By Oyintari Ben
Leaders from all over the world have gathered in Tokyo to honour Shinzo Abe, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, who was remembered with praise and scorn at his state burial.
Japan paid tribute to the assassinated Abe on Tuesday with flowers, prayers, and a 19-gun salute at the first official funeral for a former premier in 55 years.
The event began at 2:00 p.m. (0500 GMT), with the widow of Abe, Akie, carrying his ashes into the Nippon Budokan Hall in the heart of Tokyo to the sounds of a military band and the salute of the honour guard.
A giant, black-ribbon-draped image of Abe was placed over a bed of white, green, and yellow flowers inside the Budokan, best renowned as a performance venue. He could be seen walking alongside G7 leaders, touching hands with kids, and touring disaster sites in the pictures on a wall nearby.
Following Abe’s murder at a campaign rally on July 8, a reaction against current premier Fumio Kishida was sparked by discoveries concerning connections between lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which he once led, and the Unification Church, which critics describe as a cult.
Kishida has apologized and vowed to sever party links to the church after the incident caused his support ratings to drop to their lowest level ever.
However, despite the fact that Abe’s state funeral would mark the first such ceremony since 1967, the opposition has persisted due to the $11.5 million price tag that the state would bear during a challenging economic period for regular people.
The longest-serving prime minister of Japan was an unpopular leader plagued by scandals.
Unabashedly nationalist, Abe pushed Japan into a solid defensive position that many today regard as foresightful in light of the rising anxiety about China. In contrast, others criticized it as being overly hawkish.
Protesters brandished placards and chanted “No state funeral” to the sound of a guitar in one area of downtown Tokyo.
However, thousands of mourners descended on the funeral venue early at dawn, forcing the organizers to open the hall 30 minutes earlier than planned. In a matter of hours, 10,000 people—most of whom were in long lines—had placed flowers and made quiet prayers in front of Abe’s image, according to television footage.