Hold a memorial while avoiding the pomp and circumstance

It is unfortunate that public opinion is divided on how to mourn Shinzo Abe, who has had heavy responsibilities as long-serving prime minister, with the situation devolving into what appears to be a political dispute. How is the current situation on the issue in Japan perceived abroad?

Both houses of the Diet, out of session, deliberated on the state funeral of former Prime Minister Abe. On the government’s decision to hold a state funeral, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “As many countries have expressed their respect and condolences, the idea was that it was necessary to respond with courtesy.”

Since Abe’s death, more than 1,700 messages of condolence have been sent to the government of 260 countries, regions and international organizations. Several countries, including the United States, Australia and India, have passed resolutions in their parliaments to pay tribute to Abe.

Kishida’s decision is understandable, given the widespread mourning overseas for Abe. It is hoped that Abe will be dismissed quietly and without a hitch, taking all possible measures to protect visiting dignitaries.

During out-of-session deliberations, the Democratic Constitutional Party of Japan, the largest opposition, and the Japanese Communist Party argued that the legal basis for the state funeral was vague. They also continued the basis for calculating the costs of the state funeral.

Kishida explained that since state funerals do not restrict people’s rights or impose obligations, legislative action is not necessary and can be taken at the government’s discretion. He pointed out that a state funeral would be held as a ‘state ceremony’ based on the Cabinet Office Establishment Act.

The government decided that 250 million yen would cover the cost of the state funeral. In addition, he later announced that about 1.41 billion yen would be needed to cover security and hospitality costs for foreign dignitaries.

During the question-and-answer session, CDPJ leader Kenta Izumi criticized the government’s decision on the state funeral, saying, “How much tax money will be spent when people are going through a difficult time in their life ?”

Izumi apparently aimed to appeal to the realities of everyday life to oppose the state funeral, however, it is unreasonable to equate the costs of the state ceremony with the issues of people’s lives.

When foreign dignitaries visit Japan, whether for a funeral or an international conference, heavy expenses are incurred primarily for security and hospitality.

In 2018, the government decided to spend about 7.5 billion yen to prepare for the Group of 20 Major Economies summit in Osaka held the following year. Over 190 foreign delegations are expected at the state funeral this time, so a certain amount of spending is required.

“The state funeral should be called off,” said JCP House of Representatives member Tetsuya Shiokawa, accusing Abe of having close ties to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the name of the Unification Church.

Efforts should be encouraged to clarify the real situation surrounding the Unification Church’s antisocial activities, including its so-called spiritual sales tactics. Besides the issue of state funerals, the government and the ruling and opposition parties should discuss the necessary measures against such anti-social activities.

(From Yomiuri Shimbun, September 9, 2022)