Shinzo Abe’s funeral was held yesterday at Zojoji, a centuries-old temple in the shadow of Tokyo Tower. Crowds lined the street in front of the temple to say a final farewell to the country’s longest-serving prime minister, who was shot and killed on Friday. My colleague Jun and I were among those standing in front of the main gate, built in 1622 and one of the few sections of the temple to survive wartime bombing.
The funeral was a private affair but queues of people had been coming to Zojoji all day to pay their respects. Schoolboys stood to watch this unexpected moment of history; a group of Taiwanese well-wishers carried flowers and flags; news crews were primed, with cameras pointed at the exit and helicopters circling overhead. As the hearse left the temple, the crowd burst into applause and shouts of “Thank you” could be heard all around. Abe’s wife, Akie, sat in the front seat as the car was driven through Tokyo en route to Kirigaya funeral hall, passing the National Diet, prime minister’s office and party headquarters on the way.
Shinzo Abe’s political seat was in Yamaguchi in the west of Japan but his Tokyo home was in Tomigaya, just minutes from the Monocle office. Abe had opted not to move into the grand official residence during his second period in office from 2012 to 2020, preferring to stay in his own apartment. He was a modest presence in the neighbourhood, in spite of his political stature. Even in office, his unobtrusive security was a testament to Japan’s remarkable sense of safety. It would be painful if that openness were to be lost as a result of this one act of violence.
Fiona Wilson is Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief.