Japan prepared to bid farewell to Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving premier who dominated Japanese politics for decades before being gunned down at a campaign event this week. By early morning, long lines of people dressed in black, mixed with others in casual clothing and carrying backpacks, had formed outside central Tokyo’s Zojoji temple, the location of Abe’s funeral. The ceremony, which begins at 1:00 p.m. (0400 GMT), is only open to family and close friends.
Hundreds of mourners filed into the temple on Monday evening in the steamy summer heat to show their support to Abe, who died at the age of 67. His death on Friday by an unemployed person wielding a homemade gun stunned a country where both gun crime and political unrest are on the rise.
Following the funeral, the hearse carrying Abe’s body will pass through downtown Tokyo, where Japanese flags will be draped in black mourning ribbons.
The procession will pass through Nagatacho, the capital’s political heart, and include landmarks such as the parliament building, which Abe first entered as a young lawmaker in 1993, and the office from which he led the country in two stints as prime minister, the longest from 2012 to 2020.
International leaders have paid their respects, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken making an unannounced stop on Monday morning to pay his respects. On a private visit as a family friend, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Taiwan Vice President William Lai also joined mourners.
After visiting the Japanese embassy in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences in a video posted on the country’s official presidential Twitter account.
“I recall all of our meetings and collaborations, especially during my 2019 visit to Japan… I’ve recently lost a friend “Macron stated solemnly.
“With great courage and audacity, he served his country.”
The suspect, identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, believed Abe had encouraged a religious group to which his mother had made a “huge donation,” according to Kyodo news agency, citing investigators.