Connect with us

Politics & Security

A Nation In Shock: The Day After Shinzo Abe’s Assassination, Questions Remain

The front pages of Japan’s national newspapers on July 9 make clear just how difficult it is for the nation as it grapples with the aftermath of Abe’s death.



A family pays their respects to Shinzo Abe in Nara on the morning of July 9. (Sankei)

As Japan woke up on July 9, the news that Shinzo Abe had died after being shot by a gunman in Nara the day before was still hanging in the air. 

In Tokyo, the aftermath of the incident felt very real. In the early afternoon of July 9, a hearse reported to be carrying the body of Shinzo Abe arrived at his home in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, where the politician lived with his wife Akie. 

Throughout the day, several of Abe’s former colleagues from the Liberal Democratic Party visited his home to pay their respects, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, close collaborator Yoshihide Suga, LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi, former Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, and the popular former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.  

A wake for Shinzo Abe will be held on July 11, with a funeral for those close to him to take place on July 12, The Sankei Shimbun reported. 

Between July 8 and 9, hundreds of people visited the now infamous site of Abe’s assassination, near Yamato-Saidaiji Station on the Kintetsu Railway line in Nara Prefecture, to show their respects 

Many of those onsite in Nara spoke to The Sankei Shimbun reporters and expressed their shock and disbelief at the chain and events. 

“I thought that he would build Japan again,” said Natsumi Niwa, 50 years old. “ I wanted to come here at the end and convey my feelings. I really liked him, so it’s an incredibly sad day,” said Niwa. 

Osaka resident Kazuo Nasu, 55, heard about the assassination and started crying. He was so shaken he couldn’t watch the news at all. He later came to drop flowers at the scene of the crime. 

“Abe still had power left in him, and I thought that Japan was a safe country,” he said.

Police protection strengthened on July 9 after the assassination of Shinzo Abe.

Was Police Security Enough? 

As Mr Nasu pointed out, the big question that shocked many was the low level of security at the campaign rally where Abe was shot.

Many local media reports and available video footage of that morning suggest that shortly before Abe was shot, there were no police standing right behind him. This theory still needs to be confirmed, however.

Providing background on the evening of July 8, three policemen of the Nara Prefecture Police answered questions in a press conference, saying that an investigation was underway. 

Tomoaki Onizuka, Nara Prefecture Police Chief. (July 9).

In another emergency press conference on the evening of July 9, the head of the Nara Prefecture Police admitted the “seriousness” of the incident, and “it was impossible to deny that something went wrong during the police protection [of Shinzo Abe].” 

He refrained from saying what exactly was the problem, as an investigation is still underway. 

Nara Prefecture Police Chief Tomoaki Onizuka confirmed reports that it was only decided the day before the rally that Abe would be visiting Nara city, but that he had “overseen the security plan” and given his approval. 

“It is our job as policemen to predict risk in all possible scenarios,” said the Nara Police Chief. 

Images of Shinzo Abe being taken away in an ambulance flash in Tokyo on July 8.

A Shock to Japan 

The shock among domestic newspaper companies was just as palpable on the morning of July 9. “Don’t allow the destruction of democracy,” read editorials in the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun, in almost identical words. 

In stronger words, The Sankei Shimbun denounced a “Despicable act of terrorism,” and called on investigators to exclude a terrorist-related motive. 

Almost all editorials asked the question of whether different behavior by the police could have avoided this tragedy. 

A lot of the media scrutiny on July 9 was still focused on the motive of the suspect Tetsuya Yamagami, including whether he was part of an organization or a “lone wolf,” as an article on the second page of Mainichi put it.


An opinion piece titled: “Where is this safe country?” by Deputy Manager Ichiro Sakaguchi was found on one of the last pages of Nihon Keizai Shimbun

Yomiuri Shimbun’s editorial director Riichiro Maeki in his front-page column argues: “It’s a national failure that the myth of safe Japan is being shaken at its core.” 

A Return to Past Violence? 

The episode of Abe being shot seems to have brought back memories of other politicians being attacked during political rallies in Japan’s past. In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, was assassinated at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo by a right-wing 17-year old. 

A couple of hours after Shinzo Abe’s shooting was reported, a journalist asked Prime Minister Kishida “are we returning to the pre-World War II level of violence?” 

He was referring to the period between the world wars, which saw a rise in violence against Japanese politicians. 

The most notable episode was in 1921, when Prime Minister Takashi Hara, known as the first commoner to become the leader of Japan, was stabbed to death at Tokyo Station by a young railway worker. 

Yet aside from those troubled times, violence has been very sparse. In 2020 there were nine deaths by firearms in the entire country of Japan. This has contributed to the feeling of safety, or as Yomiuri Shimbun’s Maeki put it in his article “It was a pride we would broadcast to the world that anyone could freely and safely hold a political rally, anywhere [in Japan].” 

In fact, The Sankei Shimbun published an article in April 2022 regarding a Sapporo court decision involving two men who were removed from the scene of a political rally attended by Shinzo Abe. The court found in favor of the men, citing “freedom of speech.”   

As Kanagawa governor Yuji Kuroiwa said on July 8, election campaigning means wading through the crowds and capturing the hearts and minds of people. 

In fact, an article on the third page of the Mainichi Shimbun explained that the interaction between candidates and the crowd is the most stressful aspect of the job. 


The Mainichi article continues noting that SP (Special Police who protect top politicians like Shinzo Abe) would prefer for candidates to avoid shaking hands unnecessarily with the people at rallies. However, as Governor Kuroiwa pointed out, there are many politicians that link how much they interact with the crowd with electoral success. 

Bulletin board along the streets are ready for the posters of individual candidates as the announcement of the Upper House election is made on June 21. (Shibuya Ward, Tokyo)

What’s Next? 

Shinzo Abe was a politician with incredible stature, both at home and abroad, and it’s not surprising that a flood of coverage surged in the world. 

He was head of the largest faction in the Liberal Democratic Party, with 94 members. 

Other factions, like the one of current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida belongs to, frequently relied on support from Shinzo Abe to reach a consensus within the party on policy issues. 

Abe’s influence was pervasive even with the opposition. As the news of Shinzo Abe’s shooting started circulating on July 8, many opposition members also interrupted their campaigns as a form of respect. 

The status of the Upper House elections was briefly in limbo, until Prime Minister Kishida confirmed on the evening of July 8 that the exercise in democracy should continue as scheduled. Upper House candidates and supporters, including Fumio Kishida, went around Japan to launch a last appeal on July 9 before the Sunday election. 

A total of 125 seats are up for grabs in the election — half of the 248-member Upper House, as well as one to fill a vacancy in the other uncontested half. 


Author: Arielle Busetto

Our Partners