Preferential treatment was not given to the Japanese company that won the bid to put on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's state funeral later this month, the chief Cabinet secretary said Monday.

Tokyo-based event organizer Murayama Inc., which has been involved in some controversial government-sponsored events, was the only firm to participate in the tender for the Sept. 27 state funeral, Hirokazu Matsuno added at a regular press conference.

A lone gunman fatally shot Abe during an election campaign speech in early July.

The opposition bloc has criticized Murayama after it was revealed that the company had held meetings with the Cabinet Office before the bidding process to organize annual cherry blossom viewing parties hosted by Abe while in office.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno holds a press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Sept. 5, 2022. (Kyodo)

"There is no fact (to support claims) that we have tried to favor a specific firm" on the occasion of the tender for the funeral, said Matsuno, the government's top spokesman, while public opposition to the state event mounts at home.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Sunday that the tender was "done based on proper procedures."

Murayama won bids to organize cherry blossom viewing parties for five straight years from 2015, according to government information. From 2017 to 2019, the company is believed to have held talks with the Cabinet Office before tendering a bid.

The firm made a successful bid of 176 million ($1.25 million) for organizing the state funeral of Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister. Abe, who died at 67, served as prime minister for around one year from 2006 and again from 2012 to 2020.

The government, meanwhile, has allocated 249 million yen of taxpayers' money for the state funeral, excluding expenditures for security and welcoming foreign dignitaries.

Kishida said late last month that the total cost will vary depending on the number of foreign guests attending the event, although hi

Japan last held a state funeral in 1967, which was for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. He led Japan's recovery from World War II.

Regarding Abe's state funeral, some opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, on Monday expressed their intention not to take part in it, saying holding such an event is unconstitutional.

In another development, representatives of four groups opposing to Abe's state funeral said they submitted about 400,000 signatures on a petition to cancel the event to the Cabinet Office, which were collected over two months through August.

Chizuko Ueno, a professor emerita at the University of Tokyo, who has led one of the groups, lambasted Abe for having abused his power for personal gain.

The cherry blossom viewing parties were under fire as Abe's support group hosted dubious dinner receptions at two luxury hotels in Tokyo between 2013 and 2019 on the eve of them.

The events cost 23 million yen over five years through 2019, much higher than the amounts collected from attendees, many of whom were voters in Abe's constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan.

To make up for the shortfalls, Abe's side is suspected of having paid a total of 9 million yen over the five years, but the supporters' group and his fund management body did not record the income and expenditures in their political fund reports.

File photo taken in April 2016 shows then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) posing with guests invited to a cherry blossom-viewing party at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo