Japan is “reeling in shock” after the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was murdered in broad day light while giving a stump speech for this week’s election.
The island nation has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and gun violence is almost unheard of.
For Japanese people it suggests the country has entered a darker, less innocent era in its history:
“Last year in 2021 the national police statistics said there were only 10 recorded shootings in the whole country,” Brian Gaynor - an Irish journalist living in Japan - explained to The Hard Shoulder.
“So on top of that to have one of Japan’s leading post-war politicians assassinated in such a brutal fashion - particularly campaigning publicly for the upcoming election on Sunday, it has left the country reeling in shock.”
Elections to the House of Councillors are due to be held tomorrow and Mr Abe was out campaigning in the city of Nara, giving a stump speech outside a train station.
Japanese politics is not going through a particularly divisive era and people are shocked that anyone would want to kill a former politician:
“This is totally out of the blue,” Mr Gaynor continued.
“Because if nothing else the big question coming into the election on Sunday wasn’t so much politics, as to what the voter turnout would be.
“Because over the past couple of years it’s been declining and declining quite a bit.
“So it wasn’t that politics itself was becoming quite bitter or particularly aggressive, nothing like that.”
On July 8, 2022, Prime Minister Kishida held a press conference regarding the passing of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo.
Click below for the full text:https://t.co/gn0oeznXGC pic.twitter.com/Dokfpv0sZl
— PM's Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) July 9, 2022
Unlike in America, politicians in Japan do not live their lives surrounded by burly men carrying guns. During Mr Abe’s time in power he continued to share a Tokyo apartment with his mother and was often spotted out walking his dachshund.
Now that era of innocence could be at an end:
“One of the issues that is arising this evening here in Japan is just how lax security was around Shinzo Abe.
“The assassin could walk within two metres of him and shoot him twice… So there are questions about that in terms of the professionalism of the security - not just the police but the security detail with Shinzo Abe.
“Will that have effects on stump speeches? Again, hard to know, maybe not so much with local politicians but definitely maybe with more well-known national politicians. Yes, I can certainly expect an increased security around them over the next couple of days.”
A friend of Ireland
Mr Abe comes from a famous Japanese political dynasty and served as Prime Minister from 2006-2007 and again from 2012 until 2020. He became the first Japanese leader to visit Ireland in 2013 and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was great company:
“His legacy is one of a real interest in people, an ability to shift politics,” Mr Kenny told Newstalk.
“And essentially he was a person who wanted the world to be at peace. [He was] very strongly against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
President Michael D Higgins has written to the Emperor of Japan to say that “the Irish people share your sorrow and offer solidarity with you and the citizens of Japan”.
Main image: Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, 06-07-2020. Image: Pasya/AFLO/Alamy Live News