As most readers know by now, Shinzo Abe was assassinated in the street on the morning of July 8 in Nara, Japan. At the time, the former head of state of Japan was giving a campaign speech in support of his party in advance of Japan’s July 10 national elections.
For Americans, the event recalls the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when the US also allowed its national leaders to be viewed openly in public (Nov. 1963). To Japan’s credit, they were able to continue doing so for another 58+ years. Gun violence is almost unheard of in Japan, owing to extremely strict laws on buying and owning firearms.
As the NAP cannot possibly cover Abe’s life and career like large daily newspapers and magazines, sharing instead a smaller moment of his life may be of value. Late in life, Abe had taken up a new hobby: playing the piano. In December 2021, when Japan had recently completed getting through its fourth wave of COVID-19, he shared a YouTube video of himself playing the piano. The video had first been shared in Japan that October at a Tokyo “Spirit of Challenge” concert.
Abe’s intent was to inspire his countrymen to continue the fight against COVID-19, just as he himself had taken on the smaller task of learning to play “Hana wo Saku” (“Flowers Will Bloom;” Shunji Iwai and Yoko Kanno) for them, after last touching the piano as a first-grader in elementary school.
“Hana wo Saku” was written in the aftermath of Japan’s devastating 3/11 Tohoku earthquake. Then, each phrase was sung by many Japanese stars in turn. It Is essentially Japan’s version of “We Are the World.”
Watching Abe play, one notices that his hands and fingers do not move fluidly, like a pianist’s. Yet the humanity of his gesture speaks volumes. In his accompanying address, he says,
“Genzai, kono korona no naka…”
“At long last, the State of Emergency has been lifted. I am sure you have all come face to face with many difficulties so far during the pandemic. At long last, our vaccination program proceeded and I am expecting many new treatments to come out by the end of this year. We will work together, and get through the pandemic. I want to see us work towards a Japanese-style victory over the coronavirus. This year marks ten years since the Great East Japan earthquake. Back then, the world saw us Japanese helping each other without succumbing to panic. The people of many countries sent us praise for this. I think we inspired all of them…
“I think that perhaps my ability to come this far (in relearning the piano) could be because of the Spirit of Challenge. Together, with the Spirit of Challenge, together we will send out a message to the world about the wonderful and cooperative Japanese spirit. Let’s all work together to overcome COVID-19…
“Thank you very much.”
(Translated by YouTube channel “Japanalysis” in the video, “Japanese PM Abe is a Piano God? (Subbed).”