STORY: Japan honored slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday with the first state funeral for a former premier in 55 year.
A ceremony that has become as divisive as he was in life.
Abe’s ashes were carried into the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo by his widow – Akie – to music from a military band and a 19-gun salute.
The former premiere’s assassination at a campaign rally in July - set off a flood of revelations about ties between lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party he once ran, and the Unification Church which critics have called a cult – sparking backlash against current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
The funeral comes with a price tag of eleven point five million U.S. dollars – borne by the state at a time of economic pain for ordinary citizens.
Hundreds of protesters marched Tokyo’s streets chanting ‘no state funeral’.
Thousands of people flooded the funeral venue from the early hours. Mourners laid flowers and bowed their heads after waiting in three-hour queues.
Yoshiko Kojima was one of them:
"I thought I came out early but there were already many people queuing up. I heard the opinions toward the state funeral are divided and there were a lot of people against it. But when it came to the day of the state funeral, many people still came here to pay their condolences."
Nearly five thousand people were expected at the funeral including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.