Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and canceled his planned travels while he isolates and recuperates. Kishida developed a slight fever and cough late Saturday and a PCR test for the coronavirus was positive, said Noriyuki Shikata, the cabinet secretary for public affairs at the prime minister's office. “Prime Minister Kishida is isolated inside his residence,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday. Read: Japan minister says women ‘underestimated’ The 65-year-old prime minister was on summer vacation last week and was scheduled to return to work Monday. It’s not clear where or how he was infected. Kishida won't go in person to a conference on African development later this month in Tunisia but will participate online. He also postponed his trip to the Middle East. Cases of coronavirus infections have been surging recently in Japan, although most people — including Kishida — have been vaccinated. Other world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered.
Bangladesh Embassy in Tokyo on Monday observed the National Mourning Day and the 47th Anniversary of Martyrdom of the great architect of Bangladesh’s independence, the greatest Bengali of all time and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman paying deep respect and in a solemn manner. The programme began in the morning at the Embassy premises with hoisting of the national flag at half-mast by the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Japan Shahabuddin Ahmed. The national anthem was played at this time. After this, one-minute silence was observed followed by a special dowa and munajat for the salvation of the martyred souls of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his family members and all other martyrs of 15th August in 1975 with the participation of all Embassy officials and expatriate Bangladeshis. Later at the Bangabandhu Auditorium, Ambassador Ahmed followed by other participants paid deepest homage to the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by laying a floral wreath at the portrait of Bangabandhu. Messages of the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and State Minister for Foreign Affairs issued on the occasion were read out to the audience. Read:Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra observes National Mourning Day Ambassador Shahabuddin paid profound homage to the greatest Bengali of all time and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as he dreamt for freedom of his Bengali people and their independent statehood. Under the visionary, fearless and strong leadership of the Father of the Nation, the Bengali Nation was united to forge a struggle for independence and fought liberation war to attain an independent country, Bangladesh and a national identity, Bangalee, at the global stage. Immediate after independence, under his leadership, Bangladesh joined all major international and regional bodies and established bilateral relations with large number of countries including Japan thus firmly establishing Bangladesh’s place in the world stage. "Bangabandhu is not with us today, but his dream, ideals and directives are still guiding us in the pathway for emancipation of Bangladesh. Under the leadership of his daughter and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh will implement the Vision 2041 to build a poverty free, modern and developed country as dreamt by Bangabandhu as his Sonar Bangla," the Ambassador expressed his resolve. A discussion on the significance of the day was held following a documentary screening on the life and work of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In this segment, a significant number of Bangladeshi community members and professionals working in Japan highlighted the significance of the day and vowed to turn the grief of losing Bangabandhu into strength to work unitedly in strengthening the hands of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to further develop the country and fulfil the dream of Bangabandhu to create ‘Sonar Bangla’.
The government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday launched a new project to address the unprecedented rise in infectious health care waste caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that is overwhelming waste treatment facilities. The project will support the national health agencies and other key stakeholders in Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives. The two-year $11 million ‘Project for the Improvement of Infectious Waste Management’ was officially launched at a signing ceremony in New York City, said the UN agency. Ambassador Takeshi Osuga, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations and Kanni Wignaraja, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP attended the signing ceremony. “The government of Japan is proud to support Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives to establish sustainable solutions for health care waste management, that will provide long-term benefits for health care workers, patients and the wider community, as well as contribute to protecting human security,” said the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations. Read:Holding fair polls requires equal role from all sides: Ambassador Haas Improperly managed health care waste is recognized as a significant source of pollutants. For example, disposing untreated health care waste in open dumps and landfill sites can cause soil and water contamination, while inadequate incineration of medical waste can lead to the release of persistent organic pollutants. Many low- and middle-income countries have historically had limited public and private investments in sustainable waste treatment systems, and now find themselves in the dire situation of mounting health care waste that is beyond their waste management capacity. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present compound challenges for countries on their path to recovery and sustainable development,” said Kanni Wignaraja. “The threat posed by inadequate health care waste management systems is one such challenge that requires urgent attention, so we can better safeguard our health as well as that of the environment.” The project will support key stakeholders in the three countries to deploy locally appropriate health care waste management practices and technologies to help protect human health, and minimize the pandemic's environmental and social impacts. Health facilities in 26 sub-districts in Bangladesh, in 15 districts across 4 cities in Bhutan, and 6 atolls in the Maldives will benefit from the support. Health care workers will receive training on properly treating and handling infectious waste, which requires special treatment processes to ensure there is no risk of onward disease transmission to patients, hospital staff and nearby communities. Health facilities will also be equipped with specialized health care waste disposal equipment and digital management systems for improved coordination. UNDP’s work in health is guided by its Strategic Plan and HIV and Health Strategy, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through a systems and governance approach, and in collaboration with other UN agencies and partners, UNDP helps countries to deliver more strongly integrated health and development solutions that have equity, resilience and sustainability at their core.
