‘Like time had stopped’: Japan grapples with Shinzo Abe’s loss | News

Tokyo, Japan – The deadly capturing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe within the western prefecture of Nara has despatched shockwaves via Japan, a rustic the place firearms are extremely regulated and gun violence is uncommon.

Abe’s physique was returned to Tokyo on Saturday as dozens of journalists gathered exterior his Tomigaya residence within the capital whereas joggers and folks strolling their canines handed by.

Fewer than 10 law enforcement officials had been on the bottom earlier than 8am exterior the residence, however a couple of streets again, a considerably heightened police presence was seen. Al Jazeera counted a minimum of two dozen unmarked and marked automobiles, whereas officers prowled the world.

Abe, 67, remained an essential determine in Japan’s political sphere, wielding vital affect within the governing Liberal Democratic Occasion (LDP) occasion till his demise.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, sometimes called Abe’s protege, mentioned he’s in a state of disbelief. “I’m merely speechless over the information of Abe’s demise,” he advised reporters.

‘Like time had stopped’

Tomigaya, the place Abe lived, together with through the interval he served as prime minister, is a leafy, central neighbourhood – house to embassies and standard cafes and eating places.

Shota Tanamachi, a barista at Espresso Supreme, a restaurant visited by Abe, was shocked by the assassination. Abe was somebody he noticed across the neighbourhood.

“Yesterday, it was terrible,” Tanamachi advised Al Jazeera. He mentioned he tried to keep away from wanting on the photos of the capturing which dominated the entrance pages of Japanese newspapers on Saturday morning.

Shocked residents in Japan had been glued to their telephones as NHK, the nation’s public broadcaster, performed footage of the capturing on loop and particulars in regards to the shooter had been slowly revealed through the day.

Tokyo-based broadcaster Chris Gilbert described a “surreal, heavy silence” because the information broke that Abe had died.

“When the information hit … it was like time had stopped. Everybody was standing and taking a look at their telephones. I feel everybody was realising the identical factor on the identical time,” he mentioned.

From these keen on Abe got here an outpouring of grief. In Nara close to the practice station the place he was shot, residents laid flowers and tokens, prayed and took pictures.

Police patrol the major roads
Law enforcement officials patrol the streets round Abe’s house in Tomigaya, Tokyo [Jeremy Smart/Al Jazeera]

In an announcement, Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan known as Abe “a world chief” who was “forward of his time”.

Ichiro Matsui, chief of the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Occasion), advised media that whereas the 2 belonged to completely different events, they “agreed on the concept of creating Japan higher”.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a former LDP member, expressed shock on the information. “It doesn’t matter what the explanation could also be, I merely can’t tolerate this act of barbarism,” she mentioned.

Whereas Abe boasted of shut relationships with heads of state, he’s usually fondly remembered in popular culture for showing as Tremendous Mario on the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However in Japan, his picture is extra complicated.

A 20-year-old artistic enterprise proprietor who lives and works in Tomigaya and declined to present his identify, described himself as “in no way” politically engaged, however recalled Abe as a “polarising determine” throughout his time as prime minister.

He discovered the weapon used probably the most shocking element. “What? Weapons in Japan?” he requested in response to Friday’s assassination.

Shinzo Abe’s street in Tomigaya
Shinzo Abe’s residence is on this road in Tomigaya, central Tokyo [Jeremy Smart/Al Jazeera]

“I don’t suppose it’s doable to have [a gun] in Japan,” he mentioned. “I’ve shot some weapons, I’ve seen some weapons, however in Tokyo, in Japan, by no means.”

Police have since confirmed the weapon that killed Abe was selfmade.

Mari Iwata, a media skilled in Tokyo, described Abe as “a villain”, however was shocked by the capturing, saying these against political leaders ought to use the vote, not violence.

One other Tomigaya resident mentioned whereas there have been random acts of violence in Japan, akin to mass stabbings, “it’s unusual to see [gun violence] right here”.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s like one thing you see in films, one thing that isn’t in Japan.”

Press await the arrival of Abe’s body
Reporters await the arrival of Abe’s physique at his house in Tokyo’s Tomigaya neighbourhood [Jeremy Smart/Al Jazeera]

Election to go forward

In streets round Tomigaya, sun-faded marketing campaign posters stay dotted round. Officers say the elections will go forward as deliberate.

Director of the LDP Public Affairs Division Kono Taro tweeted he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Abe’s passing, and known as serving in his cupboard an honour.

“The LDP is not going to be deterred by violence and can proceed our election marketing campaign to the tip,” he wrote.

Kishida labored carefully with Abe, and the previous prime minister’s insurance policies have served as one thing of a blueprint for the occasion.

Abe, who pushed to rewrite the nation’s pacifist structure, strongly backed Kishida’s push for constitutional reform amid shifting geopolitical dynamics and aggression from North Korea and China within the area.

If Kishida wins sufficient assist throughout Sunday’s higher home elections, he may develop into the primary prime minister to alter the structure since its promulgation after the second world struggle.

Because the nation grapples with the shock and lots of mourn the lack of Abe, the upcoming election outcomes might convey extra sharply into focus the consequences of the previous prime minister’s loss on the LDP.

Japanese newspapers on display
Japanese newspapers on show in a Tokyo retailer after Abe’s assassination [Jeremy Smart/Al Jazeera]