Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe laid to rest in private funeral in Tokyo

Many in Japan bid their final goodbye to former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination shocked the nation.

While the funeral was private, untold numbers gathered along the motorcade route

A crowd of masked people look in the direction of a black automobile, many holding up cellphones.
Bystanders on the street send off the hearse carrying the body of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe as it leaves Zojoji temple after his funeral in Tokyo on Tuesday. Abe was assassinated Friday while campaigning in Nara, western Japan. (Hiro Komae/The Associated Press)

Many in Japan bid their final goodbye to former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination shocked the nation.

Abe, the country's longest-serving prime minister, remained influential even after stepping down two years ago for health reasons. He was gunned down Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.

Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled sidewalks outside Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party's conservative policies.

Mourners took photos and some called out "Abe san!" as a motorcade with the hearse carrying his body accompanied by his widow, Akie Abe, slowly drove by the packed crowd.

A closeup of a brown-haired woman passenger in a car is shown. She is carrying a fan with Japanese writing.
Akie Abe, wife of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, is shown being transported in the vehicle carrying Abe's body on Tuesday. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Only she and other close family members, along with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple.

The hearse travelled through Tokyo's main political district, Nagata-cho, where Abe spent more than three decades after being first elected to parliament in 1991. It then drove slowly by the governing party headquarters, where senior lawmakers in dark suits stood outside and prayed, before heading to the prime minister's office in which Abe served a total of nearly a decade in separate terms between 2006 and 2020.

Security protocols to be reviewed

Kishida and cabinet members pressed their hands before their chests as they prayed and bowed toward the hearse before it headed to a crematorium.

Abe's shooting has shaken Japan, one of the world's safest nations with some of the strictest gun laws.

Several older women with COVID masks are shown in a crowd. One woman is holding a large frame with a photo collage inside it.
People gather for the hearse carrying the former prime minister's body as the vehicle leaves Zojoji Temple in Tokyo. The killing of the one of the most influential prime ministers by gun violence, which is rare in Japan, has shocked the Asian country. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, public security chief Satoshi Ninoyu said he has instructed the National Police Agency to investigate security protocols for political and business leaders.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested on the spot Friday and is being held at a local prosecutors' office for further investigation. They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding whether to formally press charges.

Abe, the son of an earlier prime minister, became Japan's youngest prime minister in 2006 at age 52. He left after a year in office due to health reasons but returned to power in 2012.

He vowed to revitalize the nation and lift its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his "Abenomics" formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.

His long-cherished goals, shared by other ultraconservatives, were to revise Japan's pacifist constitution drafted by the United States after the Second World War and transform Japan's Self-Defence Force into a full-fledged military.

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Abe, who was 67, left office in 2020, citing a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he'd had since he was a teenager.

On Sunday, two days after Abe's shocking death, his Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in elections for the upper house, the less powerful of parliament's two chambers.

Several men in suits and COVID masks stand in a line. One of the men, stepping forward ahead of the others, bows.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida bows as officials and employees of the government look on after the funeral ceremony in Tokyo. (Eugene Hoshiko/AFP/Getty Images)

That could allow Kishida to govern uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025. But Abe's death also opens up a period of uncertainly for his party. Experts say a power struggle within Abe's party faction is certain and could affect Kishida's grip on power.

Kishida has stressed the importance of party unity after Abe's death.