State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid on Saturday said Japan is the biggest development partner of Bangladesh. "Japan has played an important role in our economic development since our independence by contributing to the infrastructure development of Bangladesh. Japan, the land of the rising sun, the land of peace, the unyielding nation, has always stood by us," he said. The State Minister spoke at an event marking the historic Hiroshima Day Saturday night. Theater group Swapnadal organized the event at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA)'s Experimental Theatre Hall. "At the end of World War II, the atomic bombs explosion on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) by the imperialist United States was the most brutal and atrocious killing in the history of the world. As a result of dropping the atomic bomb, 80,000 people died instantly in the city of Hiroshima," the State Minister said. Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki joined the event as the special guest, and lauded the initiative of Swapnadal and thanked the State Minister as well as Bangladeshi people for their compassion to the Hiroshima tragedy. Read:'Rhythmic Abstraction' begins at Alliance Francaise de Dhaka "During my stay in Bangladesh since October, 2019, I was impressed by the fact that so many Bangladeshis are familiar with the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The compassion shown today by Bangladeshis is really significant to us, thus the `Hiroshima Day’ will strengthen mutual understanding and amicable relationship between Japan and Bangladesh." The event included a panel discussion, an exhibition of video and installation art, anti-war photography, and more. An exclusive exhibition of anti-war photography, film, and installation art was also launched at the Experimental Theatre Hall premise. Additionally, the group showcased the 117th show of its anti-war drama 'Tringsha Shatabdi' at Experimental Theatre Hall. “For the past 21 years, Swapnadal has organized events to commemorate Hiroshima Day. As a theater group, we believe it is our duty to educate the public about the danger of nuclear weapons pose to the human race,” Swapnadal founder Zahid Repon said adding, "We demand a nuclear-weapons-free planet.” The first city to be struck by a nuclear weapon was Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, Little Boy, an atomic bomb, was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States Army Air Forces. On August 9, 1945, the Fat Man nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Between 129,000 and 226,000 persons were murdered in the two bombings, the majority of them were civilians.
Japan’s minister for gender equality and children’s issues called the country’s record low births and plunging population a national crisis and blamed “indifference and ignorance” in the male-dominated Japanese parliament for the neglect. In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Seiko Noda couched the steadily dwindling number of children born in Japan as an existential threat, saying the nation won’t have enough troops, police or firefighters in coming decades if it continues. The number of newborns last year was a record low 810,000, down from 2.7 million just after the end of World War II, she said. “People say that children are a national treasure. ... They say that women are important for gender equality. But they are just talking,” Noda, 61, told the AP in a Cabinet office in downtown Tokyo’s government complex. “The politics of Japan will not move unless (the problems of children and women) are made visible.” She said there are a variety of reasons for the low birthrate, persistent gender bias and population decline in Japan, “but being in the parliament, I especially feel that there is indifference and ignorance.” Read: Saudi crown prince: First EU visit since Khashoggi killing Japan is the world’s third biggest economy, a powerful democracy and a major U.S. ally, but the government has struggled to make society more inclusive for children, women and minorities. There are deep concerns, both within Japan and abroad, about how Japan will reverse what critics call a deep-seated history of male chauvinism that has contributed to the low birthrate. The gap between men and women in Japan is one of the world’s worst. It ranked 116th in a 146-nation survey by the World Economic Forum for 2022, which measured progress toward equality based on economic and political participation, as well as education, health and other opportunities for women. “Japan has fallen behind because other countries have been changing faster,” said Chizuko Ueno, a University of Tokyo professor of feminist studies, referring to Japan’s gender gap. “Past governments have neglected the problem.” Because of outdated social and legal systems surrounding family issues, younger generations are increasingly reluctant to get married and have children, contributing to the low birthrate and shrinking population, said Noda. She has served in parliament since 1993 and expressed her ambition to be Japan’s first female prime minister. Noda criticized a law requiring married couples to choose one family name — 90% of the time it is the women who change their surnames — saying it’s the only such legislation in the world. “In Japan, women are underestimated in many ways,” said Noda, who is one of only two women in the 20-member Cabinet. “I just want women to be on equal footing with men. But we are not there yet, and the further advancement of women still has to wait.” The more powerful lower house of Japan’s two-chamber parliament is more than 90% “people who do