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The truth behind Prime Minister Abe’s seven-and-a-half-hour hospital stay

  • August 18, 2020
  • , Shukan Shincho digital
  • JMH Translation

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent seven and a half hours undergoing treatment at Keio University Hospital on Aug. 17. The unsettling news that “the prime minister will soon undergo emergency hospitalization” circulated on the night of Aug. 16.


The news had a considerable amount of credibility for those in political circles. It was only natural. Abe had been relentlessly questioned in the Diet over his cherry blossom viewing parties, and the coronavirus outbreak dealt a blow. Abe’s fatigue became increasingly noticeable and the number of his press conferences was reduced.


An insider says: “Because of the outbreak, Abe has had to reduce diplomatic engagement, which was his strength. Abe usually spends some time during the summer at his vacation home in Narusawa village, Yamanashi prefecture. This year, he had to forego the visit because it would amount to an ‘unnecessary outing.’ Playing golf during summer vacation was Abe’s way of relaxing, so his stress had reached the limit.”


On the morning of Aug. 17, the situation, now with media involvement, became even more tense.


A political reporter says: “News that the prime minister will go to Keio University Hospital at 10:30 a.m. came from those close to Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai. Abe’s chief physician works at Keio University Hospital. The rumors of the previous night were true. There was even a media outlet that prepared copy for an article on Abe’s resignation, thinking that ‘there is a possibility of Abe giving up his post again.’”


Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Takaya Imai reportedly went to Abe’s private residence to accompany him to the hospital. This was highly unusual and showed that the situation was urgent. Keio University Hospital explained to the press that Abe was undergoing “an examination following up on tests he had in June.” The hospital emphasized that it was just a “check-up,” but Abe was in the hospital for seven hours until the evening of Aug. 17. This episode only strengthened the “theory that Abe was in ill health.”


The impact of one media report on the current situation cannot be disregarded. An article in the weekly FLASH published on Aug. 4 reported that “the prime minister vomited blood on July 6 in his office.”


Although Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga promptly denied the report in his regular press briefing, many in Nagatacho took the report to be “the truth.”


An insider in the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei] says: “Abe did not cough up blood on July 6, but he had been unwell since the morning of that day. After Abe met with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike to discuss coronavirus countermeasures, he muttered in his office that he was “dizzy” and threw up what he had eaten. There was some blood in the vomit, which is why the Kantei was thrown into an uproar.”


It was true that Abe’s health condition had changed for the worse.


An LDP member who is a Cabinet insider whispers: “Abe took a cancer examination this time.”


It is possible for ulcerative colitis, Abe’s chronic illness, to become cancerous. It seems that Abe needed another detailed check-up following his June examination and even needed to be tested for cancer.


LDP Research Commission on the Tax System chairperson Akira Amari, Abe’s close ally, said on a BS Fuji TV program on Aug. 17: “I would like (Abe) to rest a little. We must force him to rest, even for a few days.” Amari’s comment was not just for the sake of appearances.


Another Kantei insider speaks of an “important meeting” that took place before Abe’s hospitalization.


“Abe had a meeting with Finance Minister Taro Aso. On Aug. 15, two days before his hospitalization, Abe met with Aso for one hour at Abe’s private residence in Shibuya Ward. Abe is said to have told Aso that he will leave everything to Aso “in case anything happens.”


Aso is Deputy Prime Minister. It is well-known among Nagatacho insiders that Aso is more than a mere Deputy Prime Minister for Abe.


An insider says: “Abe still feels a debt of gratitude to Aso, who shouldered the responsibility for [the LDP] losing power after Abe resigned in 2007. This is why Abe wants Aso to be in charge for the remainder of [Abe’s] term.”


“Abe persuaded Aso not to resign as Finance Minister over the Moritomo issue. Abe is grateful to Aso for subsequently carrying out his duties. That is why Abe wants Aso to be responsible for the remainder of Abe’s term. Abe believes Aso would be happy to take over because Aso left his own administration without completing his term.”


The insider comments: “Stress aggravates the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Abe has used Asacol (mesalazine) to suppress ulcerative colitis, but it has become less effective. He next took Remicade (infliximab), but it has not been effective either. Abe then took steroids concurrently with other drugs, but his condition did not improve.”


“At Keio Hospital, Abe received treatment called granulocytapheresis (GCAP), which removes white blood cells that act upon the large intestine. The treatment involves drawing blood through a machine that removes white blood cells, removing the portion related to inflammation, then replacing the blood in the body. It is similar to dialysis. Instead of Abe’s primary physician, a physician who specializes in gastroenterology was in constant attendance throughout the examination.”


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