Several hundred protesters have gathered in Tokyo to demand the cancellation of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral, accusing the slain premier of holding militarist views.
Abe, who was assassinated in July, was Japan’s longest-serving leader and one of its most divisive in the post-war period because of his revisionist view of wartime history, support for a stronger military, and what critics call an autocratic approach and cronyism.
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“Abe’s policies supported war,” demonstrator Mayumi Ishida said on Friday, noting that Abe consistently sought to raise defence spending.
Like others at the protest, Ishida said he feared Abe’s views heralded a step back to the days of Japan’s militarism preceding World War II.
State funerals in Japan have been historically reserved for the emperor. The decision to hold one for Abe was made by the cabinet and did not go through parliamentary approval. Some lawyers’ groups have challenged its legality.
Some 62 percent of respondents in a recent poll by the Mainichi newspaper said they opposed holding a state funeral for Abe.
Among the reasons respondents gave were that the former premier was not worthy of the honour, and the high price tag. The official public tab for the funeral is about 1.7 billion Japanese yen ($12m) but experts note that hidden costs such as security add to the total.
‘Not appreciated by everyone’
Mainichi reported that the local assemblies of at least 12 municipalities in Japan had issued statements calling for the cancellation of the funeral.
“While it is tragic that former Prime Minister Abe was assassinated during the election period, his actions were not appreciated by everyone,” Katsuto Furuichi, 70, an independent assembly member, told the newspaper.
Some politicians have announced they will skip the funeral, including governing party legislator Seiichiro Murakami, a former Cabinet minister, who said it had failed to win public backing.
The government plan for Abe’s state funeral to be held on Tuesday has galvanised public opposition against the governing Liberal Democratic party, which has ruled Japan for nearly the entire post-war period.
Protests similar to Friday’s one and marches opposing the state funeral have been popping up nationwide, drawing hundreds of people.
Earlier this week, a man set himself on fire by the prime minister’s residence in what was described as a suicide attempt in apparent protest of the funeral.
Yoshiko Kamata, a part-time worker at a convenience store, acknowledged the state funeral could not be stopped, but it was an opportunity to drive home her message that Abe never stood with the people.
“We want to show where we stand,” she said, noting dictators were being invited to the state funeral.
“Just because he is dead, we aren’t going to forgive Abe.”