Japan’s hawkish former leader Shinzo Abe was honored by a rare and divisive state funeral Tuesday that was full of militaristic presentation like soldiers carrying his ashes in a box brought by his widow and praise of his nine-year premiership.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the publicly financed ceremony was a deserved honor for Japan’s longest-serving modern political leader, but it has deeply split public opinion and was met with angry protests.
The event attended by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and other foreign and Japanese dignitaries began with Akie Abe, in a black formal kimono, walking slowly behind Kishida into the funeral venue, carrying the urn in a wooden box wrapped in a purple cloth with gold stripes. Soldiers in white uniforms took Abe’s ashes and placed them on a pedestal filled with white and yellow chrysanthemum flowers and decorations.
Attendants stood while a military band played the Kimigayo national anthem, then observed a moment of silence before a video praising Abe’s tenure. Footage included his 2006 parliamentary speech vowing to build a « beautiful Japan » and his « Toward the Alliance of Hope » speech at the U.S. Congress in 2015. It also included his visits to disaster-hit northern Japan after the March 2011 tsunami, and his 2016 Super Mario impersonation in Rio de Janeiro to promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Kishida, in his 12-minute eulogy, praised Abe as an aspiring politician with a clear vision for postwar economic growth and development of Japan and the world, and promoting the concept of a « free and open Indo-Pacific » as a counter to China’s rise.
Kishida, as he looked up a large photo of smiling Abe, said as a fellow lawmaker elected in the same year in 1993, Abe’s loss came too soon.