How will Japan react to the assassination of Shinzo Abe? A UC San Diego expert explains.
The Friday assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is causing shock around the world, including in Southern California, which has one of the largest Asian American communities in the United States.
The Union-Tribune turned to Ulrike Schaede, a leading Japan scholar at UC San Diego, for her thoughts on the murder, which happened in the Japanese city of Nara.
Schaede is founding director of the Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology at UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy. She was reached by phone while attending a conference in Amsterdam.
Q: Gun violence is common in America, but not in Japan. How will Abe’s assassination affect the Japanese people’s psyche?
A: For Japan, this will probably rank as (the) JFK (assassination) in the United States. It will change how Japanese politicians campaign, how close they get to their constituencies, and what kind of security details they need. This will change the MO of the campaign.
Q: How will the Japanese express their grief?
A: They will cry quietly and stoically. We’ll probably see that in San Diego too – there will be a moment of calm remembering a great statesman, mixed with a moment of concern for the future of Japan and what it means for politics and Japanese business in the future.
Q: You have spent a lot of time in Japan and studying its people and government. Did you ever think something like this could happen?
A: It’s a shock – Japan was the only country operating “normally” in these strange times. But this is not the first time in history that this has happened in Japan. In the 1930s, Takahashi Korekiyo, a prominent politician, was assassinated by a group of military fanatics. In the 1960s, a Japanese politician was assassinated because of the Japan-US security treaty. But most likely it was something from the past, not something that could happen today.
Q: There has been much talk in the United States about potential political violence in the wake of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Do you see Abe’s assassination as an entirely separate kind of thing from what we’re going through in the United States? Is this assassination likely to be a singular act in Japan?
A: It is too early to speculate. It is likely that this looks more like the John Lennon affair than a political act. While we don’t know any specifics, the fact that the assassin was suspended from Defense Force service suggests he may have had some personal issues.
Q: What surprises you most about this attack?
A: The fact that it happened. Prime Minister Abe was a respected and valued politician.