Thousands of people lined the streets of Tokyo to mourn the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of his memorial service on Tuesday, four days after he was shot and killed in Nara while on the campaign trail for a Liberal Democratic Party candidate.
“You were supposed to be the one giving the memorial address at my funeral. I enjoyed going often to drink and play golf together,” Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said in a memorial address, per ABC News.
Abe was shot and killed by a man named Tetsuya Yamagami on Friday using a homemade gun he built following an online tutorial. And though police continue to investigate his motive, the shooter told police that he had a “grudge” against certain people.
The former prime minister’s funeral was closed off to the public, with only a small number of family members attending the ceremony, including Abe’s brother, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
“I have lost my brother. But at the same time, Japan has lost an irreplaceable leader,” Kishi said in a statement.
Despite the private ceremony, Japanese mourners gathered outside of the temple and in the streets of Tokyo to watch as the hearse with Abe’s body drove through the city’s streets. Abe was cremated at the Kirigaya Funeral Hall.
“Mr. Abe is one of the greatest prime ministers in Japan’s history. A lot of people look up to him. We are so sad that we lost him,” Shinki Kitaoka, one mourner near the Zojoji temple, told ABC News. “Everybody around me, all of my friends and family, are shocked. The day I heard the news, I just started crying immediately. It was so shocking.”
Abe, who came from a prominent political family, first entered politics in 1993 when he was elected to Japan’s House of Representatives, representing the southern prefecture of Yamaguchi. (His maternal grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was also the target of an assassination attempt in 1960.)
After a brief stint as Chief Cabinet Secretary, Abe was elected to lead the ruling LDP, and he began his first term as prime minister in 2006, which lasted a year and was marred by controversy. He remained a member of the House of Representatives and was re-elected as LDP leader in 2012, becoming prime minister for a second term — a position he held until stepping down due to health concerns in 2020, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history.