Shinzo Abe state funeral draws world leaders and protesters

TOKYO — World leaders and successors to Shinzo Abe paid tribute to Japan’s longest-serving prime minister at a state funeral as thousands of people protested the event nearby.

The dispatch to Mr. Abe, who was killed by an assassin’s bullet in July, reflected the divisions that also marked his tenure. Vice President Kamala Harris recalled Mr. A champion of the US-Japan alliance, Abe and his allies mourned the loss of a leader they said devoted his life to improving Japan.

Some of the groups that protested Mr Abe’s moves to strengthen Japan’s military when he was prime minister were back at the parliament building for a raucous anti-Abe rally. They shouted slogans recalling what they saw as the low points of his tenure.

World leaders were among the crowd of about 4,300 at the funeral for Shinzo Abe.


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POOL/Zuma Press

The state funeral took place at the Nippon Budokan, an arena in central Tokyo. The cremated remains of Mr. Abe were placed on a large altar decorated with flowers in the shape of snowy mountains.

“We lost you suddenly, which should never have happened,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, occasionally glancing up at a giant photo of Mr. Monkey over the flower display during the non-religious ceremony.

Mr. Kishida listed Mr. Abe’s achievements during nearly a decade in power. “You deepened our ties with the United States and strengthened our shared deterrence,” he said.

Ms. Harris offered flowers along with three former ambassadors to Japan and the current ambassador, Rahm Emanuel. The leaders of India and Australia, as well as representatives from both Taiwan and China, were among those making offers in a crowd of about 4,300 people.

After the ceremony, Ms. Harris praised Mr. Abe as a protector of the rule of law and the freedom to sail.

People lined up to leave flowers and sign a book of condolence.


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yuichi yamazaki/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“He was the one who coined the term free and open Indo-Pacific. We value those principles and we stand by them. And it’s part of the bond that forms the alliance between the United States and Japan,” she said.

While Mr. Abe provided Japan with rare political stability and raised its international profile, his personal approval rating rarely high.

Hiroyuki Arai, a 69-year-old retiree, came to Tokyo by bus from central Japan to join the protest. He said he opposed Mr Abe’s move to reinterpret Japan’s constitution to allow the military to become more active overseas.

“Although Mr Abe said his move is for deterrence, deterrence only does not protect us,” Mr Arai said. “We would be forced to increase military spending indefinitely.”

As the ceremony began at 2 p.m., people at the protest started shouting, “No state funeral!”

Abe was 67 years old when he was shot dead while giving a speech at an election rally in western Japan on July 8.

The suspect in the shooting has written that he attacked Mr Abe because of his perceived links to a church founded by the late Reverend Moon Sun-myung. The suspect believed that the church had destroyed his family. Sir. Abe had spoken at events organized by a member of the church.

A protester near the Nippon Budokan on Tuesday; a large majority of respondents to a poll earlier this month said they oppose the state funeral.


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yuichi yamazaki/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Sir. Abe’s links to the church, and those subsequently revealed between the church and ruling party politicians, have soured sentiment towards Mr Kishida’s government and increased opposition to the funeral.

A poll conducted earlier this month by business newspaper Nikkei found that 60% of respondents opposed the ceremony, while 33% supported it. The event cost about $11 million, the government has said.

A temporary altar was set up outside the burial site where the public could pay their respects. Koichi Murata, a 50-year-old factory worker, took a day off to come and offer flowers at the altar.

“He is the politician I admired the most,” said Mr. Murata and praised Mr. Abe’s diplomacy, including his approach to dealing with difficult relations with neighboring South Korea and China. “He worked hard so that Japan would not simply remain as the nation that lost the war.”

Unlike the recent lavish state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the funeral for Mr. Ape not processions or great military displays. The day of the funeral was not a public holiday.

Sir. Abe’s remains were brought to the ceremony by car and carried into the hall by his wife, Akie Abe, dressed in a black kimono, while a military band played and artillery fired a 19-shot salute in a Tokyo park.

Outside the funeral home, Ayumi Kumagai, 27 years old, waited for over 1½ hours to offer a bouquet of flowers to Mr. Monkey.

“I just wanted to at least offer flowers to him because he devoted his life” to Japan, Ms. Kumagai said.

Abe served as prime minister from December 2012 to September 2020, the longest continuous period since Japan established a European-style government headed by a prime minister in the late 19th century.

Sir. Abe’s funeral was only the second state funeral for a post-war prime minister after Shigeru Yoshida, who signed the 1951 treaty that ended the US occupation of Japan after World War II.

Write to Alastair Gale at alastair.gale@wsj.com and Miho Inada at miho.inada@wsj.com

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