Human Interest

A divided Japan bids farewell to Abe

(Update: changes lede, headline, adds detail)

Tokyo, Sep 27 (EFE).- Japan bid farewell to former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday in a lavish state funeral funded by taxpayers’ money, sparking a series of protests.

Some 4,300 people, including around 700 international leaders, attended the funeral at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo, which was decorated with a giant portrait of Abe and lavish floral arrangements symbolizing Japan’s mountains.

“Abe, you are a person who should have lived for much, much longer,” Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida said.

Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s post-war period, died at the age of 67 on July 8 after being shot during a rally in the western city of Nara.

Thousands of people began to form queues several hours before the opening of the two booths with Abe’s picture for placing offerings inside the Kudanzaka Park park, near the Nippon Budokan arena.

The first mourners began making their offerings at 9.30am, half an hour before the opening time for paying tribute, open to the public until 4pm.

One of the first to make floral offerings was Yoshihiro Hayasaka, a 53-year-old resident of Tokyo, who stood in line for two hours to offer his condolences.

“I don’t know another prime minister who has been so recognized internationally,” Hayasaka, who also praised the economic progress under Abe, told Efe.

“This is the only way I could express my gratitude,” he added after offering flowers.

But just a short distance from the park, which had been closed off to avoid disturbances,

hundreds of protesters gathered calling for the cancellation of both the funeral and the offerings.

“Using our taxes for the funeral of a person like Abe is something I oppose,” Koji Sugihara, 56, told Efe.

“I am against the state funeral of anyone, because it is a violation of democracy,” pensioner Shimasaki Kobae said, adding that Abe was responsible for “destroying democracy” in Japan.

According to a recent survey by state broadcaster NHK, over 50% of Japanese people were against holding the state funeral. Demonstrations had been intensifying for weeks ahead of the ceremony.

Abe’s funeral was the second of its kind in post-war Japan and cost at least 1.649 billion yen (about 11.8 million euros), according to government figures.

Among attendees were United States vice president Kamala Harris, European Council president Charles Michel, Cuban prime minister Manuel Marrero and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.EFE


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