Former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe honored at controversial state funeral
TOKYO — Japan’s former hawkish leader Shinzo Abe was honored with a rare and controversial state funeral on Tuesday, full of militaristic presentations like soldiers carrying his ashes in a box brought by his widow and praising his nine years of service. term of Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the state-funded ceremony was a deserved honor for Japan’s longest-serving modern political leader, but it deeply divided public opinion and sparked angry protests.
The event attended by US Vice President Kamala Harris, Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and other foreign and Japanese dignitaries began with Akie Abe, dressed in a black formal kimono, slowly walking behind Kishida to the venue funeral, carrying the urn in a wooden box wrapped in purple cloth with gold stripes. Soldiers in white uniforms took Abe’s ashes and placed them on a pedestal filled with white and yellow chrysanthemum flowers and decorations.
Attendees stood as a military band played the Kimigayo national anthem, then observed a moment of silence before a video praising Abe’s tenure. The footage included his 2006 parliamentary speech pledging to build a ‘beautiful Japan’ and his ‘Towards the Alliance of Hope’ speech to the US Congress in 2015. It also included his visits to northern Japan after the March tsunami 2011, and his Super Mario 2016 impersonation in Rio de Janeiro to promote the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Kishida, in his 12-minute eulogy, praised Abe as an aspiring politician with a clear vision for Japan’s and the world’s post-war economic growth and development, and promoting the concept of a « free and open Indo-Pacific » as a counter-power to China. ascend.
Kishida, as he looked at a large photo of Abe smiling, said that as a fellow MP elected in the same year in 1993, Abe’s loss came too soon. « You were a person who should have lived much longer, » Kishida said. « I had a strong belief that you should contribute as a compass to show the future direction of Japan and the rest of the world for another 10 or 20 years. »
Harris sat in the third row next to Rahm Emanuel, the American ambassador to Japan, during the ceremony, and they then joined others in placing a branch of chrysanthemum flowers on a table set in front of the pedestal.
Abe was cremated in July after a private funeral at a Tokyo temple days after he was murdered while delivering a campaign speech on a street in Nara, a city in western Japan.
Tokyo was under maximum security for the state funeral, especially near the Budokan Hall.
During a peaceful protest march downtown, hundreds of people marched towards the venue, some beating drums and many shouting or holding banners and signs indicating their opposition.
« Shinzo Abe didn’t do anything for ordinary people, » said contestant Kaoru Mano.
The government maintains that the ceremony is not intended to force anyone to honor Abe. But the undemocratic decision to give him the rare honor with imperial ties, the cost and controversies over his and the ruling party’s ties to the ultra-conservative Unification Church fueled controversy over the event.
“A big problem is that there was no proper approval process,” retired Shin Watanabe said at the protest. “I’m sure there are different points of view. But I don’t think it’s forgivable that they force a state funeral on us when so many of us oppose it.
Hours before the ceremony, hundreds of people carrying bouquets lined up several blocks to lay flowers in a nearby park.
“I am emotionally attached to him and I also supported the LDP,” said Masayuki Aoki, a 70-year-old business owner, recalling that he shared a punch with Abe during a campaign stop. in Yokohama. days before his assassination. « I had to come and give her flowers. »
Japan’s main political opposition parties boycotted the funeral, which critics say is reminiscent of how pre-war imperialist governments used state funerals to stoke nationalism.
In what some see as an attempt to further vindicate Abe’s honor, Kishida this week held meetings with visiting foreign leaders in what he calls « funeral diplomacy ». The talks aim to strengthen ties as Japan faces regional and global challenges, including threats from China, Russia and North Korea.
He was due to meet about 40 foreign leaders through Wednesday, but no Group of Seven leaders are present.
Kishida has been criticized for forcing the costly event and for the growing controversy over Abe’s decades of close ties to the ruling party with the ultra-conservative Unification Church, which is accused of raking in huge donations by brainwashers. Abe’s alleged killer reportedly told police he killed the politician because of his church ties; he said his mother had ruined his life by giving the family money to the church.
« The fact that the close ties between the LDP and the Unification Church may have interfered with policy-making processes is seen by the Japanese people as a greater threat to democracy than Abe’s assassination. “wrote Jiro Yamaguchi, professor of political science at Hosei University, in a recent article.
Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church take root in Japan and is now seen as a key figure in the scandal. Opponents say holding a state funeral for Abe amounts to an endorsement of the ruling party’s ties to the Unification Church.