The Japanese Imperial Family has joined thousands of mourners today at the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Crown Prince Akishino, 56, his wife Kiko and daughter Kako, 27, attended the ceremony in Tokyo today, where thousands paid their respects to the former prime minister.
Abe, 67, was murdered on July 8 while attending a campaign speech in Nara, a murder that shocked the world.
World leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, attended the ceremony.
Dressed in black, members of the Japanese Imperial Family came to pay their respects to Abe, who led the country from 2012 to 2020.
Crown Prince Akishino, his wife and youngest daughter attended the ceremony in Tokyo today, where thousands paid their respects to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Princess Kako, 27, Akishino’s youngest daughter, looked thoughtful as she accompanied her parents to the ceremony
Akishino, Kiko, Kako and other members of the Imperial family bowed their heads in silence during the funeral
Akishino, 56, looked gloomy as he approached the shrine to the late statesman.
His wife wore a black pearl necklace and a matching pair of earrings for the ceremony, which are considered a symbol of hope for wounded hearts.
The Emperor’s brother and his wife bowed their heads as a sign of respect for Abe’s ashes before going to their seats, where they stood with other members of the royal family.
He was accompanied by his youngest daughter Princess Kako, 27.
Abe’s widow, Akie Abe, in a black formal kimono, walked slowly into Budokan’s hall with an urn containing her husband’s ashes placed in a wooden box and wrapped in a purple cloth with gold stripes.
Crown Prince Akishino and his wife walked in front of the shrine where Abe’s ashes were deposited
Akishino and Kiko, who wore black and gray, brought flowers to the ceremony as a sign of respect for the dead
Soldiers in white uniforms took Abe’s ashes and placed them on a plinth filled with white and yellow chrysanthemum flowers and decorations.
Government, parliamentary and judicial representatives, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, will deliver condolences, followed by Akie Abe.
US Vice President Kamala Harris sat among dozens of foreign dignitaries and 4,300 in the third row, next to Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan.
Abe was cremated in July after a private funeral at a temple in Tokyo, days after he was murdered while delivering a campaign speech on a street in Nara, a city in western Japan.
Japan’s crown prince led other members of the imperial family to pay their respects to the former prime minister
In accordance with Japanese protocol, Princess Kiko kept a respectful distance as she walked behind her husband
The couple shared a moment of reflection in front of the shrine made of flowers that was made for Abe
Their daughter Princess Kako, who also wore black pearls as a sign of respect, followed her parents
Kishida says Japan’s longest-serving post-war political leader deserves a state funeral. But the undemocratic decision to give him the rare credit with Imperial ties, the costs and controversy over his and the ruling party’s ties to the ultra-conservative Unification Church have fueled controversy over the event.
Tokyo was under maximum security, with angry protests against the planned funeral. Hours before the ceremony, hundreds of people carrying bouquets of flowers lined up at public flower-laying stalls in nearby Kudanzaka Park. Their line stretched over several blocks.
Masayuki Aoki, a 70-year-old business owner, recalls his “fist punch” with Abe when he came to Yokohama, near his home, for campaigning just days before he was murdered.
Akie Abe, widow of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, wiped away tears at her husband’s state funeral
Japan’s Princess Nobuko of Mikasa also went to the Budokan Hall for the ceremony this morning
“I am emotionally attached to him and I have also supported the LDP,” he said. “I had to come and offer him flowers.”
Masae Kurokawa, 64, who also presented Abe with flowers, praised him as “a great figure who has brought Japan back to the international level.”
The government maintains that the ceremony is not intended to force anyone to honor Abe. Japan’s main opposition political parties will not attend the event, which critics say is a reminder of how pre-war imperialist governments used state funerals to fuel nationalism.
In what some see as an attempt to further justify the credit to Abe, Kishida this week met with visiting foreign leaders in what he calls “funeral diplomacy.”
The talks aim to strengthen ties as Japan faces regional and global challenges, including threats from China, Russia and North Korea.
Shinzo Abe will be buried in Japan today as the country holds a full state funeral for its longest-serving prime minister who was shot dead during a political rally in July.
Shinzo’s widow Akie Abe carries her husband’s ashes to his state funeral taking place in Tokyo today
Shinzo’s widow Akie Abe wipes tears as she sits next to family members at her husband’s state funeral – three months after he was shot dead by a hit man angry at his associations with a fringe religious group
He was due to meet about 40 foreign leaders through Wednesday, but no Group of Seven leaders is in attendance.
Kishida has been criticized for forcing the costly event and for mounting controversy over Abe and the ruling party’s decades-long close ties to the ultra-conservative Unification Church, accused of bringing in massive donations by brainwashing supporters.
Abe’s alleged killer is said to have told police he killed the politician because of his ties to the church; he said his mother was ruining his life by giving away the family’s money to the church.
“The fact that the close ties between the LDP and the Unification Church may have disrupted policy-making processes is seen by the Japanese people as a greater threat to democracy than the assassination of Abe,” wrote Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei. University, in a recent article.
Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church take root in Japan and is now seen as a key figure in the scandal. Opponents say holding a state funeral for Abe is tantamount to approving the ruling party’s ties to the Unification Church.
Japan’s former prime ministers, Junichiro Koizumi, left, and Yoshiro Mori, right, also attended the state funeral