September 28, 2022
TOKYO – Mourners began lining up Tuesday morning near Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to leave flowers for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while people opposing the state funeral, which was held for Abe at the hall later in the day, also gathered to make their voices heard.
Public opinion is divided about holding a state funeral for Abe, the second for a former prime minister since the end of World War II. Abe was fatally shot during an election campaign speech in July.
Flower stands were set up in Kudanzaka Park, about 100 meters from the Nippon Budokan hall. The line of people waiting was as long as 1.7 kilometers at one point in the morning, prompting the organizers to start accepting flowers at 9:30 a.m. instead of the scheduled time of 10 a.m.
There were two stands, each with a photo of Abe surrounded by chrysanthemums and other flowers. Visitors passed through a security check, then placed flowers on the stands and prayed. Some shed tears.
A 60-year-old man came from Wakayama early Monday evening to offer flowers. He said he had met Abe at a Tokyo event about Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.
“He was a cheerful, friendly person,” the man said. “The way he died was horrible and he must have had regrets, I think. If he was still alive, he would have served the country.”
A 68-year-old mourner from Kodaira, Tokyo, said he entered Seikei University the same year as Abe and dined with him. He said he came to the funeral to bring a sense of closure to his feelings.
“Even from our student days, he had a strong sense of justice and hated wrongdoing. He worked hard in difficult times.”
Flags at half-staff, remote classes
Most prefectural and municipal government buildings in the country flew a flag at half-staff on Tuesday.
In Chiyoda Ward, where Nippon Budokan is located, two kindergartens asked the children’s parents to keep them home and some elementary schools decided to hold classes remotely.
“Many people were expected to visit the area, so they prioritized the safety of the children,” a ward official said.
Mourners began visiting the site where Abe was killed in front of Nara’s Yamato-Saidaiji Station on the Kintetsu Line from Tuesday morning.
“I wanted to go to the state funeral venue, but I couldn’t because of a work-related matter,” said a 72-year-old man from Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. “I was impressed that he worked hard on diplomatic issues. I’d like to tell him, ‘Thank you and please rest in peace.’”
‘No need for state funeral’
A citizens group held a gathering at a park in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward to oppose the state funeral, claiming there was no need to hold it.
“Opinions about Mr. Abe differ from person to person. Mourning him on a national level restricts the inner thoughts of the people in this country. I want to send a voice of protest to the venue,” said a 64-year-old teacher from Musashino, Tokyo.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is one of the prefectural governors who declined to attend the funeral.
“Each person has their own standpoint on expressing condolence,” Tamaki said as he arrived for work at the Okinawa prefectural government building in Naha on Tuesday morning.
The prefecture reportedly did not fly a flag at half-staff.