Shinzo Abe’s family and friends gathered in a Tokyo temple on Tuesday for a private funeral as mourners outside denounced the former prime minister’s “despicable” murder.
Days before elections for the upper house that saw his governing party solidify its hold on power, Abe was shot at close range on Friday while giving a campaign address in the city of Nara.
Tetsuya Yamagami, the 41-year-old murder suspect, is currently in detention and has admitted to police that he killed Abe because he thought the lawmaker was affiliated with a group he didn’t like.
Long queues of mourners, some clad in black, gathered at the Zojoji temple to pay their respects to Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, despite the fact that the burial ceremonies were reserved for family members and close friends.
Tsukasa Yokawa, a consultant, told AFP: “I came here to drop flowers and say a prayer because I can’t get over my loss.” “Abe was a fantastic prime minister who achieved a lot to enhance Japan’s standing” in the international arena.
Yuko Takehisa, a 51-year-old assistant nurse who lives in Kanagawa, close to Tokyo, called it “despicable.”
She lamented that “no one reported” Yamagami to police despite claims that he test-fired a homemade gun prior to the incident, saying that “more could have been done to avoid it.”
Satoshi Ninoyu, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet position overseeing national police, pledged Tuesday to hold a full review of any security failings.
Local police have already admitted flaws in their guarding programme for the high-profile politician, who was approached from behind and shot in broad daylight.
Police searches of the suspect’s home have found pellets and other possible components for building a gun like the crude weapon used in the attack, Japanese media reported Tuesday, citing unnamed investigative sources.
Yamagami spent three years in Japan’s navy and reportedly told investigators that his mother’s large donations to a religious organisation had caused the family financial troubles.
The Unification Church, a global religious movement founded in Korea in the 1950s, said on Monday that Yamagami’s mother was a member, but did not comment on any donations she may have made.
Abe’s murder sparked shock and outrage in Japan and worldwide, and an outpouring of condolence messages.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday that over 1,700 condolence messages had been received from 259 countries, territories and international bodies.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a previously unscheduled stop in Tokyo to pay tribute to Abe, describing him as a “man of vision.”
And Taiwanese Vice President William Lai was also in Tokyo for a surprise trip, Taiwanese media said.
The visit has the potential to anger Beijing, though Hayashi said Lai was travelling in a private capacity and there was no change to Japan’s policy on working non-governmental relations with Taiwan.
After Tuesday’s funeral, Abe’s body will be driven past some of Tokyo’s political landmarks, including the prime minister’s residence — known as the Kantei — and the country’s parliament, the Diet.
Public memorials are expected to be held at a later date, with suggestions that top foreign political leaders could attend, but no details have yet been announced.
Abe was the scion of a political family and became the country’s youngest post-war prime minister when he took power for the first time in 2006, aged 52.
He resigned in 2020 at the end of his second stint after suffering health problems.
His hawkish, nationalist views were divisive, particularly his desire to reform the pacifist constitution, and he weathered a series of scandals, including allegations of cronyism.
But he was lauded by others for his economic strategy, dubbed “Abenomics”, and his efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage, including by cultivating close ties with former US president Donald Trump.