Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's unique connection to Southern California

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has connections to Southern California that include time spent at USC in the 1970s and long-time friendship with a family here. (KABC)

As part of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation, and the US-Japan Council, David Ono just received a unique opportunity.

He got to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo, at the prime minister's residence.

Abe is one of the most powerful people in the world.

He's currently serving his fourth term as prime minister, and by the time he's done, he may well be one of the longest serving in the history of Japan.

But Abe, and his family, have a unique connection to Southern California.

And it's a story that starts with a woman who lived in Los Angeles, named Harriet Chia Lin Moore.

Harriet's daughter, Mary Eichenhofer, tells us how the story started.

It was in the years following World War II, in Japan. Harriet, who had lost her husband, brought her entrepreneurial and charismatic spirit with her from China.

And it paid off.

"They opened a restaurant nightclub, so people would come. Like Gene Krupa and Marilyn Monroe. And all those stories she'd tell me," said Mary.

They called her "Madam Yao." Harriet made friends with everyone - including Abe's father and mother while they were both still single.

Eventually the Abes would marry and have children including Shinzo.

Harriet later moved to Los Angeles, but would often travel back to Japan to visit the Abe family.

Sometimes with special guests.

Mary said, "She set up at his private home. She would bring all the USC alumni association over there."

And that was likely a major influence in the young prime minister, coming to Los Angeles .

In the '70s, Shinzo Abe ended up living in Los Angeles, and studying political science and international relations at USC.

Mary describes how a young Shinzo Abe looked on Harriet as a second mother.

"He would go weekends to her place and because she would kind of take care of him like a son I guess, and weekdays he would be going to school from there," Mary said.

Mary's mother Harriet, stayed in close contact with the Abe family, attending Shinzo's wedding and being invited back for many more occasions.

Mary said they always had a feeling Shinzo had a great future. Somehow, Mary said, "we got the impression he probably would be. There was just something about him."

She describes Abe as a kind, polite, outgoing young man. To this day, Shinzo Abe is grateful to the people who helped him along the way, and shows that gratitude wherever he can, always staying in touch.

Harriet passed away last year, but she lived in a rich life. Part of it was helping a young man find his path to becoming one of the most powerful people in the world.
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politicsjapanuscsouthern californiau.s. & worldLos Angeles
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