Japanese say goodbye to former leader Shinzo Abe at funeral: NPR

One of the people offering flowers and prayers to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, mourns at Zojoji Temple ahead of his funeral wake on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 in Tokyo.

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One of the people offering flowers and prayers to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, mourns at Zojoji Temple ahead of his funeral wake on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 in Tokyo.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

TOKYO — Japanese people bid their final farewells to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his nation-shocked assassination.

Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister who remained influential even after stepping down two years ago, was shot dead during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara on Friday.

Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled pedestrian walkways outside Zojoji Temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalist views have led the ruling party’s ultra-conservative policies .

Mourners waved, took photos on their smartphones, and some shouted “Abe san!” in the form of a procession comprising a hearse carrying his body, accompanied by his widow led slowly by the compact crowd. Akie Abe was seen bowing her head to the crowd.

Only she and other close family members, along with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple.

The hearse circled Tokyo’s main political headquarters, Nagata-cho, where Abe has spent more than three decades since first being elected in 1991. It then rolled slowly to party headquarters, where senior party officials in dark suits stood outside and prayed. , before heading to the Prime Minister’s Office, where Abe served a total of nearly a decade.

Kishida and members of his cabinet pressed their hands in front of their chests as they prayed and bowed to Abe’s body inside before the hearse headed towards a crematorium.

On Sunday, two days after Abe’s shock death, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the least powerful in Japan’s two-chamber parliament.

That could allow Kishida to rule uninterrupted until an election scheduled for 2025, but Abe’s loss has also opened up a period of uncertainty for his party. Experts say a power struggle within the party faction led by Abe is certain and could affect Kishida’s grip on power.

A hearse carrying the body of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a brief visit to the House of Parliament after his funeral, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Tokyo.

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A hearse carrying the body of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a brief visit to the House of Parliament after his funeral, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Tokyo.

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Kishida stressed the importance of party unity after Abe’s death.

In a country where gun crime is extremely rare, Abe’s shooting also rocked the nation known as the safest in the world and has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.

The suspect, Tetsyua Yamagami, was arrested at the scene on Friday and is being held at a local prosecutor’s office for further investigation. They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding to file a formal complaint.

On Tuesday, Public Security Chief Satoshi Ninoyu told reporters he had instructed the National Police Agency to investigate the safety of political and business leaders.

Abe, the son of a former prime minister, became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006 at the age of 52. He left after a year in power for health reasons, but returned to power in 2012.

He pledged to revitalize the nation and lift its economy out of its deflationary slump with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.

His long-held goals, held by other ultraconservatives, were to revise Japan’s pacifist US-drafted post-war constitution and transform the Japan Self-Defense Force into a full-fledged army.

Abe became Japan’s longest-serving leader before leaving office in 2020, citing a recurrence of ulcerative colitis he had since his teenage years. He was 67 years old.

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