Shinzo Abe, assassinated in July, was Japan’s longest serving leader but his views for a stronger military and what some call cronyism have been unpopular among a section of the population.

Protests and marches opposing the state funeral have been popping up nationwide, drawing hundreds of people and prompting law enforcement officials to keep a strict vigil.
Protests and marches opposing the state funeral have been popping up nationwide, drawing hundreds of people and prompting law enforcement officials to keep a strict vigil. (AFP)

Several hundred protesters have demanded the cancellation of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral as they shouted slogans and waved banners in a Tokyo park.

“Abe’s policies supported war,” demonstrator Mayumi Ishida said on Friday, noting Abe consistently sought to raise defence spending. Like others at the protest, Ishida said he feared Abe’s views heralded a step back to the days of Japan’s militarism preceding World War II.

Abe, who was assassinated in July, was Japan’s longest serving leader and one of its most influential leaders in the postwar period. But his revisionist view of wartime history, support for a stronger military, and what some call an autocratic approach and cronyism have drawn criticism.

Opposition to the state funeral has also grown because of politicians’ close ties to the Unification Church. 

Social media posts attributed to the suspect in Abe's assassination show he blamed the church for ruining his life, and police say he targeted Abe over his links to the organisation.

The government plan for his state funeral to be held on Tuesday has galvanised public opposition against the ruling Liberal Democratic party, which has ruled Japan for nearly the entire postwar period.

Protests and marches opposing the state funeral have been popping up nationwide, drawing hundreds of people. Earlier this week, a man set himself on fire by the prime minister’s residence in what was described as a suicide attempt in apparent protest of the funeral.

READ MORE: Japanese man sets himself on fire near PM Kishida's office

'He isn't a king'

State funerals in Japan have been historically reserved for the emperor. The decision to hold one for Abe was made by the Cabinet and did not go through parliamentary approval. Some lawyers’ groups have challenged its legality.

The official public tab for the funeral is about 1.7 billion yen ($12 million), but experts note hidden costs such as security add to the total. 

Police were out in droves at Friday’s protest.

Some politicians have announced they will skip the funeral, including ruling party lawmaker Seiichiro Murakami, a former minister, who said it had failed to win public backing.

By coincidence, Abe’s state funeral has drawn ample comparisons to the recent state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in Britain.

“I feel the British culture watching this, and there is a royal family that people love,” graduate student Daiki Kikuchi said in Tokyo. “But he isn’t a king.”

READ MORE: Japan announces state funeral for Shinzo Abe on September 27

Source: AP