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Shinzo Abe Two Years Later, a Strong and Enduring Legacy 

Two years after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated, people and politicians from Japan and Taiwan are recalling his legacy and vowing to carry on.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a gathering to carry on the aspirations of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and calls for the need for political reform. July 7, 2024 (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

On July 8, 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was gunned down in broad daylight during a stump speech in Nara Prefecture. Two years later, this writer still finds it difficult to believe it happened. It was as though the world had momentarily slipped back in time to Sarajevo in June 1914 or Dallas, Texas in November 1963. How could this have happened in Japan, a country largely free from the political radicalism and division that plague so many other countries?

Abe left behind a legacy. He revitalized Japan's stock market and led the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States withdrew. In addition, he implemented reforms to increase foreign investment and corporate transparency in Japan. As prime minister, he strove for constitutional reform and to repatriate the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

Beyond his reforms and achievements, though, how is he remembered today? How are people honoring the memory of Japan's longest-serving prime minister as the second anniversary of his passing approaches?

An Unwavering Spirit

Some members of Abe's political party, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, arranged special events to commemorate his passing. On July 2, a voluntary group of LDP members from Nara Prefecture announced set up a flower-offering stand on July 7 and 8. It is located at Mikasa Reien cemetery in Nara City, where a memorial monument to Abe stands. This year, the group will erect a stone monument honoring Abe's accomplishments adjacent to the existing structure. Flower offerings are being accepted from 10 AM to 5 PM.

In July 2023, the group erected the commemorative monument at Mikasa Reien. The cemetery is situated approximately five kilometers from Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station, where Abe was assassinated. Measuring approximately one meter in width and height, it features a plaque inscribed with the word Fudoshin (unwavering spirit). 

Fudoshin was a word that inspired Abe throughout his life. The group hopes to provide a chance for visitors to quietly reflect on Abe's life and legacy.

Memorial Service at Zozoji Temple

On June 30, the third memorial service for the late prime minister took place at Zozoji Temple in Shiba Park, Tokyo. Zozoji was also the venue for Abe's wake, funeral, and first-year memorial service. His wife, Akie Abe, close relatives, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida were among the attendees.

PM Kishida also participated in other commemorative gatherings in Tokyo. At a Tokyo hotel reception, he reminisced about serving as Chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council under Abe's second administration. He also pledged once again to uphold Abe's legacy.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga happily shows his mobile phone to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on March 31, 2018. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Former Prime Ministers Yoshihide Suga, who served as Chief Cabinet Secretary under Abe, and Yoshiro Mori were also present. According to sources, Suga praised Abe's economic policy, "Abenomics," for revitalizing Japan's economy.

Innovative Tributes

In addition to traditional services and memorials, Japanese individuals have found unconventional ways to honor the former premier.

Japanese comedian Biscuitty Sakata, known for impersonating former Abe, visited Abe's hometown of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on March 31 and April 1. There, he interacted with local residents and former supporters of Abe. Locals greeted Sakata, dressed up as Abe, with waves while others shared memories and some choked back tears.

Sakata's visits to places associated with Abe were part of his Abe Walk project. Following Abe's assassination, Sakata struggled to come to terms with his emotions and temporarily suspended his impersonation activities. However, after attending the state funeral, he decided to resume his Abe impersonations. "I decided I really didn't want to forget about Abe," he explains. Encouragement from Akie Abe also informed his decision.

'Who Abe Really Was'

On March 31, Sakata visited Shimonoseki City and held gatherings at the multifunctional guesthouse Uzu House and the commercial facility Karato Harete Yokocho. Akie Abe fully endorsed the events. 

Attendees reminisced about their encounters with Abe. "(Seeing you) brings back memories of shaking hands with him when he was younger," said one person. "It's almost like I'm meeting him again," remarked another. "It's surreal." Dressed as the former prime minister, Satake entertained participants by mimicking his gestures and mannerisms.

The next day, on April 1, Sataka paid his respects at the Abe family grave and declared his intention to continue his Abe impersonations to Ms Abe.

"Although Abe gets a lot of negative media coverage, walking through these places makes me realize how much he was loved," Sakata reflected. "I sense a desire in people not only to cope with the loss but also to reminisce about who Abe really was. His posters might have disappeared, but it's clear that Abe still resides in the people of Yamaguchi's (and Japan's) hearts."

On July 7, a memorial service took place at Choanji Temple in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Fourteen supporters gathered for the occasion.

The ceremony, organized by the women's division of a former Abe support group, began around 10 AM. Attendees paid their respects by offering incense before Abe's portrait and quietly joining their hands in prayer.

Two years after the assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe, a man places flowers at the memorial stand at a newly installed stone monument at Mikasa Cemetery in Nara City. July 7, 2024 (©Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

Taiwan's Homage

However, it is not only Japanese people and politicians who continue to pay their respects to Abe. On June 21, approximately 170 Taiwanese legislators and members of the Taiwan Friends of Abe Association visited his grave in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Mark Chen, Taiwan's former minister for foreign affairs, chairs the association. Under cloudy skies, they offered flowers at the grave, with some shedding tears as they quietly prayed for Abe's eternal peace. 

After the visit, Chen remarked during a luncheon that Abe's assertion, "A Taiwanese contingency is a Japan contingency," had deeply influenced him. He expressed a commitment to nurturing friendly relations between Taiwan and Japan based on mutual understanding during times of adversity. 

Many Taiwanese individuals and organizations have publicly expressed deep sorrow over Abe's death. Six months after his assassination, Hongmaogang Bao'an Temple in Fengshan District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, erected a bronze memorial statue in his honor. Crafted by Taiwanese sculptors Chou Jui-ming and Yeh Chin-cheng, the lifelike statue stands upon a pedestal engraved with "Taiwan's Eternal Friend," symbolizing Abe's significant role in strengthening Taiwan-Japan relations. 

Surrounding the statue is the newly named Garden of Remembrance, adorned with grass and cypress trees donated by a temple supporter. Adjacent to the statue is a painting of Mount Fuji, underscoring cultural ties between Japan and Taiwan.


Author: Daniel Manning