TOKYO — Japanese bid their final goodbye to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination that shocked the nation.
Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister who remained influential even after he stepped down two years ago, was gunned down Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.
Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled pedestrian walks outside of the Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party’s ultraconservative policies.
Mourners waved, took photos on their smartphones, and some called out “Abe san!” as a motorcade including a hearse carrying his body, accompanied by his widow slowly drove by the packed crowd. Akie Abe was seen lower her head towards the crowd.
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She was the only person who attended, along with other family members and Prime Minister Fumio Kinio Kishida, and top party leaders.
The hearse made a tour of Tokyo’s main political headquarters of Nagata-cho, where Abe spent more than three decades since he was first elected in 1991. It then drove slowly by the party headquarters, where senior party lawmakers 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 his Cabinet members pressed their hands before their chest as they prayed and bowed to Abe’s body inside before the hearse headed to a crematorium.
On Sunday, two days after Abe’s shocking death, his governing Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the less powerful of Japan’s two-chamber parliament.
This could enable Kishida’s continued government until 2025. However, the party lost Abe which opened up an uncertain period. Experts say a power struggle within the party faction Abe led is certain and could affect Kishida’s grip on power.
Fumio Kishida (Japan’s Prime Minister), center, and other officials and employees pray for the hearse that carries former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s body. It makes a quick visit to Japan’s Prime Minister’s office on July 12, 2022 in Tokyo.
Kishida has stressed the importance of party unity after Abe’s death.
In a country where gun crime is vanishingly rare, Abe’s shooting also shook the nation known as the world’s safest, with some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
The suspect, Tetsyua Yamagami, was arrested on the spot Friday and is being detained at a local prosecutor’s office for further investigation. The suspect can be held for up to 3 weeks, while they determine whether to file formal charges.
Satoshi Ninoyu, chief of public security, told reporters on Tuesday that he had instructed the National Police Agency (NPA) to conduct investigations into security concerns for business and political leaders.
Learn more Looking Back at TIME’s Coverage of Shinzo Abe: ‘I Am a Patriot.’
Abe, the son of an earlier prime minister, became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006 at 52. Following a year of being in power, Abe left. However, he returned to power in 2012.
He vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.
His long-cherished goals, held by other ultraconservatives, were to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution drafted by the United States during its postwar era and to transform Japan’s Self Defense Force to a full-fledged military.
Abe became Japan’s longest-serving leader before leaving office in 2020, citing a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He was now 67.
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