not menstruate, do not get pregnant and cannot breastfeed,” Noda said. The lack of female representation is often referred to as “democracy without women.” A quota system could help increase the number of female candidates for political office, Noda said, but male lawmakers have criticized her proposal, saying women should be judged by their abilities. “That made me think that there are men who lack the ability” to be candidates, she said. But during the candidate selection process, “men can just be men, and I guess, for them, just being male can be considered their ability.” Noda graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo and worked at the prestigious Imperial Hotel in Tokyo before she entered politics, succeeding her grandfather, who was a parliamentarian in Gifu prefecture. Noda had her first child, who is disabled, at age 50 after fertility treatments. She supports same-sex marriage and acceptance of sexual diversity. Noda, who has many liberal supporters, called herself “an endangered species” in her conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed Japan with little interruption since the end of the war. She said she is frequently “bashed” by conservatives in the party, but also by women’s rights activists, who don’t see her as an authentic feminist. Read: Russia to drop out of International Space Station after 2024 Still, without the help of powerful male lawmakers in the party she could not have come this far, Chiyako Sato, a Mainichi newspaper editorial writer, said in her recent article. Comparing Noda and her ultra-conservative and hawkish female rival Sanae Takaichi who both ran unsuccessfully in the September party leadership race, Sato said despite their different political views, they are similar “perhaps they had no other way but win powerful male lawmakers’ backing to advance in the Liberal Democratic Party at a time women are not considered full fledged humans.” Japan’s Self Defense Force, she said, has had trouble getting enough troops because of the shrinking younger population. She said there’s also not enough attention paid to what the dwindling numbers will mean for police and firefighters, who rely on young recruits. To try to address the problems, she has created a new government agency dedicated to children set to be launched next year. Younger male politicians in recent years have become more open to gender equality, a reflection, in part, of the growing number of children who are being raised by working parents, Noda said. But many male lawmakers, she said, think that issues around families, gender and population don’t concern them, and are reluctant to get involved. “The policies have been made as if there were no women or children,” she said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday sought Japanese support for the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar, their homeland, as the forcibly displaced people have become a burden on Bangladesh for the last several years. She made this call when Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs HONDA Taro and President of Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) TANAKA Akihiko met her at her official residence Ganobhaban. PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told a media briefing that the premier urged the Japanese to take initiative so Myanmar takes their displaced nationals back home in a dignified manner. In response the Japanese parliamentary vice minister said his country also wants a dignified return home of the displaced people. PM Hasina said three mega projects --Matarbari coal-fired power plant in Maheshkhali, Third Terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and Metro-rail project—being constructed by Japan would help develop Bangladesh. In this regard, the JICA president said the government of Bangladesh is providing proper support to implement the mega projects and it is also determined to complete the Maheshkhali--Matarbari project. HONDA Taro appreciated Bangladesh for its graduation from the status of least developed country (LDC). Read: PM urges youths to take up fish processing for livelihood and earn foreign exchange "Many Japanese companies are keen to invest in Bangladesh," he was quoted as saying. They congratulated PM Hasina on construction of Padma Bridge with own funds saying it would accelerate economic development of Bangladesh. They said Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Bridge connected the southern and northern regions directly with the capital. Hasina expressed deep shock at the recent assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and paid tribute to him as a great friend of Bangladesh. She recalled that Japan soon after the Liberation War recognised Bangladesh and since then became its strong development. The Japanese vice minister and the JICA president recalled the visit of Shinzo Abe to Bangladesh in 2014. They said his visit elevated the bilateral relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive partnership level. Talking about the Holey Artisan attack, Hasina said no recurrence of such incident has taken place due to the strong steps taken by law enforcement agencies. She recalled the visit of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to Japan in 1973 and said he had laid the foundation of the today's exemplary Bangladesh-Japan relationship. Hasina said Bangabandhu was a great admirer of Japan's socioeconomic and technological development. He had also wanted to replicate the same here in Bangladesh, she added. PM's Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus and Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki were present.
