Shinzo Abe’s family to hold private wake after assassination

TOKYO — Relatives and distinguished guests gathered Monday to honor former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe at a private wake, traditionally held the night before a funeral here, as investigators probed the motives of the suspected gunman in the assassination of the former prime minister three days ago.

Monday’s tsuya, a ceremony to send off the dead, was a small event held at the Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo and was attended by former prime ministers and representatives of the emperor as well as family and a few American officials. A private funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, and larger ceremonies are expected at a later date in the capital and in Abe’s hometown in Yamaguchi prefecture. Plans for a state funeral have not been announced.

The killing of Abe, who stepped down from office in 2020 for health reasons, horrified a nation unaccustomed to gun violence. The 67-year-old former leader was attacked during a campaign event in Nara for upper house elections held over the weekend.

Kei Sato, the politician Abe was stumping for when he was shot and killed, was reelected in Sunday’s upper house election. He visited the memorial near the site of the shooting in Nara to deliver the news of his election victory.

The Japanese government announced Monday it would honor Abe with the nation’s highest decoration, the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, making him the fourth prime minister of postwar Japan to receive the honor.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel attended the wake. In Japan to discuss economic sanctions on Russia, Yellen entered an open hall at the mouth of the temple amid a throng of mourners mostly dressed in black suits and ties. Yellen expressed her condolences to the family and later extolled Abe’s focus on “women and womenomics,” with women making major advances in labor force participation under his tenure. She also said her work in Japan was in line with Abe’s support for the relationship between the two countries.

“The loss of Prime Minister Abe is shocking and profoundly sad for the world,” Yellen told reporters shortly after leaving the wake. “Being here in Japan, I’ve seen firsthand how much the Japanese people admire Abe. … There’s a profound sense of sorrow at his loss, which I share.”

On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled stop in Tokyo to offer solidarity and condolences to the Japanese people. The top US diplomat rerouted his itinerary after a trip to Thailand and Indonesia, where a gathering of the Group of 20 foreign ministers was jolted last week by the news of the assassination.

“I’m here because the United States and Japan are more than allies; we are friends. And when one friend is hurting, the other friend shows up,” Blinken told reporters after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “I’m really grateful to him for taking time to see us in this incredibly difficult time.”

Japan reels after the assassination of Shinzo Abe

Around the region, tributes for Abe have flowed. In Taiwan, people offered condolence messages at the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association office in Taipei, while Taiwanese flags at government buildings and public schools flew at half-staff. In Australia, the Sydney Opera House was lit up to resemble the Japanese flag.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin visited a memorial for Abe on Monday arranged by the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Other South Korean officials, including President Yoon Suk-yeol and national security adviser Kim Sung-han, were expected to pay tribute there.

The man accused of assassinating Abe, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami of Nara, told investigators he believed that the former prime minister was linked to a religious group he blamed for his mother’s financial difficulties.

Japanese media outlets, citing police sources, subsequently reported that Yamagami told investigators that his mother had donated money to the group. Yamagami told investigators that his mother had become bankrupt after the donations, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, which cited police sources. He said his family fell apart because of his mother’s obsession with the group, and he targeted Abe “out of resentment,” the newspaper reported. Police have not released the name of the group.

Abe’s ruling coalition secures big election win in Japan after his killing

At a news conference Monday, the head of the Japanese office of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, also known as the Unification Church, said that the man’s mother is a member and that she attends events about once a month. The Washington Post confirmed her membership with the organization on Sunday.

Tomihiro Tanaka, the official, declined to comment on whether the mother had given donations to the organization, citing the ongoing investigation. He said the group is prepared to cooperate with the police if asked. Any donations she made would have been in the 1990s, when she first joined, he said, and the organization was aware she ran into financial trouble starting in 2002.

Police have not yet identified the religious organization that Yamagami named as his motivation for the attack.

Abe, like many other world leaders including former president Donald Trump, appeared at Unification Church-related events as a paid speaker. Most recently, he spoke on a September 2021 program via video link.

Tanaka said that although Abe had participated in some events, the former prime minister was neither a member nor an adviser to the organization.

On Saturday, the Nara police chief acknowledged security lapses at the political rally where Abe was shot and pledged to identify and resolve the flaws.

Jeff Stein in Tokyo and John Hudson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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