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Throughout his exceptionally long tenure (2012–20), former Prime Minister Abe Shinzō made no secret of his ambition to transform Japan's foreign policy. He was also widely credited with extraordinary individual agency. We critically assess foreign policy shifts under Abe and evaluate the relative significance of individual, domestic, and international factors. Abe had a major impact, but his individual influence should not be exaggerated: his highest personal priorities saw limited success. However, Abe facilitated and accelerated reforms consistent with domestic political and international structural changes. Our assessment of Abe's legacy carries important implications for future Japanese foreign policymaking.