SEOUL aEUR: Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese Prime Minister was assassinated on Friday. This shocking act shocked a country where political violence and gun violence are common. Japan's longest serving and influential prime minister worked tirelessly to revive the country's economy with his "Abenomics" policy and to rebuild Japan's role on the international stage. He was 67.
Abe was about to give a speech in support of a candidate for Nara, a western Japanese city, before Sunday's parliamentary election. A man shot Abe from behind using a homemade firearm.
The suspect was identified as Tetsuya Yogami, a 41 year-old unemployed former member Japan's maritime defence force. Although he has confessed to the crime police are not sure of his motive.
The assassination provoked shock, horror, and opposing views from a divided public about his policies.
"Maybe such an event is common in the U.S. "But this happened in Japan, and it shocked me," said a man whose surname was Shimizu. He refused to give his first name as he distrusts the media. He spoke in Kyoto, 30 miles north from Nara. "I feel like the clock keeps going backward."
Otake was a woman by the name of Otake. She also refused to reveal her full name for the same reason. She said that she believed that Japan's current problems were caused by his administration. "I oppose Abe."
Japan has strict gun control laws. Handguns and rifles are prohibited. Shooting deaths are rare. The yakuza crime syndicates are often linked to the scanty gun crime.
For more than six decades, Japanese politics have been free from bloodshed. The majority of those six decades were dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party to which Abe belonged.
In the 1960s, street violence broke out between political right and left over Japan's security agreement with the United States. A sword-wielding assassin killed a socialist leader.
Later, politicians came to an agreement that political sparring should be kept out of public view behind a harmonious façade.
According to Koichi Nakano (a Tokyo-based political scientist), "By and large you can say that politics here have been founded on the principle nonviolence. The disagreements could get heated but they have remained at a verbal level, sofar."
Tobias Harris, an academic and author of The Iconoclast Shinzo Abe: Shinzo Abe, and the New Japan, stated that even among those who don't like his politics, there would be genuine, widespread grief. "I believe his death will be more unifying than polarizing.
Abe was born Sept. 21, 1954 in Tokyo. He graduated from Seikei University, the capital, in 1977. In the United States, he spent three semesters studying English, politics, and international relations.
Abe was a member of a prominent political family. Abe was the grandson of Nobusuke, a World War II-era officer who went on to become Prime Minister. (Kishi was also stabbed in an assassination attempt. He survived. Shintaro Abe was Shintaro's father and he was a foreign minister.
Shinzo Abe, however, would be the prime minister for longer periods of time than any other aEUR", serving as such from 2006 to 2007, and again in 2012 to 2020.
To restore Japan's pre-WWII status as Asia's preeminent power, and to restore the economic dynamism of its 1960s era, he pledged to "take Japan back".
Harris stated that while nostalgia was a powerful vehicle for mobilizing political actions, Abe wasn't just recreating history, but he was trying to create a new Japan.
Abe stated in a speech from 2016 that "we should look at the future, instead of worrying about the past."
Abenomics was his most enduring and well-known policy. He launched it in 2013 to revive the economy after over two decades of deflation.
This policy included increasing government spending and monetary ease. He advocated reforms such as reducing corporate taxes and redtape, as well as liberalizing certain sectors of the economy.
One of his greatest legacy was opening up Japan's traditionally male-dominated labor markets to Japanese women.
Japanese law established limits on the use of military force, except in national self-defense, after World War II's devastation. However, Abe's Cabinet in 2014 interpreted the Constitution to allow the Armed Forces to assist an allied country under attack. Japan was not allowed to do so.
He could not get enough support from the public to amend the Constitution that his party had fought for since 1955.
Abe laid the foundation for Japan's alliance with the U.S. during its ongoing rivalry against China.
"Abe believed that Japan's power was dependent upon its strong alliance with America," stated Nakano, a political scientist. This was at a time when Japan was experiencing demographic decline. China, however, was the second-largest country in the world in 2010.
Abe resigned in 2020. He continued to hold power in his party. He became the head of its strongest faction, and was a well-respected kingmaker.
Analysts believe that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was Abe's foreign secretary and has struggled to break free from his former bosses and pursue his own goals while trying not to alienate Abe's political group.
Leaders from all walks of the globe have come together in grief and outrage over the murder of Abe.
Biden stated that he was shocked, outraged, and deeply saddened by his death and called it a tragedy for Japan and all those who knew him.
Former President Barack Obama, whose tenure coincided with Abe’s, also expressed gratitude. Obama stated, "I will always remember our work to strengthen our alliance and the moving experience of traveling together to Hiroshima or Pearl Harbor."
Abe was also the first foreign leader to establish a relationship between former President Donald Trump and Abe, through their shared love of wagyu beef hamburgers, sumo wrestling, and golf.
Trump called Abe a "unifier" as well as a "great man, and a great leader on Friday."
Japan is already discussing Abe's legacy as Abe is assassinated.
Nakano stated that "a lot of people, even his critics, wanted a cooler-headed and rational discussion about the pros & cons" and the successes and failures Abe's policies.
Some debates might have to wait for the national feeling of shock and grief to subside.
This report was written by Chie Kobayashi in Kyoto.