Japan Reflects on the Legacy of Shinzo Abe, One Year After his Assassination
OKYO, July 8 (Reuters) – Japan marked a solemn anniversary on Saturday, commemorating one year since the tragic assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe. The shocking incident occurred during an election speech and was carried out by a disgruntled individual who held grievances against Abe’s association with the Unification Church. The nation, unaccustomed to such gun violence, was deeply shaken.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, along with other high-ranking officials and lawmakers, joined Abe’s widow, Akie, for a private memorial service held at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Following the conclusion of the service, the public was invited to offer flowers as a gesture of remembrance.
Among those paying their respects was Tsuu Ogawa, a 49-year-old hotel worker, who coincidentally shares her birthday with the day of Abe’s assassination. Ogawa expressed her shock at such a horrific event unfolding in Japan and fervently hoped that such a tragedy would never recur.
Shinzo Abe is remembered for his commitment to implementing economic policies aimed at ending years of deflation. His strategies included aggressive monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and deregulation. However, critics argued that these measures also contributed to the widening income gap within the country.
Additionally, Abe was an advocate for an assertive defense policy, which entailed increased military expenditure and a reinterpretation of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. This reinterpretation allowed Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat for the first time since World War Two.
“I will support politicians who continue the work initiated by Abe’s administration,” stated Atsuhiro Ueda, a 35-year-old office worker, as he joined others in paying homage at the temple.
Despite distancing himself from Abe’s economic agenda, Kishida has remained steadfast in maintaining his predecessor’s hawkish policies. Last year, he announced Japan’s intention to double its defense spending.
The aftermath of Abe’s tragic death witnessed a public backlash against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) when the close ties between the party and the Unification Church were brought to light. Tetsuya Yamagami, a 42-year-old individual who has yet to stand trial, is suspected of using a homemade firearm to carry out the assassination. Yamagami held the Unification Church responsible for his mother’s financial difficulties, as revealed in his social media posts prior to the shooting.
The Unification Church, known worldwide for its mass weddings, has faced accusations of causing financial hardships by seeking substantial donations from its followers. The revelations of Abe’s and other LDP lawmakers’ connections to the church, including accepting donations and utilizing church members as election campaign workers, led to high-level resignations, including that of Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa.
Although Kishida was not implicated in the scandal, his public support waned in the aftermath.
In April, concerns about political violence resurfaced when an individual threw what appeared to be a pipe bomb at Kishida during a public appearance in western Japan. Fortunately, the prime minister escaped unharmed.