On October 4, Fumio Kishida, 64, was elected as the 100th Prime Minister of Japan. FRIDAY interviewed Hiroko immediately after Kishida’s victory in the LDP presidential election. The following is an exchange between the two.
What are your honest feelings about becoming the first lady?
“I think I will have to be even more determined from now on. My husband will also be assuming the important position of president, which is an unprecedented responsibility, and I want to support him well.
What would you like to say to Mr. Kishida?
“First of all, I would like to say thank you for your hard work. First of all, I would like to tell him thank you for your hard work, and when he comes home, I would like to give him time to relax.
Mrs. Hiroko is from Hiroshima Prefecture. As the daughter of the president of a real estate company, she attended an elite local girls’ school in junior high and high school. After graduation, she entered Tokyo Women’s University, where she lived as a boarding student. The theme of her graduation thesis was “The Tale of Genji. One of her classmates at the university said, “When I was a freshman, I gave a presentation on my research.
“When I was a freshman, I met her for the first time in a research presentation group. She was just so cheerful and always smiling. She was not only beautiful but also sophisticated. She was the leader of the research presentation group, but she was more of a harmonious person than a quick-talker.
Another classmate continued.
“There used to be two dormitories at Tokyo Women’s University, the West Dormitory and the East Dormitory, and Yuko was in the West Dormitory. I still remember her delivering drugs and water to students in the dormitory when they were sick, and her compassionate gaze when she said, ‘If you are cold, can I lend you my blanket? She excelled in her schoolwork, especially in English. She would sometimes stay up late helping other children with their English assignments. He was kind to everyone without discrimination.
Her marriage to Prime Minister Kishida was arranged in 1988, and she continued to support him in his political career for 33 years. At the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Hiroshima Prefecture in 2004, she played a major role in attending to the foreign ministers’ wives.
She said, “I’m usually a reserved person, but when it comes to my husband, I tend to work too hard. At the foreign ministers’ meeting, she pushed herself hard, saying, ‘I must not fail. When she invited the foreign minister’s wife to her alma mater to interact with high school students, she prepared a script in both Japanese and English and practiced it over and over again. She is really a naïve person, but in front of the media and dignitaries, she behaves stoutly and plays her role perfectly. At meetings with the wives of the members of the Kishida faction, many people are impressed by the fact that she is not arrogant and takes care of everyone,” said a secretary of a Kishida faction member.
Prime Minister Kishida has been criticized as a “puppet government” for his concern for the mainstream factions and elder members of the Diet when appointing party officials and assembling his cabinet. Despite this headwind, the “wife effect” has been tremendous. As journalist Tetsuo Suzuki puts it.
“Mr. Kishida has been putting his wife in the forefront of his campaign in order to increase his name recognition and approval rating, and to have people understand his personality. During his campaign for the presidency, he used social networking sites to broadcast live with his family, and gained a favorable impression among the younger generation. I believe that Mrs. Hiroko will continue to play an increasing role in media strategy and diplomacy.
The Kishida administration is facing a difficult road ahead in terms of corona measures and economic policies. To support her husband, Mrs. Hiroko is sure to play the role of first lady to perfection.
“From the October 22-29, 2021 issue of FRIDAY
Photo.： Asahi Shimbun (first two photos) From Prime Minister Kishida's Instagram (third photo)