Japan is planning to hold a state funeral on Sept. 27 for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot earlier this month, government sources said Wednesday.
Planning for the rare state funeral is proceeding while the public is still processing the shocking death of the country's longest-serving prime minister, with the opposition camp expressing concern that a state funeral could be used to cement the legacy of the divisive figure.
The Nippon Budokan arena in central Tokyo is being eyed as the venue for the funeral, which will be fully funded by the government. The Cabinet is expected to endorse the plan this week at the earliest.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida apparently sees the need to decide quickly as a number of international figures are expected to attend the event that will require the country to enhance its security and prepare for diplomatic exchanges on the sidelines.
The last time the country held a state funeral for a national leader was in 1967 for Shigeru Yoshida, who served as prime minister as the country rose from the ashes of World War II.
Abe served as prime minister for a total of eight years and eight months when combining his one-year stint in 2006 and his second tenure from 2012 until he stepped down in 2020 due to poor health.
He was praised at home and abroad for increasing Japan's presence by expanding its security role and for seeking to revive the country's economy with his signature "Abenomics" policy mix, but he also came under fire for scandals, including allegations of favoritism.
Opposition parties have questioned or opposed the government's plan to hold a state funeral for Abe, with the Japanese Communist Party saying it effectively endorses and praises Abe's brand of politics while the public is divided over them.
Although this year's regular Diet session ended last month, the parties are calling for parliamentary deliberations on the matter as an exception, saying the government has not given a sufficient explanation for its decision.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a regular news conference that the planned funeral "does not force a particular political view upon each Japanese national." He said the decision was made by taking into various factors, including Abe's leadership in rebuilding the country from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, reviving the Japanese economy and his active diplomacy centered on the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Abe was shot dead by a lone gunman during a stump speech in the western city of Nara on July 8, two days before a House of Councillors election. The assassination shocked a country known for its strict gun control and relatively few instances of political violence.