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Japan honours Abe at controversial funeral

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese and foreign dignitaries paid tribute to assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe at a state funeral yesterday that drew both mourners and protesters to central Tokyo.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described the former leader as a “person of courage” in a eulogy, listing his achievements, including efforts to strengthen Japan’s diplomatic ties.

“I feel heart-breaking grief,” Kishida said as he faced a photograph of Abe that was hung above a grand floral structure used to display his ashes, medals and the Japanese flag.

The decorative box of ashes had been carried by his widow Akie into Tokyo’s storied Budokan venue, where a 19-gun salute sounded in honour of the slain politician.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the country’s most recognisable political figures, known for cultivating international alliances and his “Abenomics” economic strategy.

He resigned in 2020 over recurring health problems, but remained a key political voice and was campaigning for his ruling party when a lone gunman killed him with a homemade weapon on July 8.

The shooting sent shock waves through a country with famously low gun crime and prompted international condemnation.

But the decision to give him a state funeral – only the second for a former premier in the post-war period – has provoked opposition, with around 60 per cent of Japanese against the event in recent polls.

Guests stand at the start of the state funeral of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP
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