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Many local Japan assemblies adopt statements urging ex-PM Abe's state funeral be canceled

The Nippon Budokan hall, where former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's state funeral will be held, is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward in this June 2022 photo. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- A flurry of local assemblies in Japan have passed statements calling for the cancellation of the state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, amid sharply divided public opinion over the ceremony slated for Sept. 27.

    The upcoming state funeral will be the first of its kind for a former Japanese prime minister since the one for ex-PM Shigeru Yoshida in 1967. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hastily announced a plan to hold Abe's state funeral just six days after Abe was gunned down during a stump speech, without putting the matter before the Diet.

    In Kochi Prefecture in western Japan, the Otsuki Municipal Assembly passed a written opinion calling for cancellation of Abe's state funeral in a unanimous vote on Sept. 15, excluding the speaker and one absent member. The statement claims that, "Holding a state funeral should be decided in the Diet," and that, "Public opinion is evenly divided (over the state funeral), and carrying it out could create problems in the future."

    According to the secretariat of the 10-seat town assembly, of the eight assembly members who voted for the statement, three belong to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), one to Komeito, one to the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), and three are independents. The statement has been posted to Prime Minister Kishida and the heads of both chambers of the National Diet.

    Hideo Uraki, 72, a JCP assembly member who jointly submitted the draft of the statement to the assembly, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Abe's cronyism scandals involving school operators Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, as well as allegations over taxpayer-funded cherry blossom-viewing parties have not been cleared, nor have the ties between the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church) and politics," indicating his objection to the state funeral. "If the state funeral is to be held without clarifying its legal grounds, it would allow the unilateral decision of the regime of the time to pass," he added, expressing a sense of crisis.

    The 10-member Nichinan Municipal Assembly in Tottori Prefecture, also in western Japan, adopted a resolution calling for the cancellation of Abe's state funeral in a unanimous vote on Sept. 8, excluding the speaker. The resolution states that, "The state funeral lacks clear legal basis, and public opinion has been split into two. The state funeral should be canceled in light of the actual circumstances surrounding funerals for past prime ministers."

    Katsuto Furuichi, 70, an independent assembly member who submitted the draft resolution to the assembly, told the Mainichi, "Town assembly members raised voices saying, 'There's no need to hold a state funeral.' While it is tragic that former Prime Minister Abe was assassinated during the election period, his actions were not appreciated by everyone."

    Furuichi also criticized the approximately 1.66 billion yen (about $11.5 million) cost for Abe's state funeral, saying, "Japan is in no way in such a situation (to spend that money). Elderly people who have supported Japan by protecting water, mountains, paddies and fields in the countryside are struggling to pay just 20,000 to 30,000 yen (about $138 to $208)."

    According to a tally by the Mainichi Shimbun, local assemblies of at least 12 municipalities in Japan have adopted a statement or resolution calling for canceling the state funeral or withdrawing the plan. These include assemblies in the city of Kunitachi in suburban Tokyo, the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture and the village of Ooshika in Nagano Prefecture.

    Apart from these, the Ina city assembly in Nagano Prefecture passed a statement urging the development of laws providing for the grounds for the state funeral, and the Hidaka town assembly in Hokkaido adopted a written opinion calling for thorough discussion in the Diet and asking the national government not to force expression of sympathies for Abe upon the public.

    (Japanese original by Yuki Noguchi and Sachiko Miyakawa, Osaka City News Department)

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