Thursday, November 08, 2007

A coffee with Akie Abe

I was queuing at the coffee break of an interesting seminar on Burma Asean and Japan organized by a famous Japanese foundation when suddenly my eyes got caught by a lady queuing too, just on my left arm, elegant, well dressed in a dark suit, tall and laughing. Mrs. Akie Abe the wife of the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

We came into introducing each other and chatted as I reminded her that we had previously met a few times in the past and we talked about the first time I saw the lady to become the Japanese First Lady, in Tokyo, a couple of years ago introduced by a good friend of mine.

Immediately Akie sama spoke very freely and with kind word and gentleness about her husband, Shinzo. "He is fine" she told me "and he recovers well".

I encouraged his recovery and of course asked her if we could invite her to my press club (Press club) with her husband one coming day. "We ll see" what happens. "We wait for you" I answered. "Come to see us."

One other point I noticed about is her committed character, probably the reason why some Japanese and foreign media behaved ruthlessly in talking about her in some articles, probably without even approaching her. My impression about officials, trained with a few decades in reporting, convinced me that Akie sama is a very nice and warm hearted person. The first laughter she had was when I mentioned her studying foreign languages with one of my friend, a Japanese ex reporter of a national newspaper, a few years ago. Her comment was genuinely fresh and honest, "Well, I do not know if my English improved".

I then wondered how come it is possible that politics destroys people or hurts then so much in this country. Going on in the queue to our coffee cup, I saw how people seemed seduced by her free talks and elegant walk. How come this French man talks to the former First Lady so easily, some might have thought. After we poured coffee in the cups and exchanged a few words, I let her quiet and saw many ladies coming to greet her. Let's part and let her do her former First Lady work I told to myself.

Later on, Akie sama asked me how my Japanese was and I modestly confessed that it was still so-so and that I keep on studying, "Your Japanese must be better than my English" she told me with a clear smile before to wonder why my name also bears the name Koizumi... "Family matters", I answered with a twinkle in the eyes.

The seminar focused on the situation in Burma. I learned a lot there and one figure increased my worries for Burma's future: More than 1 million people already escaped from the country to get refugee status in neighboring Thailand. Akie sama stayed until the end of the seminar. The coffee was excellent too!

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