Why Japan is angry about a state funeral for Shinzo Abe

TOKYO – Almost three months later Shinzo AbeJapan’s most influential and longest-serving prime minister, is shot down in broad daylight At the time of the campaign’s halt, his death was still reverberating, albeit in a way few could have predicted.

The fury sparked by the assassination attempt was not directed at the killer, his ability to build and deploy firearms in a country where guns are highly restricted, or security details that did not protect Mr. Abe. Instead, public anger has turned toward the slain leader’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party and plans to hold a state funeral for him next week.

Fumio Kishidaincumbent prime minister, is suffering its worst approval ratings since he became the party’s leader last fall. Any sense of public mourning seemed to have faded as thousands of protesters took to the streets or signed petitions protesting the state funeral, complaining that the ceremony was a waste of public money and had unilaterally imposed on the country by Mr. Kishida and his cabinet. .

Mr. Abe’s assassination has also sparked a wave of nasty revelations about ties between ruling party politicians and a marginalized religious group. Tetsuya Yamagami, the man accused of killing Mr. Abe, wrote before shooting out of anger Unity Church – a corporation based in Korea with significant legal operations and entanglements in Japan – and their involvement in national politics.

And perhaps the biggest turning point, Mr. Yamagami, without criticism, resonated deeply among the Japanese public with his story. For weeks, Japan’s often-silent media outlets have delved into church business in Japan and the connections between politicians and a group that allegedly hunts down vulnerable people. hurt, including Mr. Yamagami’s mother, for financial gain.

With hundreds of international dignitaries set to descend on Tokyo for a state funeral on Tuesday – the first for a Japanese prime minister in 55 years – the backlash has also turned into a referendum. for Mr. Abe almost eight years in a row in power. While Mr. Abe has been largely criticized on the global stage, he has been more divisive at home, and opponents of his right-wing policies are now raising numerous grievances about his reign. .

Azumi Tamura, an associate professor of sociology at Shiga University, says that critics of the state funeral believe it will falsely raise a politician involved in some controversial decision and Scandalincluding allegations that his government inappropriately favored political friends and mishandled the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now people think ‘why didn’t more people get mad at the time?’, she said. “These are issues that should have dragged his government down, but they didn’t.”

While voters may continue to keep Abe’s party in power in the name of stability, they are voicing criticism of his actions in life by opposing efforts to honor him in his death.

At a protest against the funeral on Monday, thousands gathered at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo and raised multicolored flags representing a range of causes: women’s empowerment, disability rights, LGBTQ allegiance, and opposition to US nuclear power or military bases.

Shuhei Sato, 42, who stood out in the rain, said: “I think it’s important that we all stay together like this and express our feelings. “What Abe has done, what he has represented, all the people he has hurt – that is not okay.”

Internationally, Mr. Abe won praise for his early success in kickstarting Japan’s rich economy, when he hosted President Barack Obama in First visit of US president to Hiroshima and his handle adroit of a tolerant President Donald J. Trump. He also helped hold each other one extensive multinational trade agreements intended as a bulwark against China even after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from it.

“The most regrettable thing is that the funeral of a politician is still held while more than half of Japanese voters oppose holding this state funeral,” said Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party. The Constituent Assembly, the largest opposition party, said at a press conference. last week. Some media polls show that more than 60 percent of the public opposes funerals.

Even more damaging were the continued revelations of widespread connections between the Unification Church – which Mr. Yamagami said had raised nearly $1 million from his mother – and the Liberal Democratic Party.

So far, the party has announced that nearly half of the 379 Liberal Democrats in Congress have acknowledged ties to the Unification Church, from send congratulatory messages to church-affiliated organizations to appear at church conventions.

Jeffrey J. Hall, a professor at Kanda International University who studies Japanese politics, said: “The assassination is directly responsible for unraveling the dark side of cooperation between the Unification Church and LDP.

Tamaki Kawasaki, a journalist who has been closely monitoring the public’s reaction to Mr. Abe’s death.

Over the past several decades, stagnant growth and growing inequality – partly due to Mr. Abe’s economic policies – have created a generation “with a strong sense that they are victims”. Mrs. Kawasaki said.

Online, a group of women whom Ms. Kawasaki calls the “Yamagami Girls” have posted about Mr. Yamagami’s looks and the intelligence they say he displays on his Twitter account. According to Mr. Yamagami’s uncle, the wise men removed his guards with care packages, who reluctantly received them at his home.

Even a biopic about Mr. Yamagami is in the works. Masao Adachi, a film director and former radical leftist, said he plans to screen the film in a limited number of art-house cinemas on the day of Mr. Abe’s funeral before releasing the full version nationwide. early next year.

Attention to the Unification Church also falls on the ruling party’s long association with another group of religiously supported politicians.

Komeito, a party originally founded by Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist movement, has been a partner in the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party since 1999. Members of Soka Gakkai campaigned for Komeito candidates. and provide a block of votes that the Liberal Democrats can count on to back them. government.

“There was definitely a violent incident when everything was exposed,” said Levi McLaughlin, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at North Carolina State University who specializes in Japan. “Soka Gakkai has been the subject of this kind of criticism for decades.”

Daisaku Hiraki, a Komeito member of the Senate, said a big difference in the Unification Church case is that the connections are not of public interest.

“Right now the public is turning critical eyes on the LDP and the Unification Church because people say we don’t know about the relationship between the two organizations,” Mr. Hiraki said in an interview at the office. With Soka Gakkai and Komeito, he said, “the relationship is very transparent.”

But even if the public has found its voice in opposition to the national mourning, a political transition will be unlikely, said Shigeru Ishiba, a prominent Liberal Democratic Party member in Parliament who narrowly defeated Mr. Abe in the 2012 party leadership contest.

“Mr. Kishida’s approval rating is going down, but support for the opposition parties has not yet increased,” he said. “The public is upset. They are uncertain. I guess they are just confused. do not know what to do “.

Protest organizers said they hoped that the public would be trusted.

Nahoko Hishiyama, 33, organizer of the massive Yoyogi Park rally and secretary-general of a grassroots organization that opposes Mr. Abe’s proposal to amend the pacifist Constitution, said the Activists can target municipal and provincial elections to put pressure on the national government.

“The Japanese,” she said, “have to think of themselves as people who, if they speak up, can change everything.”

Hikari Hida and Hisako Ueno contribution report.

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