Tuesday, Sep 27 10:00 (JST)
What to expect from the state funeral
Thousands are gathering in Tokyo to pay their respects to Japan's longest-serving leader, slain former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.
The state funeral will take place at Nippon Budokan, beginning at 14:00 JST, with around 4,300 people in attendance.
Foreign dignitaries, Japanese lawmakers and representatives of municipal governments will join the ceremony for Abe, who was shot to death earlier this year.
We'll be updating this page throughout the day with video and photos of the event, along with analysis.
Who's on the guest list?
Hundreds of political figures from around the world will be in attendance. Some are taking the opportunity to also hold talks with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. US Vice President Kamala Harris met with Kishida on Monday and the leaders of Vietnam, India, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and Cambodia are all expected to do so at various points this week.
The Emperor and Empress of Japan will not be in attendance. They are sending flower offerings instead. Seven members of the Imperial family, including the Crown Prince and Princess, will be at the event.
WATCH: Who is Abe Shinzo?
Abe Shinzo is Japan's longest-serving prime minister. His family's political history stretches back decades.
About 20,000 police officers to be deployed
Police officers stand guard near the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo on Tuesday, ahead of the funeral service.
Mourners pay respects outside venue
Hundreds of people are lining up to lay flowers and pay their respects at Kudanzaka Park near the venue. Two altars with pictures of the former prime minister have been set up for the purpose. They started accepting offerings at 9:30 a.m., thirty minutes earlier than planned.
Flags lowered across Japan
Government offices around the country are flying their flags at half-mast.
"We'll be in line for about two hours."
Kobayashi Kyozo and his wife are among the people lining up in Kudanzaka Park to pay their respects. The couple were only able to buy yellow flowers because white ones were sold out. "It seems like we'll be in line for about two hours," says the 71-year-old. "I'm glad the weather is nice at least."
"Better to see it with my own eyes."
Kina Shinya decided to visit the area near the venue because of the historic nature of the occasion. "I thought it would be better to see it with my own eyes than watch it on TV," he says. Kina works for a medical startup and says he is grateful to Abe for the support he gave new companies. "He supported startups," Kina says. "He made regulations more favorable and the number of startups increased. He made it easier for us to try to start a business."
Hundreds lining up to pay respects
Guests and officials arrive for funeral
Attendees have started arriving at the Nippon Budokan for the funeral service. Over 4,000 guests have been invited to the event, including roughly 700 foreign dignitaries and ambassadors.
Hundreds protest funeral
About 300 protesters have gathered for a demonstration near the funeral venue. They say the government should not have gone ahead with the event given the level of public opposition. One woman in her 60s says she is upset the government is using taxpayer money for the funeral at a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet. Other protests are scheduled for later in the day.
Kishida to meet with foreign leaders
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio is scheduled to meet with about 40 foreign dignitaries and ambassadors who are attending the funeral. Among them is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called Abe one of his "dearest friends." Kishida has already met with European Council President Charles Michel and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Flowers selling out
Flower shops near the venue are having a busy day. A woman waiting in line outside one store says she is surprised by the number of customers and will settle for whatever flowers are left. On Abe, she says, "Whether he was good or bad, someone that young should not be shot and killed. I hope he rests in peace."
Abe's wife leaves for funeral
The widow of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, Abe Akie, has left her residence for the funeral. She will carry Abe's remains into the venue.
The Shooting of Abe Shinzo
The medic who led the effort to save Abe recounts the dramatic scenes at the hospital in the hours after the shooting. Read more at this link.
NHK World-Japan's special coverage has started
NHK World-Japan's coverage of Abe's funeral has started.
"They decided to have a state funeral without asking the people."
Ota Hiroshi says he is protesting the funeral because the government decided to hold it without considering the opinion of the people. He also does not have fond memories of Abe. The 89-year-old says the former prime minister "ruined democracy" and worsened the country's economy and foreign relations.
Abe's funeral service underway
As the motorcade carrying Abe's remains arrived at the Nippon Budokan, Self Defense Force guards fired 19 shots in honor of the late prime minister. SDF personnel are also lining the streets near the venue.
