Prefectural funeral for ex-PM Abe held in Yamaguchi

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Attendees observe a moment of silence in Yamaguchi prefectural funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Saturday.

Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Pref., (Jiji Press)—A Yamaguchi prefectural funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was held Saturday in the western Japan prefecture, which includes Abe’s constituency.

The funeral, held in the city of Shimonoseki, was hosted by an organizing committee comprising the prefectural government and the prefectural chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party, as well as the Abe family and his support group.

Some 2,000 people from Yamaguchi and elsewhere attended the event, in which Abe’s wife, Akie, the chief mourner, made a speech.

“In his 67-year life, he met many people and was supported by them,” Akie said. As time goes by after his death, she said, “I’m beginning to feel it real and think that he’s really gone.”

She said she may lose her motivation after the prefectural funeral, but added, “My husband loved Yamaguchi, and I love it, too. So I hope to do something for this region.”

Abe was shot dead on July 8 while delivering a campaign speech ahead of a House of Councillors election. His state funeral was held on Sept. 27.

In the prefectural funeral, the altar was designed in the image of the prefecture’s natural environment, including mountain ranges and the surrounding sea, to show the former prime minister’s vision of an “open and beautiful Japan.”

A video summarizing Abe’s activities during his lifetime was played after a moment of silence.

Yamaguchi Governor Tsugumasa Muraoka, head of the funeral organizing committee, House of Representatives Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda and Teruo Ito, head of the Abe support group, gave eulogies.

The funeral attendees also included sitting cabinet members and lawmakers, as well as officials from the United States, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In addition to the funeral venue in Shimonoseki, flower-offering and other venues were set up at seven locations across the prefecture.

Abe was the sixth person to be given a prefectural funeral in Yamaguchi, after former prime ministers Eisaku Sato and Nobusuke Kishi, former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe and former Yamaguchi governors Masayuki Hashimoto and Tatsuo Tanaka.

“I have directly met (Abe) several times, and I felt he was very friendly and kind,” said Kikumi Sano, 71, who came to offer flowers near the funeral venue.

“It’s just right to send off Mr. Abe, who dedicated his life to working for his country and hometown, with a prefectural funeral,” a 31-year-old woman from the city of Fukuoka, west of Yamaguchi, said.

Meanwhile, a civic group opposing the amendment of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution held a rally in front of the Shimonoseki city office, with some 80 participants raising banners showing opposition to the prefectural funeral.

Referring to the Yamaguchi prefectural board of education’s request for prefecture-run schools to lower flags to half mast for Abe’s funeral, Yuzuru Kumano, 69, co-head of the group, said, “We must never allow them to force people to pay respect (to Abe) and tread on our freedom of thought.”