Japan’s Cabinet on Friday formally decided to hold a state funeral on Sept. 27 for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid national debate over the plan, which some criticize as an attempt to glorify a divisive political figure. Abe was gunned down earlier this month during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara, shocking a nation known for safety and strict gun control. The alleged gunman was arrested immediately after the shooting and is being detained for interrogation as authorities seek to formally press murder charges. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a state funeral is appropriate because of Abe’s “distinguished contributions” as the longest-serving Japanese leader and his “outstanding leadership and decisive actions” in broad areas including economic recovery, the promotion of diplomacy centered on the Japan-U.S. alliance, and reconstruction following the 2011 tsunami disaster. Matsuno said the funeral will be a non-religious ceremony held at the Nippon Budokan, an arena originally built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics that has since become a popular venue for sports, concerts and cultural events. The government also holds an annual memorial service on Aug. 15 marking Japan’s World War II defeat at the arena. Foreign dignitaries will be invited to Abe’s state funeral, Matsuno said, though further details, including the estimated cost and number of attendees, are yet to be determined. Read: Key moments in life of Shinzo Abe, former Japanese leader Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week announced plans for a state funeral that some see as a move to stabilize his grip on power by pleasing ultra-conservatives who backed Abe, who led the biggest party wing. The plan has received a mixed reaction from opposition leaders and the public. Some oppose the use of tax money on the event, while others criticize Kishida’s governing party for politicizing Abe’s death to glorify him and attempt to end debate over his highly divisive legacy, including his hawkish diplomatic and security policies and revisionist stance on wartime history. On Thursday, a civil group opposing plans for Abe’s state funeral submitted an injunction request asking the Tokyo District Court to suspend the Cabinet decision and budget for the event, saying a state-sponsored funeral without Parliament approval violates the constitutional right to freedom of belief. Dozens of protesters stood outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday to oppose the Cabinet decision. An opposition leader, Mizuho Fukushima, said the decision was not based on public consensus, has no legal basis and should be scrapped. Abe’s private funeral was already held at a Tokyo temple and attended by about 1,000 mourners, including lawmakers, business leaders and others. Abe’s assassination shed a light on his and his party’s decades-long questionable links to the Unification Church. The alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, has told police that he killed Abe because of his links to a religious group that he hated. His reported accounts and other evidence suggest he was distressed because his mother’s massive donations to the church had bankrupted the family.
Japanese bid their final goodbye to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination that shocked the nation. Abe, the country's longest-serving prime minister who remained influential even after he stepped down two years ago, was gunned down Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara. Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled pedestrian walks outside of the Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party's ultraconservative policies. Mourners waved, took photos on their smartphones, and some called out “Abe san!” as a motorcade including a hearse carrying his body, accompanied by his widow slowly drove by the packed crowd. Akie Abe was seen lowering her head to the crowd. Read: Key moments in life of Shinzo Abe, former Japanese leader Only she and other close family members, as well as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple. The hearse made a tour of Tokyo's main political headquarters of Nagata-cho, where Abe spent more than three decades since he was first elected in 1991. It then drove slowly by the party headquarters, where senior party lawmakers in dark suits stood outside and prayed, before heading to the prime minister's office, where Abe served a total of nearly a decade. Kishida and his Cabinet members pressed their hands before their chest as they prayed and bowed to Abe's body inside before the hearse headed to a crematorium. On Sunday, two days after Abe's shocking death, his governing Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the less powerful of Japan's two-chamber parliament. That could allow Kishida to govern uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025, but the loss of Abe also opened up a period of uncertainly for his party. Experts say a power struggle within the party faction Abe led is certain and could affect Kishida's grip on power. Kishida has stressed the importance of party unity after Abe's death. In a country where gun crime is vanishingly rare, Abe’s shooting also shook the nation known as the world's safest and have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Read: Abe’s complicated legacy looms large for current Japan PM The suspect, Tetsyua Yamagami, was arrested on the spot Friday and is being detained at a local prosecutors’ office for further investigation. They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding whether to formally press charges. On Tuesday, public security chief Satoshi Ninoyu told reporters he has instructed the National Police Agency to investigate security for political and business leaders. Abe, the son of an earlier prime minister, became Japan's youngest prime minister in 2006 at age 52. He left after a year in office due to health reasons but returned to power in 2012. He vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. His long-cherished goals, held by other ultraconservatives, were to revise Japan's pacifist constitution drafted by the United States during its postwar and to transform Japan's Self Defense Force to a full-fledged military. Abe became Japan's longest-serving leader before leaving office in 2020, citing a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he'd had since he was a teenager. He was 67.
