Japan has never seen a first lady quite like Akie Abe and she continues to demonstrate her liberal views—regardless of what her staunchly conservative husband thinks.
Abe has thrown her support behind her country's LGBT movement by appearing at Tokyo Rainbow Pride's third annual parade on April 27.
The 51-year-old wife of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rode on a float with a drag queen through Tokyo's Shibuya district, known for its fashion and nightlife.
Her husband did not join her in the parade, as he visited communities hit by the March 2011 Tohuko tsunami and earthquake disaster.
The following video features footage of the parade (though Abe does not appear in it).
Abe's involvement in LGBT issues goes beyond the parade. Last year, Abe joined a commission established by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and the Lancet medical journal.
After the parade, she wrote on her Facebook page: “I want to help build a society where anyone can conduct happy, enriched lives without facing discrimination."
A survey by the Kyodo News Agency in March revealed that 52 percent of respondents in Japan do not support same-sex marriage. However, a survey of 40 countries by Pew Research found that Japan led the Asian countries on the list, with 38 percent of Japanese respondents regarding homosexuality as morally acceptable and 25 percent saying it wasn't a moral issue.
The cheerful and strong-willed Abe appears determined to break the traditional Japanese image of wives of public figures. She is nicknamed the "domestic opposition party", as she has frequently voiced opinions in opposition to her husband.
While her husband supports nuclear power, she opposes it.
She has faced criticism and backlash for publicly embracing Korean culture. Diplomatic relations between Japan and Korea have deteriorated due to a territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands and unresolved historical issues, such as Korean "comfort women", or women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army.