It’s been a week since the death of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe. The country is still reeling from his assassination, and currently taking time to commemorate his numerous contributions – among them, helping to revive Japan’s economy in 2012 through his Abenomics policies, winning the Tokyo Olympics, and building alliances with even the most temperamental of US presidents, Donald Trump . Having worked tirelessly for the country for so long, it should come as no surprise that Shinzo’s wife, Akie Abe, has been just as impressive in her contributions to Japan. Unlike some previous prime minister’s wives, she took a truly hands-on approach to her role, and forever secured her place as one of the country’s most beloved first ladies. Princess Mako’s new life in NYC, from an unpaid internship to one-bedroom flat In 2014, the Japan Times wrote: “Japan has never had a first lady like this. Whoever even knew who the first lady was?” – an indication that previous prime minister’s spouses barely registered in the national consciousness until Akie came along. So, what do we know about Akie Abe, and why is she so unique? She was born to a prominent Japanese family Before she became Akie Abe, she was known as Akie Matsuzaki. She was born to a wealthy family, and her father was the president of Morinaga & Co., one of Japan’s largest confectionery companies. The Straits Times reported that Akie enjoyed a privileged upbringing, and studied at exclusive Catholic schools in Tokyo before graduating from Sacred Heart Professional Training College. She later earned her master’s degree from Rikkyo University in 2011. Is Princess Aiko destined to the same fate as Princess Mako? She’s had numerous jobs, including as a radio DJ Despite coming from an influential family, Akie was determined to have a career on her own terms. She first started out working at the Japanese advertising agency, Dentsu, and it was at this job that her boss introduced her to Shinzo, who was then working as a political aide. They got married in 1987. After their wedding, Akie switched career paths to become a radio DJ in her husband’s hometown of Shimonoseki, broadcasting with the nickname “DJ Akky”. While Akie took a break from her work to focus on first lady duties during her husband’s first stint as prime minister in 2006, his resignation the following year prompted her to open an izakaya restaurant named Uzu (meaning whirlwind) in the Kanda district of Tokyo. She even grew her own organic rice, in a paddy located in her husband’s home prefecture, and served it at her restaurant, according to CNN. She and Shinzo Abe were openly affectionate with each other Japanese politicians are typically not affectionate in public, but Akie and Shinzo challenged this stereotype throughout their marriage. They were frequently photographed by Japanese media holding hands as they stepped out of planes together, and they regularly posted about each other on their social media pages. View this post on Instagram A post shared by 安倍 晋三 (@shinzoabe) A video shared by Shinzo in 2019 showed him personally installing a beaver-shaped door knocker for Akie, who happily put it to the test. What’s going on with Melania Trump? Her controversial 2022 so far She was a leading proponent of ‘Womenomics’ Akie’s stint as first lady gave her to opportunity to contribute to women’s rights on an impressive scale. In 2016, she partnered with America’s then first lady Michelle Obama to get 62 million girls into the classroom worldwide on an initiative called Let Girls Learn. Foreign Policy magazine reported that then-president Barack Obama requested US$250 million in funding for the Let Girls Learn initiative in his 2016 budget, while Japan also contributed US$340 million to fund the initiative thanks to Akie’s efforts. Akie regularly spoke up about the fact that Japanese women are some of the most educated in the world, yet still find it hard to climb the career ladder. She became a leading proponent of “Womenomics” as a result, arguing that women staying longer in the workplace to achieve more senior positions was essential to Japan’s economy. Akie was dubbed the “domestic opposition” for having different views to Shinzo Apart from speaking up on women’s rights, Abe has been open about her support for progressive causes, even when it sometimes contradicted her husband’s policies. In 2014, The Straits Times reported that she had joined Tokyo’s annual pride parade to support the LGBTQ+ community. She later wrote on her Facebook page that she had joined a commission set up by UNAIDS the year before, and had been involved in LGBTQ+ rights ever since. “I want to help build a society where anyone can conduct happy, enriched lives without facing discrimination,” she said. She has even spoken up about legalising medical marijuana: “I believe it can be greatly utilised for medical purposes,” she told SPA! Magazine in 2015. She also admitted to once wanting to be a hemp farmer, which requires a special permit in Japan. As a result, Akie’s progressive views earned her the nickname “domestic opposition”, given that her opinions typically differed from her more conservative husband’s. Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .