Japan between contemplation and protest at Shinzo Abe’s national funeral
Scores of Japanese and foreign dignitaries paid their respects to assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday at a state funeral that divided the country. Thousands of citizens came to pay their respects while others demonstrated against the event.
The ceremony began with the arrival of Akie Abe, the former leader’s widow, dressed in a black kimono and carrying the urn containing her husband’s ashes to the Nippon Budokan, the burial ground, where she was received by acting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
In his eulogy, Kishida described Abe as a “courageous person” and listed his achievements, including strengthening Japan’s diplomatic ties with other countries.
“I feel a heartbreaking sorrow,” he said, gazing at a portrait of the deceased that towered over an imposing floral arrangement on which his ashes were placed, behind the Japanese flag and a series of medals.
On Tuesday morning, thousands of ordinary Japanese people came to the Budokan, a major venue for martial arts competitions, concerts and official ceremonies in the heart of the capital, to lay wreaths and gather briefly to commemorate ‘Abe.
“I wanted to thank him. He did so much for Japan” and “the way he died was so shocking,” Koji Takamori, a 46-year-old entrepreneur from the island of Hokkaido, told AFP. year old son.
“But to be honest, I also came because there was so much opposition to this state funeral,” he added.
Indeed, this event was far from a moment of sacred union, as it had provoked intense controversy and protest.
Abe broke the longevity record for an incumbent prime minister in Japan: more than eight and a half years in 2006-2007 and 2012-2020.
He was Japan’s most prominent political figure both at home and abroad, with his intense diplomatic activity and massive fiscal and monetary stimulus, dubbed “Abenomics”.
His assassination by bullets in the middle of an election rally on July 8 at the age of 67 shocked Japan and the whole world.
But Abe was also hated by many for his ultra-liberal and nationalist views, his desire to revise the pacifist Japanese constitution, and his links to numerous political and financial scandals.
The motive behind his alleged killer — Abe’s alleged ties to the Unification Church, nicknamed the “Moon Cult,” which is accused of exerting severe financial pressure on its members — has further tarnished ex-Prime Minister Abe’s image, his critics say.
Since his death, there have been revelations about the extent of the ties between this church and Japanese parliamentarians, particularly from the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, in power on the right), formerly led by Abe and now by the current Prime Minister Kishida, whose popularity rating is high has melted since this summer.
– 60% of Japanese hostile –
Mr Kishida’s hasty and unilateral decision to hold a state funeral has outraged the opposition, who believe it should have been debated and approved in parliament. Several opposition parties boycotted the ceremony.
Honors of this kind for politicians have been extremely rare in Japan since the post-war period, the only precedent dating back to 1967.
The estimated cost of the ceremony – the equivalent of 12 million euros – upset. After Abe’s strict protection failed, the government did not skimp on security: 20,000 police officers were on duty for the occasion, according to local media.
Peaceful demonstrations against the event have brought together several thousand people at times in recent weeks, and a new rally took place in front of Parliament on Tuesday.
A man also tried to set himself on fire near the prime minister’s office last week to protest the national honor, according to local media.
According to the latest polls, about 60% of the Japanese were against this state funeral.
– Discreet presence of China –
Around 4,300 people, including 700 foreign dignitaries, attended the hour-and-a-half inter-denominational ceremony.
After the national anthem and a minute’s silence, several eulogies were delivered, including by Mr. Kishida and Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s former right-hand man who succeeded him as Prime Minister (2020-2021).
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and his wife Masako were not present due to their status as politically neutral national symbols, but other members of the imperial household attended.
Foreign guests included US Vice President Kamala Harris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, and European Council President Charles Michel.
France was represented by its former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
China, with which Japan has new ties, sent a representative but no executive member.
It is always my pleasure to provide insightful information on important topics and if you have learned something from my article then I thank you for taking the time to share it with your friends or family.
We put a lot of heart and invest a lot of time trying to bring you the most interesting articles.
You would encourage us to do it even better in the future. Thank you!