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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Japan’s state funeral for Shinzo Abe to cost more than £10m

People protest against the state funeral for former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in front of parliament buildings in Tokyo.
People protest against the state funeral for former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in front of parliament buildings in Tokyo. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Japan will spend about 1.65bn yen (£10.1m) on the increasingly controversial state funeral for the former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead during a campaign speech in July, amid growing public opposition to the plan.

The government has come under pressure to cancel the ceremony, with opinion polls showing that a majority of voters oppose it due to the cost to the taxpayer and revelations about ruling party politicians’ ties to the Unification church.

The government had initially said the funeral, planned for 27 September, would cost a more modest 250m yen, but conceded that the sum did not include outlays for security and accommodating foreign dignitaries.

Policing the event will cost an estimated 800m yen, while hosting foreign delegations will add a further 600m yen to the bill, the chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said on Tuesday.

“If we were to give a simplified estimate, I guess the total would be close to what you said,” Matsuno said in response to a question speculating that total costs would reach about 1.7bn yen.

Organisers are expecting more than 6,000 guests to attend the ceremony at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo, including Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Emmanuel Macron, according to the Kyodo news agency. About 50 of the 190 overseas delegations will include “head of state-level” VIPs, Matsuno said.

Jun Azumi, an MP for the opposition Constitutional Democratic party, criticised the revised sum, noting that costs were more than six times higher than the government’s initial estimate.

Public opposition to the plans has intensified in recent weeks after revelations of connections between members of the ruling Liberal Democratic party and the Unification church, whose members are colloquially known as Moonies.

The suspect in the shooting, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he had targeted Abe because he had expressed support for the church, which he blamed for bankrupting his family.

Last year, Abe sent a congratulatory video message to a group affiliated to the church in which he praised its commitment to traditional family values. His grandfather, the former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, was instrumental in promoting the church in Japan as a postwar bulwark against communism.

Opinion polls suggest that the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has failed to win public support for the ceremony, the first of its kind since the postwar prime minister Shigeru Yoshida was given a state funeral in 1967.

Kishida said last week that he recognised that the Unification church scandal had shaken public confidence in politics, adding he would demand that party MPS cut their ties to the organisation. He said members of the public would not be forced to mourn Abe, a divisive conservative who resigned in 2020 after becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

In a poll conducted this month by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 56% of respondents said they opposed the state funeral, while 38% were in favour.

Civic groups opposed to the ceremony recently submitted a petition of 400,000 signatures calling for its cancellation, while last week an estimated 4,000 people demonstrated against the event outside parliament.

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