone can conduct happy, enriched lives without facing discrimination,” she wrote. “I had the pleasure of spending fun time filled with smiles. Thank you,” she added. Most Japanese first ladies tend to be of the traditional typecast – always proper and under their husbands’ principles and inclinations. Abe, however, has projected an image of confidence, and is not averse to freely speaking her mind and making remarks that resonate with the Japanese public – even if they sometimes seem to be against her husband’s politics.
On that day, Prime Minister Abe was also doing some public service efforts up north – spending the day meeting residents of communities who were badly hit by the deadly tsunami in March 2011. He is very much known for his conservative politics and support base, but more than once, his wife has spoken on issues which seem to be against his stance. Akie Abe has always made known her opposition to nuclear power. She has also voiced skepticism about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, and has declared that she passionately embraces Korean pop culture.