March 30, 2023

A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister’s office in Tokyo early Wednesday in an apparent protest against plans for a state funeral next week for former leader Shinzo Abe, officials and media reports said.

The man, believed to be in his 70s, suffered major burns on his body but was conscious and told police he had set himself on fire by pouring oil on himself, Kyodo news agency reported.

A note apparently written by the man was found in his possession, which read, “Personally, I am completely against Abe’s funeral,” Kyodo reported.

Police officers investigate the scene where a man set himself on fire protesting the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Kyodo, police officers and firefighters investigate the scene where a man set himself on fire protesting the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, near the official residence of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, on September 21, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan.

Kyodo via Reuters

A Tokyo Fire Department official confirmed that a man set himself on fire on a street in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki government district was alive when he was taken to hospital by ambulance, but declined to provide further details, including the man’s identity, motive or condition. Citing the sensitivity of what was a police matter.

Tokyo police, including a police officer caught in the crossfire, declined to comment.

The suspected arson marks a growing wave of protests against the funeral of Abe, who was one of the most divisive leaders in postwar Japanese politics because of his wartime history, security policies and his revisionist views, often due to his high-handed approach and cronyism. Criticized as autocratic. More protests are expected in the coming days, including the day of the funeral next week

The incident is also an embarrassment for Japanese police, who have beefed up security for an event expected to be attended by around 6,000 people, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and other dignitaries.

There was also the Japanese police Partly responsible for Abe’s inadequate protectionwho was shot dead by a gunman who approached him from behind during an outdoor campaign speech in July.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in New York to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly of world leaders. He gave a speech on Tuesday expressing frustration at the Security Council’s failure to respond to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine due to Russia’s permanent veto and calling for reforms that would help the United Nations better protect world peace and order.

The planned state funeral for Abe has become increasingly unpopular among Japanese as more details have emerged about Abe’s ties to the ruling party and the Unification Church, which has forged close ties with Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers over their shared interests in conservative causes.

Abe’s murder suspect believed his mother’s donations to the church destroyed his family. The LDP says about half of its lawmakers have ties to the church, but party officials have denied ties between an organization and the church.

Kishida said Abe deserved a state funeral as Japan’s longest-serving leader since World War II and for his diplomatic and economic achievements.

Critics say it was decided undemocratically and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayers’ money. They say Kishida decided to hold a state funeral aimed at appeasing Abe’s faction and cementing his own power. Kishida’s government’s support rating has weakened amid public discontent over the party’s church ties and funeral plans.

Abe’s family funeral was held at a Buddhist temple in July. A state funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday at Tokyo’s Budokan martial arts arena.

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