Japan prepares to bid Abe farewell to controversial state funeral

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will honor assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, the divisive figure who has dominated modern politics as the country’s longest-serving leader, at a rare state funeral that has become almost as divisive. I was.

Abe’s killing at a campaign rally on July 8 sparked a torrent of information about the ties between lawmakers in his once-ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church, which critics describe as a cult, sparking a backlash against incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

With his support ratings at an all-time low due to the controversy, Kishida apologized and pledged to sever partisan ties with the church.

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But opposition to honoring Abe with a state funeral, the first such event since 1967, has persisted, backed by $11.5 million the state swarms at a time when ordinary citizens are in economic pain. Read more

“I don’t think this funeral should be held,” said Hidemi Noto, 38, an assistant film director who stopped at the site at the Nippon Budokan Auditorium on Monday to watch preparations.

“It has a very different meaning than a normal people’s funeral. I don’t think we should use tax money for that.”

However, since early Tuesday, ordinary citizens began offering flowers at dedicated kiosks, starting earlier than planned due to demand.

About 4,300 ceremonies are expected on Tuesday and at least 48 current or former government figures, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are expected to attend. Kishida cited the opportunity to meet international leaders as another reason for hosting the funeral.

The only G7 leader who was due to join, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has been scrapped in order to tackle a natural disaster at home.

The ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. (0500 GMT), with Abe’s ashes carried to the venue, and the honor guard firing 19 rounds of cannon.

Inside Budokan, known as the party venue, a large picture of Abe wrapped in black ribbon hung on a bank of green, white, and yellow flowers. Nearby, a wall of photos showed him walking around with the G7 leaders, holding children’s hands and visiting the stricken areas.

Tens of thousands of police will be deployed, nearby roads will be closed and even some schools will be closed as Japan seeks to avoid security errors that led to Abe being shot with a homemade pistol by a suspect accused, police say, of impoverishing the Unification Church. his family. Read more

The state funeral for Abe, who received a private funeral days after his assassination, is the first since 1967 for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

Kishida explained the decision as a way to honor Abe’s achievements, as well as defend democracy, but ordinary Japanese remain divided. Only 30% of respondents in a recent survey by TV Asahi agreed to host the funeral, compared to 54% who disagreed.

Even without the recent revelations, it would be hard to imagine any circumstances in which a majority of Japanese would prefer to honor Abe with a state funeral, said Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of a biography of the former. leading.

“He was someone who almost greeted and advocated controversy and saw that his task overturned a long-standing consensus or set of consensus” about how Japan should be run, Harris said.

Many Japanese were “attached to the post-war regime that he wanted to overturn”.

A senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration, who accompanied Vice President Harris to Japan, told reporters he could not comment on the Japanese’s views on the funeral.

“All we can say is that he has been a great partner to the United States … and the vice president will honor that legacy,” he said on Monday.

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Additional reporting by Erin Wang, Trevor Honeycutt, Issey Cato, and David Dolan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Chang Ran Kim and Ana Nicholas da Costa

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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