Home / News / World /  Japan: Why Shinzo Abe's state funeral has become lightning rod for public anger

East Asia's Japan is set to observe the state funeral of their longest running Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 27 September. However, the governmental authorities in Japan has been facing severe criticism for what is being understood will be an expensive ceremony. 

Several reports have suggested that Shinzo Abe's state funeral might cost more than the recently conducted state funeral of Britain's longest ruling monarch Queen Elizabeth II. 

Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died on 8 July after he was shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election.  His funeral was held soon after, but the cabinet decided that a state funeral will be held on 27 September at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo.

"We made this decision, as has been said before, due to Abe's record as the longest-serving prime minister, during which he exerted leadership skills distinctive from others and bore heavy responsibility for dealing with a number of serious domestic and international issues," chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno had said. 

It is being reported that Abe's funeral is costing the nation 1.66 billion wen, whereas Queen Elizabeth II's funeral had about 1.3 billion yen. Notably, Japan’s last fully state-funded funeral for a prime minister was for Shigeru Yoshida in 1967. Subsequent ones have been paid for by both the state and the LDP.

Shinzo Abe state funeral cost

Reports have suggested that the Japanese government is shelling out a whopping 1.66 billion yen on the event. The contract to organise Abe's funeral has been handed over to Tokyo-based event organiser Murayama.

The report on Guardian stated that the Japanese government had initially put up an estimated cost of the state funeral at 250 million yen. Chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, has said that some 800 million yen is estimated to be spent on the policing of the event while hosting the dignitaries is expected to cost 600 million yen.

He had further said that the bill for the state funeral could reach up to 1.7 billion yen. Organisers are expecting more than 6,000 guests to attend the ceremony at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo, including Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Emmanuel Macron and, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Kyodo news agency. About 50 of the 190 overseas delegations will include “head of state-level" VIPs, Guardian quoted Matsuno.

Why are people opposed to Abe's funeral

Opposition has largely been fuelled by revelations of links Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had to the Unification Church, which became widely known after he was gunned down on the campaign trail in July.

The suspect in the shooting accused Abe of promoting the group, which critics call a cult due to its mass weddings and aggressive fund-raising tactics. The suspect said the church had impoverished his family, according to police.

Further, the rising cost of the funeral, which the government estimates at 1.65 billion yen ($11.5 million), has added fuel to the fire at a time of economic hardship for many.

The public funded funeral of Shinzo Abe has attracted criticism from Japan's citizen. According to Guardian, the government has come under pressure to cancel the ceremony, with opinion polls showing that a majority of voters oppose it due to the cost to the taxpayer and revelations about ruling party politicians’ ties to the Unification church.

In protest, earlier this week, a man had set himself on fire near the office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida while opposing the plans to hold a state funeral for Shinzo Abe.

Civic groups also submitted a petition of 400,000 signatures calling for the cancellation of the ceremony, while last week an estimated 4,000 people demonstrated against the event outside parliament.

The citizen of Japan has also expressed disappointment over the fact that Japan spent $13 billion on the Tokyo Olympics, which was almost double the budget estimated for the event.

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