"I have experienced failure as a politician," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said. In his second round as the country's prime minister, he is determined to avoid the mistakes of the past -- beginning with how to deal with the stagnant Japanese economy.
Abe calls his approach the "three arrows" -- monetary easing, public investment and structural reforms -- which, he believes, taken alone can be bent but together will be invincible. From the moment he came to power, he has taken a different approach than leaders in the West, including his decision to replace Masaaki Shirakawa, the cautious head of the Bank of Japan, with an Oxford-trained former Finance Ministry official, Haruhiko Kuroda, who has committed to do "whatever it takes" to make economic growth a priority.
Among his staunchest supporters are women, whose cause he has championed. I asked him about his statement that women are Japan's "most underused resource," and his plans to address this. "Let me start with my own Liberal Democratic Party," he said. "For the first time in the party's history, of the three members on the executive board, two are women."
I asked if he planned to just use the bully pulpit or if he also intends to propose legislation. "When companies make an effort to make it easier for women to return to work after maternity leave, I'm considering various measures ranging from publicly praising their efforts to tax relief," he said.
Because of the long working hours in Japan and a dearth of childcare facilities, women have a hard time staying in the workforce after having children. "The harsh reality," Abe said recently, "is that for most women it is a choice between either having children or a career." A consequence of this has been that Japan has suffered the most rapid population decline of any country in the world. Last year it saw its biggest population drop -- nearly 300,000 -- since record-keeping began in the 1950s.
While he sees the greater economic participation of women as essential to Japan's recovery, Abe also sees economic growth and the reduction of unemployment as essential to addressing the epidemic of depression among his country's young people, which has led to large numbers of them committing suicide every year. "The suicide rate in Japan was increasing over the last 10 or so years," he told me. "However, recently we started seeing a decrease. The economic situation in Japan has been a contributing factor to people's anxiety and depression."
I asked him what else he's doing differently from the first time.
"I have learned to listen to the people more, to match the people's wishes with my government's policies," he said.
This is perhaps why Abe has so eagerly embraced social media -- surprising for a Japanese political leader, since until his government changed the law, it was illegal for candidates in elections to take their messages directly to voters via the Internet.
"Thanks to the change in our law," he told me, "it is now possible for us to make our case on social media, which is important given how difficult it is to get our message across through traditional media."
With 340,000 fans on Facebook and 100,000 followers on Twitter, Abe regularly uses these media and LINE, a homegrown social network, to communicate directly with the public. "Of course, it's a two-way conversation. We need to respond to the messages we get as much as we need to send our own," he said.
While Abe's economic policies (popularly known as Abenomics) have received wide support both inside and outside the country, his attempts to revise the Japanese constitution have been met with criticism and concern, both at home and abroad. When I asked him about this, he replied that what he wanted to do was use the national referendum to give the Japanese people an opportunity to have a say in their constitution.
Nevertheless, fears persist that if Article 9 of Japan's postwar constitution is changed to allow the country's military to act abroad, it would foster a dangerous resurgence of nationalism, which, together with revisionist claims about Japan's role in the Second World War, could be a serious distraction from Abe's determined efforts to revive the Japanese economy.
For now, while the U.S. and Europe sputter along, restrained by the politics of austerity, Japan under Shinzo Abe is set on a bold course to revive a moribund economy -- and spread the word through Facebook and Twitter one status update and one tweet at a time.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.)