Amid great division, Japan bids farewell to Shinzo Abe at a state funeral

Amid great division, Japan bids farewell to Shinzo Abe at a state funeral Japan honored former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, in the first state funeral for a former prime minister in 55 years. The funeral raised division over the cost of organizing it, which amounted to 11.5 million dollars, at a time when ordinary citizens are suffering due to economic crises ravaging the country.  Tension reigned in Japan as the state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of the most divisive Japanese leaders in the country's history, took place on Tuesday.  The ceremony began at 2:00 pm local time (0500 GMT), when his widow, "Aki Ashes Abe", was carried to the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo, to the music of a military band and the salute of the guard of honor.  Tokyo was heavily guarded, and a large number of policemen in uniform were stationed around the funeral residence and the capital's main train stations.  The roads leading to the hall were closed all day, in addition to the closure of currency vaults in the main stations.  Hours before the ceremony began, dozens of Japanese with bouquets of flowers lined up at public stands at Kodanzaka Park.  Opponents of the tribute also organized rallies elsewhere in Tokyo and throughout the country.  The state funeral, the first of its kind since 1967, has cost the country $11.5 million to organize at a time when ordinary citizens are struggling with economic crises.  Opponents say taxpayers' money should be spent on more useful things, such as addressing the widening economic disparities caused by Abe's policies.  Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also been criticized for supporting the costly funeral.  Abe was assassinated last July, at an election rally, amid a state of growing controversy over him, the ruling Free Democratic Party that he headed, and his relationship with the extremist "Unification Church", which is accused of collecting huge donations from its followers who have been subjected to "brainwashing".  Kishida said the longest-serving leader in Japan's history "deserves this honor."  The government announced that the funeral was not intended to force anyone to honor Abe.  But most of the 47 provincial governments must fly at half-mast and observe a minute of silence.  Opponents say Kishida's unilateral decision without Parliament's approval is "undemocratic" and recalls how the prewar imperial government used state funerals to stir up nationalism.  After World War II, the funeral law was repealed. The only state funeral after the war for political leader, Shigeru Yoshida, in 1967, was criticized for its lack of legal foundations.

Japan honored former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, in the first state funeral for a former prime minister in 55 years. The funeral raised division over the cost of organizing it, which amounted to 11.5 million dollars, at a time when ordinary citizens are suffering due to economic crises ravaging the country.

Tension reigned in Japan as the state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of the most divisive Japanese leaders in the country's history, took place on Tuesday.

The ceremony began at 2:00 pm local time (0500 GMT), when his widow, "Aki Ashes Abe", was carried to the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo, to the music of a military band and the salute of the guard of honor.

Tokyo was heavily guarded, and a large number of policemen in uniform were stationed around the funeral residence and the capital's main train stations.

The roads leading to the hall were closed all day, in addition to the closure of currency vaults in the main stations.

Hours before the ceremony began, dozens of Japanese with bouquets of flowers lined up at public stands at Kodanzaka Park.

Opponents of the tribute also organized rallies elsewhere in Tokyo and throughout the country.

The state funeral, the first of its kind since 1967, has cost the country $11.5 million to organize at a time when ordinary citizens are struggling with economic crises.

Opponents say taxpayers' money should be spent on more useful things, such as addressing the widening economic disparities caused by Abe's policies.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also been criticized for supporting the costly funeral.

Abe was assassinated last July, at an election rally, amid a state of growing controversy over him, the ruling Free Democratic Party that he headed, and his relationship with the extremist "Unification Church", which is accused of collecting huge donations from its followers who have been subjected to "brainwashing".

Kishida said the longest-serving leader in Japan's history "deserves this honor."

The government announced that the funeral was not intended to force anyone to honor Abe.

But most of the 47 provincial governments must fly at half-mast and observe a minute of silence.

Opponents say Kishida's unilateral decision without Parliament's approval is "undemocratic" and recalls how the prewar imperial government used state funerals to stir up nationalism.

After World War II, the funeral law was repealed. The only state funeral after the war for political leader, Shigeru Yoshida, in 1967, was criticized for its lack of legal foundations.
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