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Hundreds call for ex-Japanese leader’s funeral to be canceled

TOKYO– Several hundred protesters called for the cancellation of the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they shouted slogans and waved banners in a Tokyo park on Friday.

“Abe’s politics supported the war,” said protester Mayumi Ishida, noting that Abe constantly sought to increase defense spending. Like others at the protest, Ishida said he feared Abe’s views heralded a throwback to the days of Japanese militarism before World War II.

Abe, who was assassinated in July, was Japan’s longest serving leader and one of the most controversial of the post-war period due to his revisionist view of war history, his support for a more strong and of what critics call an autocratic approach and cronyism.

Opposition to state funerals has also grown due to politicians’ close ties to the Unification Church. Social media posts attributed to the suspect in Abe’s murder show he accused the church of ruining his life, and police say he targeted Abe over his ties to the organization.

The government’s plan to hold his state funeral on Tuesday has galvanized public opposition against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan for most of the post-war period.

Demonstrations and marches against the state funeral erupted across the country, drawing hundreds of people. Earlier this week, a man set himself on fire near the prime minister’s residence in what was described as a suicide attempt in protest at the funeral.

Yoshiko Kamata, a part-time worker at a convenience store, acknowledged the state funeral couldn’t be stopped, but it was a good opportunity to get her message across that Abe has never been with ordinary people.

“We want to show where we are,” she said, noting that dictators were invited to state funerals. “Just because he’s dead, we’re not going to forgive Abe.”

State funerals in Japan have historically been reserved for the emperor. The decision to hold one for Abe was taken by the Cabinet and was not approved by Parliament. Some groups of lawyers have challenged its legality.

The official public tab for the funeral is around 1.7 billion yen ($12 million), but experts note that hidden costs such as security add up to the total. The police were present en masse during the demonstration on Friday.

Some politicians announced they would skip the funeral, including ruling party lawmaker Seiichiro Murakami, a former minister, who said he had failed to win public support.

Coincidentally, Abe’s state funeral drew many comparisons to Queen Elizabeth II’s recent state funeral in Britain.

Graduate student Daiki Kikuchi, sipping a beer in a British pub in Tokyo while watching the Queen’s funeral, couldn’t help but draw a contrast.

“I feel British culture is looking at that, and there’s a royal family that people love,” he said. “But he’s not a king.”


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter

ABC News

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