The body of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was returned to Tokyo on Saturday after he was fatally shot during a campaign speech in western Japan a day earlier. Abe was attacked in the city of Nara and airlifted to a local hospital but died of blood loss despite emergency treatment including massive blood transfusions. Police arrested the attacker, a former member of Japan's navy, at the scene on suspicion of murder. Police confiscated the homemade gun he used, and several others were later found at his apartment. The attacker, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he plotted the shooting because he believed rumors that Abe was connected to an organization that he resents, according to police. Japanese media reported that the man had developed hatred toward a religious group his mother was devoted to. The reports did not specify the group. A black hearse carrying Abe's body and accompanied by his wife, Akie, arrived at his home in Tokyo's upscale residential area of Shibuya, where many mourners waited and lowered their heads as the vehicle passed. Abe’s assassination ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election shocked the nation and raised questions over whether security for the former prime minister was adequate. Police on Saturday said autopsy results showed that a bullet that entered Abe's upper left arm damaged arteries beneath both collar bones, causing fatal massive bleeding. Some observers who watched videos of the assassination on social media and television noted a lack of attention in the open space behind Abe as he spoke. A former Kyoto prefectural police investigator, Fumikazu Higuchi, said the footage suggested security was sparse at the event and insufficient for a former prime minister. “It is necessary to investigate why security allowed Yamagami to freely move and go behind Mr. Abe,” Higuchi told a Nippon TV talk show. Experts also said Abe was more vulnerable standing on the ground level, instead of atop a campaign vehicle, which reportedly could not be arranged because his visit to Nara was hastily planned the day before. In videos circulating on social media, the attacker, identified as 41-year-old Yamagami, can be seen with the homemade gun hanging from his shoulder, standing only a few meters (yards) behind Abe across a busy street, and continuously glancing around. A few minutes after Abe stood at the podium and started his speech — as a local party candidate and their supporters stood and waved to the crowd — Yamagami can be seen firing the first shot, which issued a cloud of smoke, but the projectile apparently missed Abe. As Abe turned to see where the noise came from, a second shot went off. That shot apparently hit Abe's left arm, missing a bulletproof briefcase raised by a security guard who stood behind the former leader. Read: Bangladesh observing state mourning paying respect to Abe Abe fell to the ground, with his left arm tucked in as if to cover his chest. Campaign organizers shouted through loudspeakers asking for medical experts to provide first-aid to Abe, whose heart and breathing had stopped by the time he was airlifted to a hospital where he later pronounced dead. According to the Asahi newspaper, Yamagami was a contract worker at a warehouse in Kyoto where he was a forklift operator and known as a quiet person who did not mingle with his colleagues. A next-door neighbor at his apartment told Asahi he never met Yamagami, though he recalled hearing noises like a saw being used several times late at night over the past month. Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who early on had a frosty relationship with Abe, sent a condolence message to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday, a day after most other world leaders issued their statements. Xi credited Abe with making efforts to improve China-Japan relations and said he and Abe had reached an important understanding on building better ties, according to a statement posted on China's Foreign Ministry website. He also told Kishida he is willing to work with him to continue to develop neighborly and cooperative relations. Even though he was out of office, Abe was still highly influential in the governing Liberal Democratic Party and headed its largest faction, but his ultra-nationalist views made him a divisive figure to many. When he resigned as prime minister, Abe blamed a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said then it was difficult to leave many of his goals unfinished, especially his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. That ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to create what he saw as a more normal defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support. Also read: Japan's tight gun laws add to shock over Abe's assassination Loyalists said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition. Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs. Japan is particularly known for its strict gun laws. With a population of 125 million, it had only 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related. Tokyo had no gun incidents, injuries or deaths in the same year, although 61 guns were seized. Abe was proud of his work to strengthen Japan’s security alliance with the U.S. and shepherding the first visit by a serving U.S. president, Barack Obama, to the atom-bombed city of Hiroshima. He also helped Tokyo gain the right to host the 2020 Olympics by pledging that a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” when it was not. He became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52, but his overly nationalistic first stint abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health. The end of Abe’s scandal-laden first stint as prime minister was the beginning of six years of annual leadership change, remembered as an era of “revolving door” politics that lacked stability. When he returned to office in 2012, Abe vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power, bolstering Japan’s defense role and capability and its security alliance with the U.S. He also stepped up patriotic education at schools and raised Japan’s international profile.
