A poor choice of words on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new blog has made it appear as though he is commanding Japanese women to kill themselves while wearing a happy grin.
Much like Barack Obama’s bombastic repetition of “Change” and “Hope” or Ed Miliband’s prattlings about “The squeezed middle,” Japanese politics also loves an occasional bit of glittery rhetoric. After the successful branding of “Abenomics,” Shinzo Abe has recently been using the verb “kagayaku” (shine) so often when referring to women in the workplace you would think his new policies involved strapping LED suits to every female worker in Japan, rather than just extolling a set of employment ideals the government itself is far from reaching.
This wording choice was going well until Abe’s blog about supporting women posted the following header:
To non-Japanese speakers there might not seem to be any problem with this, we’d even say Abe looks dashing and not at all like he is about to heckle female politicians for not having children. The problem is the word “Shine.” When pronounced in the Japanese method of reading the Roman alphabet (i.e. “shi-ne” rather than “shy-n“), the word is a homophone of 死ね, “Die!”
So to many Japanese speakers, the image would look something like this:
You can see the blog here, though Shinzo Abe’s picture has since been removed from the seppuku command.