TOKYO (TR) – In January, Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, started an account on the photo-sharing service Instagram. Many of the photos she has shared include posed shots with celebrities, politicians, including Donald Trump, and other notable people.
On Sunday, the content changed significantly. In a post on the account, an image showed a shirtless man, who is not her husband, with the black text “Akie” and an arrow mark over his right chest. Titled “After Party in Saga,” the post was deleted that night.
The image quickly began circulating on Twitter and other forms of social media, whose users were stunned by the development. “Is she having an affair?” one person wondered. “An adulterer,” speculated another. “That’s awkward,” said yet another.
But, as evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (Dec. 26) tells it, the incident was more likely the result of innocent fun.
As speculation grew online, it was believed that the man in question is lower house member Kazuchika Iwata. The 44-year-old Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member from Saga Prefecture later denied that the image was of him in a tweet that has also been deleted.
When Gendai contacted the office of Iwata, a representative said, “[The man in the photo] is not Iwata. It is a different person. Prime Minister Abe is of a different [political] faction, and it is unlikely that he would go for a drink with the wife of the prime minister. It is strange that such a mistake has been made.”
In doing some digging, Gendai learned that photograph was taken at a party following an agriculture-related event in Saga City, Saga in January. In speaking with the tabloid, “shirtless man,” aged in his 30s and manager a restaurant in Saga, said that he got drunk at the party, which Akie attended, and took off his shirt.
“Since Akie came, and I was feeling silly, I asked my friend to draw the arrow and the name ‘Akie’ as a memorial,” he said.
On December 24, the man received a message from an acquaintance that said the image was garnering attention. Akie also sent him a message to apologize. “I am also reflecting back on it,” he said. “It was a naive thing done with good intentions. I would like to apologize to the Diet members of the Liberal Democratic Party.”
At a recent speech for newspaper executives, Shinzo Abe spoke about the use social networking services (SNS) by younger generations. “[They] gather a diversity of information in an age when SNS and other media are highly developed, and proactively evaluate such information,” he said, according to the Mainichi Shimbun (Dec. 26).
The prime minister, however, has yet to comment on the SNS activity of his wife.