09/27/2022, 17.52
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After a state funeral, Shinto Abe laid to rest amid honours and protests

by Guido Alberto Casanova

Despite recent protests, a 600-metre queue of mourners stood waiting to bid farewell to the former prime minister killed in July. Current Prime Minister Kishida delivered the eulogy. About 4,300 guests took part in the ceremony, including 700 from abroad. The funeral cost taxpayers US$ 11 million.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was  assassinated last July in the last days of the election campaign, was laid to rest this afternoon at the end of a long-awaited state funeral, which sparked tensions and controversies over the past few weeks.

The ceremony was held at the Nippon Budokan arena in the capital, with the participation of 4,300 guests, 700 from abroad.

Foreign guests included US Vice President Kamala Harris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Italian former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French former President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the President of the Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.

This is Japan’s first state funeral since 1967. Incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Abe's long-time party colleague, delivered a very touching eulogy.

Working together was “one of the proudest achievements of my life,” Kishida said, “as your Minister for Foreign Affairs,” and “as your close friend”.

The prime minister’s tribute was followed by other members of the Japanese cabinet as well as foreign dignitaries. The emperor, who was not present to maintain political neutrality, nevertheless sent a message.

Despite the state funeral, the Japanese government did not proclaim a national day of mourning, so businesses and government offices remained open.

Among Japanese, Abe remains extremely controversial and divisive figure. The funeral itself, which cost taxpayers about US$ 11 million, split the country between a majority that was against it and a minority that was in favour.

For weeks, protesters were out in the streets in significant numbers for Japan near  government buildings, demanding the cancellation of the funeral.

For many, honouring Shinto Abe with a state funeral symbolised the weakening of Japanese democracy since the government made the decision without consulting parliament or the people.

Just a week ago, a man tried to set himself on fire to protest near the Prime Minister's Office.

However, today in Tokyo, many Japanese came out to express their condolences for the death of the former prime minister. In the park next to the arena, the authorities put up a small memorial altar where citizens could lay flowers.

A 600-metre queue  formed by the time the gates to the site opened with people coming for different reasons to honour the fallen leader.

Interviewed by Nikkei Asia, some said they approved of Abe's policy to boost the country's defence and protect Japan; others expressed satisfaction with Abenomics, the late prime minister’s economic policies which revived the economy and reduced unemployment.

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