The funeral hymn played by the army band. Then a blast of 19 cannon shots as Akie, the widow in black kimono, carries the ashes of Japan’s longest-serving post-war prime minister to the funeral parlor and delivers them to the white-uniformed military.
Behind her the Crown Prince Akishino. Thus began the state funeral of Shinzo Abe. The huge blow-up of him, wrapped in a black ribbon, stands out above an expanse of white and yellow chrysanthemums dominating the Budokan, the Tokyo building theater of concerts of the great world rock stars such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
It is to the portrait of Abe, with his back towards the approximately 4300 present, that Fumio Kishida gives his condolence speech. “She was a person who should have lived much longer,” says the Japanese prime minister, addressing directly to his mentor, who was killed last July 8 during an election rally.
It was since 1967 that a politician had not received a state funeral. Then it was the turn of Shigeru Yoshida, the man of rebirth after the war and the atomic bombs. A much less divisive figure than Abe. The revelations about the relations of his family and many members of the Liberal Democratic Party with the Unification Church, the religious sect to which the killer’s mother had donated large sums of money and ended up on the street, made the funeral a boomerang for Kishida, the whose liking is in free fall.
According to polls, 60% of citizens were against a state funeral. In recent weeks the protests have been numerous and crowded. A man set himself on fire near the premier’s office. Even yesterday, while thousands of people were laying flowers in a park near the Budokan, hundreds protested in Tokyo and in various other cities in the country.
For this reason, an impressive safety device has been set up with over 20 thousand agents deployed in the key points of the city. 75% of Japanese especially criticized the costs of the funeral, considered excessive at a time when inflation continues to rise and the economy is still struggling to recover from Covid.
At about $ 12 million, Abe’s funeral cost more than Queen Elizabeth’s. Expenses inflated by the arrival of about 700 foreign guests. Among them the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a great friend of Abe (demiurge of the Indo-Pacific concept). Present Theresa May, Nicolas Sarkozy and Matteo Renzi, but no leader of a G7 country. Justin Trudeau, the only one announced, had to stay in Canada for Hurricane Fiona.
The “funeral diplomacy” still works on the US front, with the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris and Kishida’s promise to “further strengthen the alliance” on which Abe “has invested most of his life”.
Frost with China, which sent only the former minister Wan Gang, moreover not even a member of the Communist Party. Beijing protests at the presence of three guests from Taiwan, after Vice President William Lai showed up at the private funeral.
Russia sent Mikhail Shvydykoy, representative for international cultural cooperation. But with the Kremlin, tension is high after the arrest of the Japanese consul in Vladivostok on charges of corruption. Tokyo responded with new sanctions.