Attendees observe moment of silence
Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu opened the funeral service for the former prime minister with introductory remarks. A Self Defense Force band then played the national anthem and attendees observed a moment of silence.
Video commemorating Abe's life
The service featured an eight-minute video commemorating Abe's life produced by the government. It includes footage of Abe meeting with foreign leaders and visiting areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Analysis: State funeral a symbol of division, not unity
Here's the latest analysis from NHK World Senior Commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi:
Public opinion is divided over the state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe. Views are not evenly balanced, with opposition far outweighing support. An NHK opinion poll this month showed 32 percent of respondents approved of the plan, while 57 percent disapproved. Polls by other media outlets found similar results, or even wider margins.
The approval rating of Kishida's Cabinet's has also dropped, likely in response to the funeral. The NHK poll showed 40 percent of respondents said they supported the Cabinet, down 6 points from last month. And 40 percent said they did not support it, a 12-point increase. The approval rate was the lowest since Kishida took office a year ago.
Sentiment has deteriorated because the government's explanation of the reasons for the funeral failed to win the public's understanding. Kishida cited four reasons for the ceremony.
Abe served as prime minister for eight years and eight months -- the longest in the history of Japan's constitutional government. He made significant achievements in domestic and foreign affairs. He earned high praise from the international community. His death came from a sudden, barbaric act amid an election, the foundation of democracy.
But such an assessment is not absolute. Factors can change suddenly, depending on the international climate and political situation here at home.
The leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Izumi Kenta, points out that former Prime Minister Sato Eisaku was the longest-serving prime minister in post-war Japan when he died. Moreover, Sato was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. But he did not get a state funeral.
Kishida announced the funeral plans just six days after Abe's death, and the Cabinet quickly approved it. The Diet was not involved in the decision, even though it represents the people. Kishida did not explain the matter to the Diet for nearly two months. These are some of the issues behind the public criticism.
The main opposition party reacted angrily, and its leadership has decided to skip the ceremony. Former prime ministers Kan Naoto and Hatoyama Yukio will not attend.
Even as the funeral proceeds, citizens' groups are holding protest rallies and demonstrations, underscoring that the state funeral has become a symbol of national division rather than unity.
Kishida pays tribute to Abe
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has delivered a memorial address. He touted Abe's political achievements, saying "history will remember you more for what you did than your title of longest-serving prime minister." He also pledged to help Japan grow "on the foundation you laid."
Analysis: Abe's politics embraced confrontation, division
Here's the latest analysis from NHK World Senior Commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi:
Abe Shinzo had a very strong presence, and he was undoubtedly one of Japan's leading conservative figures. He was born into a prestigious political family and from a young age, he was expected to become a future political leader. His grandfather was Kishi Nobusuke, prime minister between 1957 and 1960. His father, Abe Shintaro, served as foreign minister.
In 2006, the 52-year-old Abe became Japan's youngest prime minister since World War Two. He stepped down after one year, but made a comeback in the role 2012. He served as prime minister for about eight years until 2020 and won six national elections, making him the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of the country's constitutional government.
Aside from the fields of diplomacy and economy, his biggest achievement was the enactment of national security legislation. The new law allows Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, a major shift from the nation's much more restrained postwar security policy. The law was passed as the security environment surrounding Japan was growing increasingly tense, with China continuing its military buildup and North Korea advancing its nuclear and missile development.
Public opinion was split on the security legislation, with many people saying it violated the Constitution. Pressing ahead with policies that fiercely divided the public while saying he had won an election mandate was characteristic of Abe's political style.
Abe's passionate supporters, mainly conservatives, were described as his "bedrock." Others strongly opposed his views, and Abe sometimes turned such confrontation into a source of energy.
Abe was also dogged by scandals throughout his time as leader. He was once accused of using taxpayers' money to entertain supporters at a party. Another controversy involved allegations of favoritism in the sale of state land for a school. He denied those accusations.
Overall, Abe's politics reflected a turbulent mix of light and shadow, as opinions on his policies were often sharply divided. In that way, the divisions over his state funeral symbolize his political style.
WATCH: Abe Shinzo, Japan's longest-serving prime minister
Here's a look back at Abe's 8 years in power.
