Japan bid its final goodbye to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday at a family funeral held at a temple days after his assassination 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 dark formal suits, filled pedestrian areas outside the Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, 67, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party’s ultra-conservative policies.
Mourners waved and took photos on their phones. Some called out, “Abe-san!”, as a cortege, including a hearse carrying his body, slowly drove by the packed crowd. Akie Abe, his widow, was seen lowering her head to the crowd.
Only she and other close family members, as well as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple.
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 headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, where senior 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 before the hearse headed to a crematorium.
On Sunday, two days after Abe’s death, the ruling LDP and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the less powerful chamber of Japan’s bicameral parliament.
That could allow Kishida to govern uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025, but the loss of Abe also opened up a period of uncertainly for his party. Experts say a power struggle within the party faction that Abe led is certain and could affect Kishida’s grip on power.
Kishida has stressed the importance of party unity after Abe’s death.
Abe’s shooting shook a nation known as one of the world’s safest, with some of its strictest gun laws. Gun violence in Japan is extremely rare.
The alleged gunman, Tetsyua Yamagami, was arrested on the spot Friday and is being detained at a local prosecutors’ office for further investigation. They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding whether to press charges.
On Tuesday, public security chief Satoshi Ninoyu told reporters that he had instructed the National Police Agency to investigate security for political and business leaders.
Abe, the grandson of a previous prime minister, became Japan’s youngest premier in 2006, at age 52. He left after a year in office because of health reasons but 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 ultra-conservatives, were to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, which was drafted by the United States after World War II, and to transform Japan’s Self Defense Force into 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.