Japan between mourning and protest during the national funeral of Shinzo Abe

Eva Deschamps / September 27, 2022

This Tuesday, September 27, the national funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, assassinated in the middle of a political meeting last July, takes place.
Thousands of Japanese people paid their last respects to their assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday morning. However, the state funeral scheduled for the day in Tokyo is very controversial in the country.
Many ordinary citizens lined up to lay wreaths and pay their respects briefly in front of a portrait of Abe set up in a tent near the Nippon Budokan, a major venue for martial arts competitions, concerts and official ceremonies in the heart of the Japanese capital, where the state funeral was due to start at about 2 p.m. local time.
“I wanted to thank (Abe, editor’s note). He did so much for Japan (…) and the way he died was so shocking,” said Koji Takamori, a 46-year-old entrepreneur who came from the island of Hokkaido (northern Japan) with his 9-year-old son.
But to be honest, I also came because there was so much opposition” to the state funeral, he added. The event is far from being a moment of sacred union in Japan, having provoked intense controversy and demonstrations in recent weeks.
Abe broke the record for the longest tenure of a sitting prime minister in Japan (more than eight and a half years in 2006-2007 and 2012-2020). He was Japan’s best-known political figure both at home and abroad, with his intense diplomatic activity and his massive fiscal and monetary stimulus policy dubbed “Abenomics.
His assassination by gunfire in the middle of an election rally on July 8 at the age of 67 shocked Japan and the world. But Abe was also hated by many for his ultraliberal and nationalist views, his willingness to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution and his proximity to numerous political and financial scandals.
The motive of his alleged assassin – Abe’s alleged links with the Unification Church, nicknamed the “Moon cult”, which is accused of exerting strong financial pressure on its members – has further tarnished the image of the former prime minister in the eyes of his detractors.
Since his death, revelations have been pouring in about the extent of the links between this church and Japanese parliamentarians, especially from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, right-wing government), which was once led by Abe and is now led by the current Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, whose popularity rating has plummeted since this summer.
Mr. Kishida’s quick and unilateral decision to hold a state funeral has outraged the opposition, which believes that it should have been debated and approved in parliament. Several opposition parties will boycott the ceremony.
Such tributes to politicians have been rare in post-war Japan, with the only precedent dating back to 1967. The estimated cost of the ceremony – the equivalent of 12 million euros – also irritated. After the failures of Abe’s close protection, the government did not skimp on security: 20,000 police were to be deployed, according to local media. According to the latest polls, about 60 per cent of Japanese people are opposed to the state funeral.
Some 4,300 people, including 700 foreign dignitaries, are expected to attend the one-and-a-half hour non-denominational ceremony. Nineteen cannon shots will be fired as the urn containing Abe’s ashes arrives at the Budokan.
After the national anthem and a minute of silence, several eulogies will be delivered, including by Mr. Kishida and Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s former right-hand man who succeeded him as Prime Minister (2020-2021).

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