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Japan honours Abe at controversial funeral

2022-09-27 HKT 11:34
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  • Japan honours Abe at controversial funeral
The line began forming early on Tuesday, with thousands of Japanese people waiting to offer flowers and prayers for slain former premier Shinzo Abe, even as others marched nearby in protest.

The decision to hold a state funeral for the assassinated ex-leader split public opinion, and the rival scenes in Tokyo laid bare the divisions.

Foreign dignitaries joined Japanese officials for the ceremony inside the Budokan. Outside the storied venue, businessmen, retirees and teenagers waited in the late September sunshine, some of them dusted by cooling mist jets.

The line was so long that authorities opened two mourning tents early, and an estimated 10,000 people filed through in under four hours.

As she waited, Yoshiko Yokota recalled serving Abe at a restaurant. "Even with someone like me, Abe made eye contact and said thank you," she said.

She said she "felt paralysed" on the day of his shooting, July 8.

"For two, three days, I was just dazed," the 48-year-old said. "I don't think Japan will ever have a better leader."

Nearby was Tomoya Kagawa, a construction worker who took the day off to pay respects.

"I wanted to join this event to really see him off," the 37-year-old said. "I think he made a big contribution to Japan."

Around 60 percent of Japanese people surveyed before the funeral said they opposed the event.

Some resent the nearly US$12 million price tag, and others accuse Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of bypassing parliament when approving the event in a country where state funerals are rare.

Those who gathered to protest the event pulled no punches.

"Stop fascist state funeral," read one sign held by a protester in a demonstration that had arrived near the Budokan by midday.

Outside the parliament, thousands of mostly older activists, many waving trade-union flags, used loudspeakers to denounce the event, Abe's record, and the government.

"I just found it unforgivable that such an enormous amount of taxpayer money is being spent," freelance filmmaker Kanako Harada said.

"There is nothing he did that I can think highly of," the 39-year-old added.
Last updated: 2022-09-27 HKT 17:10