Japanese and foreign dignitaries paid tribute to Shinzo Abe, the assassinated former
prime minister of Japan, at a controversial state funeral on Tuesday, as long lines of
people gathered to offer flowers and prayers.
Mr Abe’s ashes, carried by his widow Akie, arrived at the storied Budokan venue in
The motorcade carrying his remains had travelled from his widow’s home in the
capital, past a row of white-uniformed armed troops who stood to attention.
Outside the Budokan, thousands of Japanese people stood in line as the ashes
arrived, waiting to deliver flowers and say a prayer in two mourning tents.
Toru Sato, 71, leaned on his cane as he waited. “I only know Abe-san on TV. He
worked so hard. His death was so tragic. I felt so sorry for him,” he said.
Koji Takamori, 46, came all the way from northern Hokkaido with his nine-year-old son. “I wanted to thank him. He has done so much for Japan,” he said.
“The way he died was so shocking. To be honest, I also came because there has been
so much opposition. It’s almost like I’m here to oppose those who are opposing this
(funeral),” he added.
Mr Abe’s opponents were also visible in Tokyo, albeit in much smaller numbers,
marching near the tents before an expected demonstration in front of the
Mr 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
The shooting sent shock waves 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 opposition, with around 60 per cent of Japanese
against the event in recent polls.
Mr 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.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged the party will sever all ties with the
church, but the scandal helped fuel discontent over the state funeral.
Thousands have protested the ceremony and a man set himself on fire last week near
the prime minister’s office, leaving notes reportedly expressing his objection to the
Some politicians from opposition parties are also boycotting the funeral.
The controversy has various causes, with some accusing Mr Kishida of unilaterally
approving the funeral instead of consulting parliament, and others resentful of a
nearly £11 million price tag.
It is also the legacy of Abe’s divisive tenure, marked by persistent allegations of
cronyism, and opposition to his nationalism and plans to reform the pacifist
Mr Kishida’s government may be hoping the solemnity of the event, attended by an
estimated 4,300 people including 700 foreign invitees, will drown out the
Kamala Harris, the US Vice President, and world leaders including Narendra Modi,
the Indian prime minister, and Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister,
were among those in attendance.
Theresa May, Britain’s former prime minister, was also present.
Japan’s emperor and empress were not present as neutral national figures, but Crown
Prince Akishino and his wife were among the mourners offering flowers at the end of
the 90-minute service.