On Wednesday in Tokyo, a man tried to set himself on fire outside the office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to protest a national funeral scheduled for September 27 for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, local media reported.
According to media reports, the man received several burns and was taken to the hospital, the state of his health was not immediately known.
“We were told a police officer found a man with burns at 7:00 am (22:00 GMT Wednesday) at an intersection” near the Kantei complex, which houses the office and residence of the prime minister in the center of the Japanese capital, government spokesman Hirozaku Matsuno . This is stated during the daily press conference.
But he declined to disclose details, explaining that “the police are studying the situation.” An AFP photographer at the scene saw burnt grass and bushes in a small area on the side of the road, with police and journalists in the distance. The Kyodo news agency said the man was taken to the hospital conscious, and police found a letter he apparently left at the scene expressing his strong opposition to Shinzo Abe’s planned national funeral. The man said he was in his 70s and told police that he doused his body with gasoline and set himself on fire.
National funeral sparked controversy
Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, was shot dead while speaking at a campaign rally on July 8 in the western city of Nara. He was sixty seven years old. The right-wing nationalist Abe was a prominent figure and controversial politician who left power in 2020 for health reasons.
Murder suspect Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, told police after his arrest that he killed the former prime minister because he believed the latter was connected to the Unification Church, a religious movement also known as the “Mon Sect.” The murder shocked Japan and the whole world. However, the decision of the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, to organize a nationwide funeral for Shinzo Abe without consulting him has generated a wave of objections, unexpected in terms of his size. Since the end of World War II, national funerals for political figures have been very rare. The last such ceremony in honor of a deceased prime minister dates back to 1967.
The government has estimated the cost to Japanese taxpayers for Abe’s funeral, which was attended by hundreds of foreign dignitaries, at 1.7 billion yen ($12 million). This provoked criticism from part of the public opinion.
Shinzo Abe served as prime minister for a record period of almost nine years, in two phases: from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020. He was known internationally for his active diplomacy and ambitious economic stimulus policies.
But in Japan there was no consensus about his person, where many criticized his nationalist ideas and his intention to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution. His reputation was tarnished by several instances of favoritism. “If Abe had been a good person and many thought he deserved a national funeral, the situation would have been different,” Hiroyuki Sugiura, 69, told AFP at a small anti-government rally Wednesday in Tokyo. Demonstrations, usually few in Japan, have intensified in recent days to protest the funeral. One of them included thousands of people on Monday in Tokyo.
The popularity of the current prime minister has plummeted since the summer due to criticism of the nationwide funeral of Shinzo Abe and after it was reported that many members of the Liberal Democratic Party (right-wing conservatives in power) were associated with the Unification Church. Kishida, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, like Shinzo Abe before him, was absent from Tokyo on Wednesday as he traveled to New York on Tuesday to attend the United Nations General Assembly.