Shinzo Abe State Funeral: 1000 soldiers to perform ceremonial duties
Tokyo: Japan is bidding farewell to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed while on the campaign trail in July, with a rare state funeral that has deeply split the nation.
Some 4,000 mourners — including United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — are attending Tuesday’s ceremony for Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. The event began at 2pm local time (05:00 GMT) with Japan’s Self Defense Forces firing 19 shots in honour of the late prime minister as his wife, Akie Abe, carried his ashes into Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan hall.
At a nearby park, hundreds of Japanese people have been offering floral tributes to Abe since early in the morning.
But the event, which is costing taxpayers some $11.5m, as well as revelations about ties between Abe, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the South Korean Unification Church, has prompted a huge public outcry in Japan.
Critics consider the religious group a “predatory cult” responsible for forcibly extracting exorbitant donations from its followers in Japan.
Up to 1,000 soldiers will perform ceremonial duties with a military honour guard firing 19 blank rounds from a cannon to salute the former PM.
The state funeral has begun as thousands are seated in the arena. A military band played a dirge as senior Japanese dignitaries walked in.