Abe's wife creates buzz with honeybee project

First Lady Akie Abe
First Lady Akie Abe

TOKYO • Step aside Abenomics, the Shinzo Abe "brandwagon" is rolling on... into honey, after the Japanese Prime Minister's wife decided to establish a beehive at their official residence.

First Lady Akie Abe wants hives sufficient for up to 10,000 Japanese honeybees, right in the centre of Tokyo, and intends to harvest "Abe-brand" honey later this year, according to reports and a non-governmental organisation.

Mrs Abe, who frequently speaks out on environmental and social issues, apparently took her inspiration on apiculture from her United States counterpart, Mrs Michelle Obama. The American First Lady has bees at the White House.

The Ginza Honey Bee Project, a non-profit organisation that keeps honeybees in the Japanese capital, said it would offer a helping hand to Mrs Abe on how she should care for her striped charges.

The Abes visited Washington in April this year, and the two first ladies compared notes on the global decline in the number of bees.

Bees are vital to the life cycle of many plants, including crops grown for human consumption, because of their role in pollination. But the increasing use of pesticides has killed a large number of the insects, and some scientists warn of impending disaster that could even cause food shortages.

After returning from Washington, Mrs Abe got in touch with the Ginza Honey Bee Project.

"I'm impressed honey can be harvested in the centre of Tokyo," she wrote on her Facebook page in May. "The environment where bees can live is an environment where humans can live safely. I want Japanese bees to come back."

Mrs Abe intends to fill the hive with up to 10,000 Japanese honeybees, possibly as early as this month, Jiji Press said. "If things go smoothly, 'Abe-brand' honey is expected to be harvested in the autumn," the agency reported.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'Abe's wife creates buzz with honeybee project'. Print Edition | Subscribe