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Thousands Flood Zojoji Temple and the Streets of Tokyo to Say Farewell to Shinzo Abe

Japanese from all walks of life gathered to pay their final respects to Shinzo Abe on July 12, some waiting patiently in the streets for his hearse to pass.



Thousands of people visited Zojoji on July 12 to leave flowers for Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan.

It was a muggy overcast day when Shinzo Abe’s funeral took place on July 12 in Tokyo. 

The ceremony took place at Zojoji Temple, in Minato Ward at 1 PM, to commemorate the longest-serving Prime Minister of Japan. 

Abe’s widow, Akie, presided over the funeral with family members, colleagues, and people from the business world or from abroad, for a total of approximately 1,000 people, NHK reported. 

Before the ceremony, the temple was open from 9 AM to members of the public who wanted to pay their respects. 

When JAPAN Forward arrived on the scene at about noon, there were hundreds of people queuing all around the block, waiting to offer flowers and say their farewells. 

When the temple stopped accepting people who wanted to join the queue at 1 PM, one woman burst into tears. “I wanted to give my last goodbye, so I am really sad I couldn’t make it,” she mourned. 

Zojoji Temple, Minato Ward, Tokyo (July 12).

Japan’s ‘Treasure’ 

Strikingly, thousands of people of all ages were braving the 70% humidity and summer heat at Zojoji. Among them were office employees who looked like they had come straight from their desks, grandmothers with their grandchildren, and groups of teenage students in their uniforms. 

There was even a small pile of flowers that started forming on the left side of the main grounds of Zojoji temple. Among the flowers, there was also a cucumber, as in the summer period of Obon it's customary to display fruit and vegetables for the souls of the dead. 

The cucumber had a note dedicated to “Abe, whom I really liked” (Daisukina Abe-san 大好きな安倍さん). 

“He was a really approachable prime minister,” said a middle-aged woman who preferred to stay anonymous, who said had interacted with Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. 

Looking back to the day the former prime minister was assassinated in Nara, the woman said that she was “in complete shock, I felt sadness and anger.” That is why, she said, “When I heard that there was an opportunity to leave flowers, I really wanted to come here.” 

Kazuko Arai, a young professional in her 20s, said she thought that “Abe was the treasure of Japan.” She described how she first started following him when she started her life as a company employee, just when COVID-19 hit. 

“I didn’t know much about him before then, but during COVID-19 I started watching the news, and I came to really respect him.” 

Talking about the future of leadership in Japan, she said: “I would like Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida to create a Japan that makes sure that Abe has not died in vain. I want him to carry on Abe’s political goals.” 

“We have lost a great politician, I really respected him,” said Junichi Kariya, a company employee in Tokyo, who was also at Zojoji. He said he planned to go afterward to the Liberal Democratic Party Headquarters in Nagatacho. 

Kariya said that while he always respected Abe, he became more of an admirer after the politician was elected as Prime Minister of Japan. 

“My impression was that he had a lot of pressure from different sides, but he did many things that made it possible for us [Japanese] to hold our heads up high. His accomplishments were great ones,” he said. 

He added an expression of concern about the Liberal Democratic party going forward, saying that he was not very optimistic about the Fumio Kishida administration. 

People gather in front of the National Diet to see the hearse with Shinzo Abe passing by on July 12.

Nagatacho Says Goodbye

Following the ceremony at Zojoji, a hearse carrying Mr Abe was driven through parts of Tokyo to figuratively allow a final goodbye from the places Abe had spent so much of his time working. 

As the vehicle passed by the Liberal Democratic Headquarters, we found many people there leaving flowers at a makeshift altar dedicated to Mr Abe’s memory.  

Next, the hearse passed in front of the National Diet and other government buildings. One young woman on the sidewalk was sporting the sign “Thank you Prime Minister Abe (Arigatou Abe Sori, ありがとう安倍総理,)” written in bright pink letters. 

The Prime Minister’s office, where Abe served eight years and eight months, or 3,188 days, as the top elected leader of Japan, was the next destination. There, about 100 members of the National Diet gathered in the garden to bow as the car passed. Among them were members of the current government, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 

Under heavy police protection and with helicopters flying above, hundreds of people gathered along the route where the car was passing in Nagatacho. 

“I wasn’t necessarily in favor of everything that Abe did. And at the end of his administration there were a couple of things that I didn’t agree with,” said a woman in her sixties, who also preferred to stay anonymous as she stood on the corner near the National Diet Building. 

“But” she continued, “if one is in power for so long, it’s bound to be the case that some things go well and some don’t, I think we need to look at the big picture.” 

Following the day’s proceedings, a Tweet by LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi attracted attention online for the powerful description of her grief on the day: 

“Shinzo Abe’s funeral just ended. Since last Friday’s events, I haven’t been able to sleep, I vomit my meals, I am experiencing a level of grief I haven’t even felt when my parents passed away. If starting today I don’t get on with it, I would feel like I need to apologize to Abe.” 


Author: Arielle Busetto