Home International Crowds line streets for former PM Shinzo Abe’s funeral in Japan

Crowds line streets for former PM Shinzo Abe’s funeral in Japan

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Four days after former prime minister Shinzo Abe was gunned down by an assassin, Japan paused on Tuesday to remember one of the country’s most influential leaders, as his family and friends gathered for a private funeral at a Tokyo temple.

People wait for end of the funeral of late former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, outside Zojoji temple, in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2022. Picture: Reuters/Issei Kato

TOKYO – Four days after former prime minister Shinzo Abe was gunned down by an assassin, Japan paused on Tuesday to remember one of the country’s most influential leaders, as his family and friends gathered for a private funeral at a Tokyo temple.

In the capital, residents young and old lined up to lay flowers and pay respects. The line snaked around the block from the Zojo-ji Temple, which had to curtail its opening hours because it was overwhelmed with mourners, many of whom were crying as they reached the head of the line. City halls set up memorials around the country.

The funeral, which began at 1pm local time, was followed by a procession to carry Abe’s body to the institutions where his legacy looms large: the Kantei, or the prime minister’s office; the Diet, or the national legislature; and the headquarters of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

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The killing of Abe, who was shot in Nara on Friday while campaigning for a fellow LDP politician ahead of upper house elections held over the weekend, horrified a nation unaccustomed to gun violence.

“He was the kindest person I knew who always protected me. I knew he still had a lot of unfinished business a politician. But he planted a lot of seeds, which I am sure will bloom,” Akie Abe, widow of the assassinated leader, said in a memorial address at the funeral.

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso also paid tribute to Abe, who was 67.

“You were supposed to be the one giving the memorial address at my funeral. I enjoyed going often to drink and play golf together,” Aso said at the funeral.

Outside the temple, a huge crowd gathered to catch a glimpse of the hearse carrying Abe’s body as it left for the LDP headquarters and the office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is Abe’s brother, issued a statement Tuesday for the first time since the assassination.

“I have lost my brother. But at the same time, Japan has lost an irreplaceable leader,” Kishi said, calling the attack an ”act of terrorism.“

“My brother loved Japan and risked his life in politics to protect this country,” he said. “Those of us who are left behind all understand. Thank you for your service.“

The Japanese government has honoured Abe with its highest decoration, the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, making him the fourth postwar leader to receive the honour. The national flag was flown half-staff until Tuesday at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

Plans for a state funeral have not been made public. But foreign dignitaries are already making plans to attend and pay homage to the leader who sought to raise Japan’s global influence during his nearly nine-year second term as prime minister.

Tributes have been flowing in from around the world, and US leaders have emphasized Abe’s contribution to the US-Japanese alliance. On Tuesday, US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel attended a tsuya, a traditional private wake, along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was in town to discuss economic sanctions on Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a refuelling stop between travels to meet with Kishida and pay respects.

During his tenure from 2012 to 2020, Abe forged deeper relationships with European countries and emphasized a strong alliance with the United States, even as President Donald Trump tested long-standing relationships with allies. The pair forged a personal bond and often played golf together.

Trump told Breitbart News in an interview over the weekend that he was eager to attend to attend Abe’s funeral, presumably a reference to a potential state funeral. Trump said he was contacting Abe’s family to try to make arrangements.

On Tuesday, the head of the National Police Agency said the department was “deeply ashamed” over the shooting and raised concerns about the security measures that were in place, especially the placement of officers behind Abe.

“We have failed to fulfil our responsibility as a police force. We take this incident extremely seriously. We are deeply ashamed,” said Itaru Nakamura, commissioner general of the National Police Agency.

The agency has set up an investigation team that will report its findings to the National Public Safety Commission in August, he said.

The man accused of assassinating Abe, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami of Nara, told investigators he believed that the former prime minister was linked to a religious group he blamed for his mother’s financial difficulties. Yamagami is suspected to have used a home-made gun to target Abe.

The Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, has come under focus in the shooting’s aftermath. On Monday, the head of the Unification Church in Japan said Yamagami’s mother was a member, but police have not yet identified the religious organization.

On Tuesday, Japanese media outlets reported that bullet holes were found on the facade of the Unification Church building in Nara. The suspect told investigators he had tested his gun there before shooting Abe, Japanese television station Fuji News Network reported.

Satoshi Ninoyu, the head of Japan’s National Public Safety Commission, said at a news conference Tuesday that he would instruct police to review security protocols to ensure there could be no repeat of an attack like the one against Abe.

– THE WASHINGTON POST

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