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LIVE BLOG: State Funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

With flowers and a gun salute, Japan bids farewell to Abe at state funeral

With flowers, prayers and a 19-gun salute, Japan honoured slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday at the first state funeral for a former premier in 55 years – a ceremony that has become as divisive as he was in life.

The ceremony started at 2:00 p.m, with Abe’s ashes carried into the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo by his widow, Akie, to music from a military band and the booms of the honour-guard salute, which echoed inside the hall.

Abe’s killing at a July 8 campaign rally set off a flood of revelations about ties between lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) he once ran and the Unification Church, which critics call a cult, sparking a backlash against current premier Fumio Kishida.

With his support ratings dragged to their lowest ever by the controversy, Kishida has apologised and vowed to cut party ties to the church.

But opposition to honouring Abe with a state funeral, the first such event since 1967, has persisted, fed by an $11.5-million price tag to be borne by the state at a time of economic pain for ordinary citizens.

In one part of downtown Tokyo, protesters waved signs and chanted “No state funeral” to the tune of a guitar. *Reuters

Japan to hold state funeral for Shinzo Abe; US Vice president Harris to attend

The event takes place amid anger in Japan that taxpayers will be footing the $11.5 million (about R200m) bill to honour a leader and staunch US ally who was popular abroad but often polarising at home.

Compounding the furor, a scandal has engulfed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party since its ties to a religious group came under the spotlight in the weeks since the former conservative leader was fatally shot.

Read more here.

PM Modi attends state funeral of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attended the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo.

Modi was seen along with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the funeral.

More than 700 foreign guests have flown in for the event, including about 50 current or former state leaders.

Dignitaries include US Vice President Kamala Harris, Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Philippines Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, Indonesia Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, and European Council President Charles Michel.

The state funeral began with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida receiving the ashes, which appear to be contained in a ceremonial box.

He then formally handed it to military officers who placed the box in the centre of the altar, set up at the front of the room. *Asian News International

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