Japan to spend $12 million on state funeral for ex-PM Abe

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Tokyo (AFP) – Japan plans to spend about 1.7 billion yen ($12 million) on the state funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe, the government announced on Tuesday, despite controversy over the plan.

Abe was shot on the campaign trail in July, and the government expects dozens of current and former heads of state to offer their condolences at the September 27 service in Tokyo.

But recent polls show about half of Japanese voters oppose the state-funded event.

Security is expected to cost around 800 million yen, with another 600 million to be spent on accommodation and 250 million on the ceremony, government spokesman Hirozaku Matsuno said on Tuesday.

“Delegates from more than 190 foreign (countries and regions) are likely to attend,” he told reporters during a regular briefing.

The funeral will be held at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, a venue used for concerts and sporting events that also hosted Japan’s last state funeral for a former prime minister in 1967.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the domestic and international achievements of Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, make a state ceremony fitting.

But state funerals for former politicians are rare in Japan, and a weekend poll released Monday by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper found 56% of voters opposed to the event, compared with 38% in favour.

Other recent polls have shown similar levels of opposition, and Kishida said he was ready to answer questions on the issue in parliament.

His government’s approval ratings have taken a hit in recent weeks, in part because of the funeral decision.

Some opponents are against spending public money on an event honoring a politician, while others believe a state funeral effectively forces public mourning or downplays Abe’s nationalist views and alleged ties to the cronyism.

Abe’s accused killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, who is in police custody, targeted the former leader, believing he was linked to the Unification Church.

Yamagami’s mother reportedly made large donations to the church, which her son blamed for the family’s financial difficulties.

A small private funeral for Abe was held at a temple in Tokyo shortly after his death, with thousands of people gathering outside to lay flowers and pay their respects.

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