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Next week, Japan is scheduled to hold a state funeral for Abe.
Why did the government defy past precedent and push for a state funeral — a national ceremony generally reserved for imperial family members — and why are the public and opposition parties so opposed?
What is the argument for holding a state funeral?
During a parliamentary debate on Sept. 8, Kishida provided four principal reasons behind his Cabinet’s decision to honor Abe with a state funeral:
- Having served for two terms over a combined period of eight years and eight months, Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in the postwar era.
- In the field of diplomacy, Abe had strengthened the U.S.-Japan alliance and aided the country’s economic recovery following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
- Condolences had arrived from various countries across the world, and the state funeral would serve as a sign of respect for the international reverence paid to Japan in memory of Abe, while also offering Japanese people across the country the chance to express their appreciation for his contribution as a political figure.
- The former prime minister was killed while on the campaign trail in the buildup to an election — the “foundation of our democracy” — and therefore, in order to “resolutely defend that democracy,” it is appropriate to stage a state funeral.
How will Abe be publicly mourned?
The event represents the second state funeral for a political figure in Japan’s postwar history, following the 1967 state funeral for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida — considered by many to have been one of the main architects of Japan’s postwar recovery.
While Yoshida’s funeral saw the government request that agencies, ministries, public organizations and boards of education fly the national flag as an act of condolence and that the public also join in with acts of mourning, there will be no such requests to the public or organizations at the regional level as part of the state funeral for Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during the parliamentary session.
“In order to avoid any misunderstanding, we want to clarify that we will not force each and every citizen to engage in an expression of mourning,” he said.