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The Assassination of Abë Shinzō

As most readers of this blog have probably already heard, Abë Shinzō, the former prime minister of Japan, was assassinated on July 8th while giving an election speech in Nara. This was a huge shock to Japan as a whole, and Abë was close to the Shinto world, and so there was a front page article about it in the July 17th Jinja Shinpō.

Much of the article was conventional, saying what had happened, and summarising his career. However, it focused on his connection to the Shinto world. In 2001 he became the secretary of the Shintō Seiji Renmei Diet Members’ Friendship Group, and in 2009 he became the chairman, a post he still held at his death. In 2013 he attended the climax of the Grand Renewal at Jingū in his capacity as prime minister, the first time that had happened since the war, and he also revived the custom of prime ministers giving their first press conference of the year at Jingū, after paying their respects to Amaterasu Ōmikami.

Those activities were not really controversial; his association with Shintō Seiji Renmei was just taken as evidence that he was a right-wing conservative, as was his attendance at Jingū. His visit to Yasukuni Jinja in December 2013 was much more of an issue, and it is worth noting that he did not return as prime minister. He did go back immediately after resigning, in September 2020, and he visited the jinja at every spring and autumn Grand Festival after that. (I think we can safely say that his visit in 2013 was misjudged, but not a purely political gesture.)

The article also mentioned that the Tennō and Empress sent flowers to his funeral, and that he was raised to Junior First Rank and awarded the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum with Collar (apparently, he is only the fourth Japanese to be awarded that since the war — the other three were also former prime ministers; it is normally awarded to foreign monarchs). Junior First Rank refers to the state ranks established in the eighth century, which were technically not hereditary, and thus it seems technically not abolished at the end of the war, although they hardly ever get mentioned these days.

I would not be at all surprised if there are further articles in the future, when people have had a bit more time to collect their thoughts. If so, I may well write about them here.

I have a Patreon, where people join as paid members to receive an in-depth essay on some aspect of Shinto every month, or as free members to receive notifications of updates to this blog. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a look.

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