Hold memorial while avoiding pomp and circumstance

It is regrettable that public opinion has been divided over how to mourn Shinzo Abe, who had heavy responsibility as a longtime prime minister, with the situation turning into what seems like political strife. How is the current situation over the issue in Japan perceived abroad?

Both chambers of the Diet, while out of session, held deliberations on the state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe. Regarding the government’s decision on holding the state funeral, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Given that many countries expressed their respect and condolences, the thought was that it was necessary to respond courteously.”

Since Abe’s death, more than 1,700 condolence messages have been sent to the government from 260 countries, regions and international organizations. Several countries, including the United States, Australia and India, have passed resolutions in their parliaments to pay tribute to Abe.

Kishida’s decision is understandable, given the widespread overseas mourning for Abe. It is hoped that Abe will be sent off quietly and without a hitch, taking every possible measure to protect visiting dignitaries.

During the out-of-session deliberations, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition, and the Japanese Communist Party argued that the legal basis for the state funeral was vague. They also pursued the basis for the cost calculation for the state funeral.

Kishida explained that since state funerals do not restrict people’s rights or impose obligations, legislative action is not necessary and can be carried out at the discretion of the government. He stressed that a state funeral would be held as a “state ceremony” based on the law on the establishment of the Cabinet Office.

The government has decided that ¥250 million would cover the cost of the state funeral. In addition, it announced later that around ¥1.41 billion would be required to cover security and hospitality costs for foreign dignitaries.

During the question and answer session, CDPJ leader Kenta Izumi criticized the government’s decision on the state funeral, saying, “How much tax money will be spent when people are having a hard time in their lives?”

Izumi apparently aimed at making an appeal to the realities of daily life to offer opposition to the state funeral, however, it is unreasonable to equate the costs of the state ceremony with the problems in people’s lives.

When foreign dignitaries visit Japan, whether for a funeral or an international conference, hefty expenses are incurred mainly for security and hospitality.

In 2018, the government decided to spend about ¥7.5 billion to prepare for the summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka that was held the following year. More than 190 foreign delegations are expected to attend the state funeral this time, so a certain amount of expenditure is necessary.

“The state funeral should be canceled,” said House of Representatives lawmaker Tetsuya Shiokawa from the JCP, accusing Abe of having close ties with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church.

Efforts must be promoted to clarify the actual situation surrounding the antisocial activities of the Unification Church, including its so-called spiritual sales tactics. Apart from the issue of the state funeral, the government and the ruling and opposition parties should discuss necessary measures against such antisocial activities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2022)