Japan has said farewell to its country’s its longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead at a campaign rally last week.
Long lines of people queued outside the Zojoji temple in Tokyo to pay their respects to the man who dominated Japanese politics for decades.
The 67-year-old’s assassination by an unemployed man wielding a homemade gun on Friday as he made a campaign speech stunned a nation in which both gun crime and political violence are extremely rare.
Keiko Noumi, a 58-year-old teacher, was one of many who came to offer prayers and flowers under cloudy skies to a large photograph of Abe set up inside the temple grounds, showing him in a simple white shirt, laughing with his hands on his hips
“There was a sense of security when he was the prime minister in charge of the country,” she said. “I really supported him, so this is very unfortunate.”
The ceremony itself was open only to family and close friends.
Tributes have poured in from international leaders, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken making a brief stop en
route to the United States from Southeast Asia on Monday morning to pay his respects.
French leader Emmanuel Macron sent his condolences in footage posted on the country’s official presidential Twitter account after he visited the Japanese embassy in Paris.
“I remember all our meetings and work together, especially during my visit (to Japan) in 2019 … I’ve lost a friend,” said
a solemn Mr Macron.
“He served his country with great courage, and audacity.”
The suspected killer, arrested at the scene and identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, believed Mr Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a “huge donation”, Kyodo news agency has said, citing investigators.
The Unification Church, known for its mass weddings and devoted following, said on Monday the suspect’s mother was one of its members.
How Abe saved Japan from economic decline
Yamagami shot Mr Abe from behind from a 40cm (16in) improvised weapon wrapped with black tape.
Chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference that the government will consider whether there is a need to further regulate handmade guns.
“We are aware that current regulations strictly restrict firearms, whether handmade or not,” he said.
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