During a reception in Honolulu in December 2016, Hawaii Gov. David Ige presents Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with an ukulele. (Hawaii Governor’s Office)

Rafu Staff Report

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), an immigrant born in Japan who was the first Asian and Japanese American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, released the following statement July 8 on the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: 

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe was a transformational figure in Japan who dedicated his life in service of his country. A friend to the United States, Prime Minister Abe fought for the Japanese people and strengthened the relationship between our two countries.

“I’ve had the privilege of meeting Prime Minister Abe a number of times, including during a state dinner at the White House in 2015, as well as during official trips to Japan in 2013 and 2017. During our most recent meeting, we discussed a number of topics, including the importance of the trilateral alliance of the United States, Japan and South Korea.

“This senseless murder was a barbaric act — and one that I condemn in the strongest terms possible.

“I spoke with Ambassador (Koji) Tomita this morning to express my deepest condolences to Prime Minister Abe’s family and to the people of Japan. As an immigrant born in Japan, I join President Biden and stand with the Japanese people during this time. We will honor Prime Minister Abe’s legacy by continuing to work to strengthen our relationship with Japan, which is a critical ally in protecting the security of the Indo-Pacific region and plays a vital role in Hawaii’s economy and culture.”

As a champion of U.S.-Japan relations in Congress, Hirono met with Abe several times, most recently on a congressional delegation trip to Japan in 2017. In 2016, she joined Abe and President Barack Obama for a wreath-laying at Pearl Harbor to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 2015, Hirono served on the Escort Committee for Abe’s address to a joint session of Congress. In 2013, she met Abe during a congressional delegation to Japan and several other Asia-Pacific nations.

In November 2021, Hirono was honored by the Japanese government with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in recognition of her work to strengthen bilateral relations and promoting legislative exchanges between Japan and the U.S.

In Honolulu, Gov. David Ige ordered that the U.S. flag and the Hawaii state flag be flown at half-staff at the Hawaii State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard in the State of Hawaii from sunrise until sunset, July 10. The flags were already at half-staff honoring victims of the Highland Park shooting until sunset on July 9.

“I’m devastated by the news of former Prime Minister Abe’s assassination,” Ige said. “This senseless act of violence has taken the life of a true friend of Hawaii. In our multiple meetings, we shared stories of our past, embraced our common culture, and continued the quest for reconciliation and partnership that has developed between the United States and Japan.

“Dawn and I extend our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, Prime Minster Abe’s wife, Akie, and the family members and friends of this world leader who exemplified the aloha spirit and lived his life seeking peace in the world.”

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and his wife Akie (right) with Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and his wife Hiroko.

Reactions from Japanese American elected officials on the mainland include the following:

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “I had the pleasure of meeting former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on several occasions. He graciously met with U.S. congressional delegations, and I had personal opportunities to discuss matters of importance to the alliance between Japan and the United States with him. While we had differing views, his passing is sudden and heartbreaking. My heart goes out to his wife Akie, his family, and the people of Japan. May he rest in peace.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “I am shocked and horrified by the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe. Prime Minister Abe was a champion of democracy, a dedicated public servant, and a great friend to the United States. His love of the Japanese people and his commitment to peace and prosperity across the world leave an enduring legacy for generations to come. My prayers are with the Abe family and the Japanese people during this terrible time.”

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance): “Shocked and saddened with the gun violence that tragically ended the life of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. My wife Hiroko and I had an opportunity to meet Abe and his wife Akie when they visited L.A. in 2015. Abe was a strong ally of the United States and the most influential prime minister of post-World War II Japan.

“Hiroko volunteered with First Lady Abe on several charity projects, including to publish and distribute in Japan ‘The Jester Who Lost His Jingle,’ a children’s book written by David Saltzman of Palos Verdes.

“Gun violence is almost unheard of in Japan, which has the strongest gun-control laws in the world among industrialized countries. Tragically, even in Japan, Abe became a victim of gun violence. Hiroko and I send our deepest condolences to Ms. Abe and their family.”

Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis): “With friends and family in the diplomatic corps, this stunning news is literally reverberating around the world. We have met Nara House of Councillors member (equivalent to U.S. Senate) Iwao Horii on several occasions in California and Japan. He is reported here to have been standing next to Abe-san when he was felled by the alleged assassin’s shots.

“We send our deepest condolences to our friends in the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the people of Japan.”

Torrance City Councilmember Jonathan Kaji: “In 2015, Prime Minister Abe and his wife visited Little Tokyo and stopped by the Japanese American National Museum and the Go For Broke Nisei Veterans Memorial. My father, Bruce Kaji, the founder of JANM, had an opportunity to meet the PM and Mrs. Abe as they paid their respects to the Japanese-American community … RIP Abe-san …

“Having spent most of my professional career in U.S.-Japan activities, I remain confident that the efforts made by Prime Minister Abe in strengthening the bilateral relationship will carry on throughout these dangerous times.”

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