Shinzo Abe Laid To Rest In State Funeral Which Cost Japan $11.5 Mn Amid Public Opposition

Abe, who was the longest-serving prime minister of Japan, was accorded the state funeral, traditionally meant only for the Royal family.

Shinzo Abe Laid To Rest In State Funeral Which Cost Japan $11.5 Mn Amid Public Opposition
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays respect to former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the state funeral in Tokyo on Tuesday, September 27, 2022. (Image: Twitter/ANI)

JAPAN on Tuesday bid farewell to its former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a state funeral which cost the country over USD 11 million or 1.65 billion yen. While several world leaders flocked to Tokyo to attend the ceremony, there was a large section of the country which was not at all pleased. Abe, who was the longest-serving prime minister of Japan, was accorded the state funeral, traditionally meant only for the Royal family.

This was the first time in 55 years a state funeral was held for a former premier. Tuesday's ceremony saw Abe's wife Akie carry his ashes into the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo to music by a military band and the honour-guard salute. The former premier was accorded a 19-gun salute.

The country, which has been facing economic woes, spent USD 11.5 million on the state funeral, despite massive protests against it ahead of the event. According to a BBC report, polls show that over fifty per cent population was against the funeral. Last week, a man set himself ablaze outside the prime minister's ofice in protest, while over 10,000 people had participated in a march demanding that the funeral be cancelled.

According to the Reuters, only 30 per cent of respondents in a recent poll by TV Asahi agreed with hosting the funeral, against 54% opposed.

Abe was killed during a campaign rally on July 8 this year, following which allegations of his old party's links with an alleged cult triggered backlash against the government. There have been reports of ties between lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) he once ran and the Unification Church, which is considered a cult by its critics. The current premier Fumio Kishida came in the eye of the storm with his support ratings fallig to their lowest ever. Meanwhile, Kishida has apologised and vowed to cut party ties to the church.

The accused in Abe's shooting had alleged that the Unification Church impoverished his family.

Abe was a divisive figure who was dogged by scandals. An unapologetic nationalist, Abe pushed the country toward a muscular defence posture that many now see as prescient amid growing concern about China, but others criticised as too hawkish.

This state funeral for Abe comes days after the United Kingdom laid to rest its longest-serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The 11-day funeral of the Queen cost the country approximately USD 7.5 million. The UK, which faces one of its worst economic crisis with rising poverty and hunger, has also witnessed opposition to the state funeral and the Royal Family.

But thousands of mourners flooded to the funeral venue from early morning, forcing organisers to open the hall half an hour early. Within hours, about 10,000 people had laid flowers and bowed in silent prayer before Abe's picture, television showed, with far more waiting in three-hour long queues. Inside the Budokan, better known as a concert venue, a large portrait of Abe draped with black ribbon hung over a bank of green, white and yellow flowers.

Nearby, a wall of photos showed him strolling with G7 leaders, holding hands with children and visiting disaster areas. A moment of silence was followed by a retrospective of Abe's political life and speeches by leading ruling party figures, including Kishida and Yoshihide Suga, Kishida's predecessor as prime minister.

About 4,300 people were expected at the funeral ceremony itself along with at least 48 current or former government figures, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some 20,000 police were deployed, nearby roads were closed and even some schools shut.

The state funeral for Abe, who received a private funeral days after his assassination, was the first for an ex-premier since one in 1967 for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. Kishida has explained the decision as a way of honouring Abe's achievements, as well as standing up for democracy, but ordinary Japanese remain divided.

Kishida also cited the chance to conduct diplomacy as a reason for the funeral, and spent Monday night and Tuesday morning in meetings with leaders.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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