Shinzo Abe, on course to become Japan’s longest-serving leader after Sunday’s election win, is seen as a pragmatic and canny diplomat who has cozied up to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin while pushing a nationalist agenda at home.
Groomed for power from birth, the 63-year-old is often viewed as arrogant but has also shown a self-deprecating sense of humour, dressing up as video game icon Super Mario as the Rio Olympics closed to give a zany preview of Tokyo 2020.
The third-generation politician captured global attention when he became the first foreign leader to visit Trump Tower in New York — before the now President was even inaugurated — warmly shaking hands with the tycoon in glittering surroundings.
The golf-loving pair later jetted off to Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for a spot of “golf diplomacy”, with the US president praising Abe’s “strong hands” and a “very, very good chemistry”. Mr Abe, who achieved a crushing victory in the election, will now welcome Trump to Tokyo next month with a firm grip on power.
He has also cultivated ties with Mr Putin, inviting the Kremlin strongman to Nagato for a so-called “hot spring summit” as part of a bid to sign a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities. Mr Abe seemed born to lead Japan, the latest in three generations of powerful politicians.
His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was a World War II cabinet member briefly arrested for war crimes — but never charged — who became prime minister and forged an alliance with the United States. His father, Shintaro Abe, rose to be foreign minister but never won the top job. Shinzo took Shintaro’s parliamentary seat in 1993 following his death.
Mr Abe cut his teeth by taking a hawkish line on North Korea and became the hand-picked successor to the popular former PM Junichiro Koizumi, whom he served as an eager and earnest deputy. When he finally reached the top of the greasy pole in 2006, he became the country’s youngest-ever Prime Minister — aged just 52 — and the first born after World War II.