The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in broad daylight Friday shocked a world that has come to associate Japan with relatively low crime and strict gun control. Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Abe was shot in the back while campaigning in the city of Nara for parliamentary candidates. He died at a hospital, two days before the election. The suspect apparently circumvented the nation's ultra-tight gun regulations by building his own weapon. Police said the 15-inch (40-centimeter) device was obviously homemade, and one expert compared it to a muzzle-loading gun. Authorities confiscated similar weapons when they raided the suspect's nearby one-room apartment. The motive of the man, who was taken into custody at the scene, remained unclear. Fatal gun violence is virtually unheard of in Japan, and most Japanese go through life without ever handling, or even seeing, a real gun. Stabbings are more common in killings. Major universities have rifle clubs, and Japanese police are armed, but gun ownership rights have been a distant issue for decades. Even police rarely resort to firing their pistols. With a population of 125 million, the country had just 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in a single death and four injuries, according to police. Eight of those cases were gang-related. Read: PM conveys condolences at losing 'statesman' Abe The densely populated capital of Tokyo had zero gun incidents, injuries or deaths during that same year, although 61 guns were seized there. "Japanese people are in a state of shock,” said Shiro Kawamoto, professor at the College of Risk Management at Nihon University in Tokyo. “This serves as a wake-up call that gun violence can happen in Japan, and security to protect Japanese politicians must be re-examined,” Kawamoto said. “To assume this kind of attack will never happen would be a big mistake.” Abe’s security team may face serious questions. But because such attacks are extraordinary in Japan, relatively light security is the norm, even for former prime ministers. In remarks in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden described the “profound impact” of the shooting “on the psyche of the Japanese people.” “This is a different culture — they’re not used to" gun violence “as unfortunately we are. Here in the United States, we know how deep the wounds of gun violence go from communities that are affected. And this assassination is a tragedy that all the people of Japan are feeling.” Japan's last high-profile shooting occurred in 2019, when a former gang member was shot at a karaoke venue in Tokyo. Under Japanese law, possession of firearms is illegal without a special license. Importing them is also illegal. The same rules apply to some kinds of knives and certain other weapons, like crossbows. People who wish to own firearms must go through a stringent background check, including clearance by a doctor, and declare information about family members. They must also pass tests to show they know how to use guns correctly. Those who pass and purchase a weapon must also buy a special locking system for it at the same time. Passing those hurdles will allow a license holder to shoot at clay targets. Hunting requires an additional license. The weapon used in the attack on Abe was probably a “craft-made” firearm, according to N.R. Jenzen-Jones, the director of Armament Research Services, a specialist arms investigations firm. He compared the weapon to a musket in which the gunpowder is loaded separately from the bullet. Also read: Shinzo Abe, powerful former Japan PM, leaves divided legacy “Firearms legislation in Japan is very restrictive, so I think what we’re seeing here, with what’s probably a muzzle-loading weapon, is not just an attempt to circumvent the control of firearms, but also the strict control of ammunition in Japan,” he said.