Facing a Mutual Threat, Japan and Taiwan Look to Deepen Ties

Facing a Mutual Threat, Japan and Taiwan Look to Deepen Ties
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at a news conference in Tokyo, Oct. 14, 2021 (pool photo by Eugene Hoshiko via AP).

In 1997, a group of lawmakers from the youth division of Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party paid a visit to Taiwan. The evening reception got boozy, as the hosts repeatedly raised their cups and called upon their guests to join them in draining the contents in one gulp, accompanied by the customary toast of kan pei, which literally means “dry glass.”

The head of the LDP delegation was none other than Abe Shinzo, who had just been elected to Japan’s legislature, the Diet, four years earlier and would go on to become the country’s longest-serving prime minister. Abe is known to imbibe little if at all, so in his place, Kishida Fumio, a representative from Hiroshima with a reputation for being something of a tippler, stepped up to handle the toasts. He reportedly consumed a near-mythical quantity of alcohol that night without losing his composure, endearing him to the Taiwanese dignitaries in attendance.

This story has been circulating again since Kishida took office as prime minister of Japan last week, having won the LDP leadership election days before. Taiwan’s national archives marked the occasion by posting images from the 1997 visit as well as an earlier exchange in 1994, during which a smiling Kishida posed for a photo alongside then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, known locally as “Mr. Democracy” for his role overseeing the country’s transition from authoritarian rule. 

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