“It is undeniable that there were security issues for former Prime Minister Abe, and we will immediately identify the issues and take appropriate measures to resolve them,” said Tomoaki Onizuka, police chief of the prefecture of Nara, during a press conference on Saturday.
Onizuka said police were notified of Abe’s appearance just the day before – shorter notice than usual for a campaign event. He approved the safety plan on the day of the event and had no concerns at the time. It is not known whether or how many armed security personnel were present.
Police are investigating whether the security setup was similar to a June 28 event Abe attended at the same location. They are also investigating whether the placement and number of security personnel has changed, particularly behind Abe.
Shinzo Abe, longtime Japanese leader, killed at 67
The apparent shooter, a 41-year-old unemployed man from Nara named Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he believed Abe was connected to a group he hated, police said. Police declined to identify the group, citing the ongoing investigation.
On Saturday, a long line of mourners paid their respects at the site of the shooting in Nara, near Osaka. Abe’s body was brought back to Tokyo in a hearse and Kishida drove to his predecessor’s home to offer his condolences. Other leaders of their The conservative Liberal Democratic Party stood outside Abe’s residence and bowed when his body arrived.
The Abe family will hold a wake on Monday and a funeral on Tuesday for relatives and close acquaintances. Plans for a possible state funeral have not been released.
Police have shared little information about the suspected gunman, but some details were leaked by law enforcement sources to Japanese media on Saturday. Yamagami was a member of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in his early twenties. Police found several homemade weapons at his home on Friday. He was arrested at the scene and police say he admitted to the killing, which he says was not politically motivated.
He told investigators his mother went bankrupt after spending her money supporting a religious group, according to Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, citing law enforcement sources. He said his family fell apart due to his mother’s obsession with the band, and he targeted Abe ‘out of resentment’, Mainichi reported.
Yamagami told police he intended to kill Abe with an explosive, but instead used what he considered the deadliest weapon for the attack, state broadcaster NHK reported.
The suspect had followed Abe during his previous speeches, and was in the western city of Okayama, where Abe was campaigning Thursday night, according to Kyodo News. The police investigate whether Yamagami followed Abe with the intention of finding the right time to kill him.
Abe’s assassination resurfaces Japan’s complex legacy in China and South Korea
Japan maintains the death penalty for “heinous crimes”, which refers to multiple murders or one murder deemed particularly heinous. Abe’s assassination may fit that criteria.
In Japan, campaign events have minimal visible security. Attacks on politicians are rare in postwar Japan, which has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world and almost no gun violence. The number of armed guards present varies depending on the event.
On Saturday, incumbent Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida returned to the countryside with tight security. Hundreds of attendees at Kishida’s outdoor event in Yamanashi, west of Tokyo, passed through bag checks and metal detectors. Kishida spoke on a stage mounted on a van, surrounded by police and away from crowds, ahead of Sunday’s election.
Opposition party supporters urged voters to separate their grief from their ballot. They worry about a possible rallying effect around the flag that would motivate a vote of sympathy for the LDP or increase the turnout of supporters of the Conservative party. One of the buzzwords on Twitter in Japan was “a vote is not a funeral offering”.
Japanese media struggled to balance coverage of the assassination without favoring Abe’s ruling party in the campaign’s home stretch. One TV channel blurred the faces of the LDP candidates, but on another channel the presenters wore black clothes and focused heavily on Abe’s legacy.
The LDP, which has dominated Japanese politics since its founding in 1955, is expected to be victorious. If the party maintains or expands its control over the House of Councilors, it would pave the way for Kishida, elected in October, to adopt some of its most ambitious policy proposals.
Kishida has introduced a vague economic overhaul plan and plans to increase defense spending, a contentious issue in a country with a pacifist constitution that Abe had long tried to change.
Security around Abe’s Tokyo home had tightened overnight, with more police on the scene. Abe, one of Japan’s most recognizable and controversial politicians, had walked his dog freely and took selfies with passers-by without visible protection.
Japan’s National Police Agency has launched an investigation into the security protocols that were in place for Abe.
Abe was guarded by a team from the Nara Police Department and officers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, according to Japanese news outlet Jiji Press.
What are the Japanese gun laws? Abe’s murder shocks a nation where shootings are rare.
Kishida spoke on the phone with President Biden on Saturday morning. After the shooting, Biden went to the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Washington and signed a condolence book.
“On behalf of the Biden family and all of America, we express our sincere sympathy to the Abe family and the people of Japan,” Biden wrote. “It’s not just a loss to his wife and family – and the Japanese people, but a loss to the world. A man of peace and judgment – he will be missed.
Abe, who was 67, remained a power broker in his party even after leaving office. He was a towering figure at home and abroad, coming from a prominent political family. He served a brief first term as prime minister in 2006, making him the youngest to serve as prime minister of post-war Japan.
He died of blood loss on Friday less than five hours after being shot in the neck and chest. The killer fired twice and the second caused both wounds, police said, raising questions about the type of weapon and ammunition used.
The shooting reverberated throughout the country, which has a low crime rate and some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Guns are rare, as are fatal shootings, of which there was exactly one in 2021.
Eight of Japan’s 10 shootings last year were yakuza-related, according to the National Police Agency, resulting in one death and four injuries.