Former PM Suga bids personal farewell to Abe
Former prime minister Suga Yoshihide spoke about his friendship with Abe, recalling the times they had dinner together with their wives. He also called Abe a "true leader" for the country and people. Suga served as Chief Cabinet Secretary for over seven years in the second Abe Cabinet.
Guests leave flowers
Funeral attendees are now placing flowers at an altar inside the venue. Members of the public are doing the same outside, with thousands lining up at a nearby park to leave offerings at two altars. Officials have extended the hours of the altars until after 4 p.m.
"He is not suitable for a state funeral."
Tomita Naoko runs a recycling shop in Tokyo. She says none of her customers supported the idea of holding a state funeral. "There are so many people struggling with the coronavirus and other issues. It is not right to spend so much money on an event like this right now." Tomita also says Abe did not deserve the honor of a state funeral anyway. "He did a lot of bad things. He implemented laws which would allow Japan to wage war. He is not suitable for a state funeral."
"I wanted to say goodbye in person."
Kojima Mina waited for more than two hours to place her flowers at one of the two public altars. She said she thought Abe did his best and, regardless of whether he was a good or bad person, she wanted to thank him and say goodbye in person.
WATCH: Abe's diplomatic focus on China, Russia
Abe Shinzo spent a lot of energy trying to forge relationships with China and Russia. International Political Science professor Izumikawa Yasuhiro analyzes his diplomatic policy.
Analysis: PM Kishida faces test with Abe gone
Here's the latest analysis from NHK World Senior Commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi:
Abe was the longest-serving prime minister in Japan's recent history. He had a huge presence on the political stage. After stepping down, he became head of his own faction, the largest in the Liberal Democratic Party, and he continued to speak out on national security and economic policies. He passed away without tapping a successor, so a group of senior members is currently leading his faction. Observers say a leadership struggle might lie ahead, though his faction appears united for the state funeral.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio had taken Abe and his faction into account as he ran his administration, but a certain amount of power is now shifting to Kishida, giving him more control. Power is also seen shifting to LDP Vice President and former Prime Minister Aso Taro, leader of the third-largest faction, and Secretary General Motegi Toshimitsu, who leads the second-largest.
Kishida must restore the public trust. His Cabinet's approval rating has fallen to its lowest level since he took office, amid the perception that it rushed ahead with the state funeral, as well as revelations about ties between the LDP and the former Unification Church. The religious group's practice of forcing followers to make big donations and buy expensive items has been recognized as a major social problem. Kishida has made it clear the LDP will cut its ties with the church. But a drumbeat of revelations about LDP lawmakers showed some of them received key support from the group in their election campaigns, so cutting ties will not be easy.
The Diet will begin an extraordinary session next week, and will likely take up the issue of ties between politicians and the group.
Kishida must give a full account of these ties to satisfy the public. This comes as he faces a mountain of other issues, such as rising prices, the need to strengthen defense capabilities in case of a crisis over Taiwan, and medium- and long-term energy policies. Another huge challenge is paving the way for an economic recovery. Now that Abe is off the stage, Kishida will be truly tested.
WATCH: Abe built close ties with American leaders
Abe Shinzo focused on building strong ties with the United States. He formed relationships with two Presidents, at a time when the balance of power in the world had started to change.
Demonstrators hold protests during funeral
About 600 people took part in a rally near the Nippon Budokan, where the funeral is taking place. Another 2,000 people held a protest in Hibiya Park.
Looking back at Abenomics
The former prime minister's legacy will be forever tied to an aggressive set of economic policies that aimed to pull Japan out of protracted deflation and kick-start growth.
Funeral aired in public spaces throughout country
Shoppers and tourists in central Osaka stopped to watch the live broadcast of the funeral on a big screen monitor. Some closed their eyes and observed the moment of silence along with those inside the venue. Others took photos of the screen with their phones.
Line of mourners stretches to subway station
People hoping to pay their respects to the former prime minister have had to wait for hours to reach the altars in Kudanzaka Park. At around 3 p.m., the line stretched inside a nearby subway station.
The funeral service has ended and former prime minister Abe's remains are now being carried out of the Nippon Budokan.