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Japan gives former PM Shinzo Abe a final send-off

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a giant in diplomacy yet controversial at home, was given a final send-off in a state funeral attended by about 4,300 guests, including 700 from abroad, on Tuesday.

Walter Sim/ Straits Times/ANN |

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a giant in diplomacy yet controversial at home, was given a final send-off in a state funeral attended by about 4,300 guests, including 700 from abroad, on Tuesday.

The event was held at the Nippon Budokan arena that has hosted Olympic events, but is also a stone’s throw from the Yasukuni Shrine that is seen as a symbol of its wartime history.

Inside the Budokan in central Tokyo, a large portrait of Mr Abe draped with black ribbon hung over a bank of green, white and yellow flowers. Nearby, a wall of photos showed him strolling with Group of Seven leaders, holding hands with children and visiting disaster areas.

The service started at 2pm (1pm in Singapore), with Mr Abe’s ashes, in a box covered with a decorative fabric, carried into the Budokan hall by his widow, Akie, dressed in a black kimono.

Music was played by a military band and a 19-gun salute was sounded in honour of the slain ex-premier.

A video montage looking at some key moments of Mr Abe’s political life was shown during the service, followed by eulogies by leading ruling party figures, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Mr Yoshihide Suga, Mr Kishida’s predecessor as prime minister and chief cabinet secretary during the second administration of Mr Abe.

The Emperor and Empress were not at the service but Crown Prince Akishino and six other members of the Imperial household were in attendance, in line with tradition. The Crown Prince and his wife were among the mourners who offered flowers during the service.