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Japanese people say their final goodbyes to former leader Shinzo Abe at his funeral

One of people who offer flowers and prayers for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cries at Zojoji temple prior to his funeral wake Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Tokyo.
Eugene Hoshiko
One of people who offer flowers and prayers for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cries at Zojoji temple prior to his funeral wake Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Tokyo.

TOKYO — Japanese bid their final goodbye to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination that shocked the nation.

Abe, the country's longest-serving prime minister who remained influential even after he stepped down two years ago, was gunned down Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.

Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled pedestrian walks outside of the Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party's ultraconservative policies.

Mourners waved, took photos on their smartphones, and some called out "Abe san!" as a motorcade including a hearse carrying his body, accompanied by his widow slowly drove by the packed crowd. Akie Abe was seen lowering her head to the crowd.

Only she and other close family members, as well as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple.

The hearse made a tour of Tokyo's main political headquarters of Nagata-cho, where Abe spent more than three decades since he was first elected in 1991. It then drove slowly by the party headquarters, where senior party lawmakers in dark suits stood outside and prayed, before heading to the prime minister's office, where Abe served a total of nearly a decade.

Kishida and his Cabinet members pressed their hands before their chest as they prayed and bowed to Abe's body inside before the hearse headed to a crematorium.

On Sunday, two days after Abe's shocking death, his governing Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the less powerful of Japan's two-chamber parliament.

That could allow Kishida to govern uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025, but the loss of Abe also opened up a period of uncertainly for his party. Experts say a power struggle within the party faction Abe led is certain and could affect Kishida's grip on power.

Kishida has stressed the importance of party unity after Abe's death.

In a country where gun crime is vanishingly rare, Abe's shooting also shook the nation known as the world's safest and have some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

The suspect, Tetsyua Yamagami, was arrested on the spot Friday and is being detained at a local prosecutors' office for further investigation. They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding whether to formally press charges.

On Tuesday, public security chief Satoshi Ninoyu told reporters he has instructed the National Police Agency to investigate security for political and business leaders.

Abe, the son of an earlier prime minister, became Japan's youngest prime minister in 2006 at age 52. He left after a year in office due to health reasons but returned to power in 2012.

He vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his "Abenomics" formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.

His long-cherished goals, held by other ultraconservatives, were to revise Japan's pacifist constitution drafted by the United States during its postwar and to transform Japan's Self Defense Force to a full-fledged military.

Abe became Japan's longest-serving leader before leaving office in 2020, citing a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he'd had since he was a teenager. He was 67.

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The Associated Press
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