Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a secret weapon to stay popular with the people: his wife, Akie.
With almost 56,000 Facebook followers, she's not shy about posting. Her posts get thousands of likes and she’s even open about her love of drinking sake (her husband is a non-drinker).
Akie's Facebook profile picture shows her in a brightly colored, mismatched outfit in the style of a rice paddy farmer. Posts wish happy birthdays, show charity events and even have pictures of her husband smiling — a rare public occurrence for him.
Shinzo Abe, her conservative prime minister husband has decent approval ratings as the second anniversary of his election approaches. However, there are challenges to his policies and Akie is considered a big plus for him politically.
“Akie-san, you are really wonderful,” writes one of the first lady's Facebook followers. “The way you live, how you do what you want and don’t bend your beliefs. .?.?. I really admire it.”
Never the submissive Japanese wife, Mrs. Abe isn't always in line with her husband politically or socially. She’s anti-nuclear, he's pro energy production. She enjoys Korean culture, he battles with Seoul.
The prime minister calls her the “domestic opposition party.”
More unexpected activities include the first lady showing support for the LGBT communities by joining the third annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride in April. She was also open about infertility issues and treatments. Highly unusual in Japan, she even discussed considering adopting a child.
Born Akie Matsuzaki, Akie is from a wealthy Japanese family. She attended private Roman Catholic schools and graduated from Sacred Heart Professional Training College. Considered a socialite, she’s created a persona that is approachable. The Washington Post describes her as “Generally the kind of person you’d want as a friend”.