TOKYO: Thousands of Japanese and foreign dignitaries gather in Tokyo on Tuesday (Sep 27) to honour assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe, at a rare state funeral that has sparked controversy and protest.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the country’s most recognisable political figures, known for cultivating international alliances and his “Abenomics” economic strategy.
He resigned in 2020 over recurring health problems, but remained a key political voice and was campaigning for his ruling party when a lone gunman killed him on Jul 8.
The shooting sent shockwaves through a country with famously low gun crime and prompted international condemnation.
But the decision to give him a state funeral – only the second for a former premier in the post-war period – has provoked growing opposition, with about 60 per cent of Japanese against the event in recent polls.
The US$11.5 million price tag will be borne by the state at a time of economic pain for ordinary citizens.
“I don’t think this funeral should be held,” said Hidemi Noto, a 38-year-old assistant movie director who had stopped by the site at the Nippon Budokan Hall on Monday to watch preparations.
“It has a completely different meaning to a funeral for ordinary people. I don’t think we should use tax money for this.”
Nevertheless, early on Tuesday morning, a few hundred ordinary citizens lined the streets outside the venue waiting to offer flowers at designated stands.
Abe’s accused killer targeted the former leader believing he had ties to the Unification Church, which he resented over massive donations his mother had made to the sect.
The assassination prompted fresh scrutiny of the church and its fundraising, and uncomfortable questions for Japan’s political establishment, with the ruling party admitting around half its lawmakers had links to the religious organisation.
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