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What Does Abe Shinzo’s Death Mean For Japan and the World?

Photo by Stephen Diaz on Unsplash

Friday, July 8, 2022. Nara, Japan. 11:30 AM local time. 2 days before elections for the House of Councillors (Upper House) in Japan, an election poised to strengthen the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s base of power. Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the longest-serving PM in Japanese history is doing what he’s done for decades. The 67-year-old is getting up close with the crowds, stumping for a local candidate, just like he’s done so many times before. Suddenly, 2 blasts ring out, a man is tackled, and Abe collapses to the floor bleeding. He’s immediately rushed to the hospital, unfortunately, it is in vain. At 5:03 PM local time, Abe Shinzo, one of the eminent leaders of the last decade, was pronounced dead.

First of all, you may have noticed that I’m referring to a man more commonly referred to as ‘Shinzo Abe’ as ‘Abe Shinzo’. This is because since September 2019 (Before Abe’s retirement), Japan started officially using the “family name first, personal name second” configuration which is used traditionally in Japan and other East Asian nations. From the birth of the global era to 2019, they used the “personal name first, family name second” configuration that is common in westernized nations due primarily to US influence post-WWII. So the westernized ‘Shinzo Abe’ is actually the Japanese ‘Abe Shinzo’. We already follow this convention for other foreign politicians like Moon Jae-in and Xi Jinping, so this is just a minor correction of a western convention. 

Anyways, to return to the issue at hand, Abe Shinzo was assassinated on July 8, 2022, at the age of 67. His ‘suspected’ (he has confessed and was caught on video) assassin is a man named Tetsuya Yamagami. As mentioned, he has admitted to shooting Mr. Abe with a homemade gun. As to why Yamagami committed such a heinous crime, Yamagami “told officers he had a grudge against a specific group he believed Abe was connected to.” The Japanese police added that they were investigating why the former PM was targeted rather than other people related to the group. Due to the recent nature of the shooting, not much is known about how it was orchestrated or why. However, more homemade weapons and explosives were found in Yamagami’s home. 

Immediately after the announcement of Mr. Abe’s passing, leaders from around the world gave their condolences. From our own government to Iran to the Dalai Lama, many figures have expressed their sadness at his death. Even South Korea and China, 2 nations that historically have had icy relations with Japan (especially under Mr. Abe as PM), expressed their sadness at the tragedy. Not to mention all the other nations who have chimed in to share their memories of the former PM, from France to the Philippines to Kenya. 

In Japan, the reaction was even more visceral. Thousands have flocked to the spot where Mr. Abe was shot and made a memorial of sorts: flowers, flags, and candles have all been placed at the site of the attack. Millions more in the nation remain saddened at the sudden death of one of their most prominent leaders. 

In Japanese politics, Mr. Abe will be remembered for his contributions to stopping the stagnation of the Japanese economy with his signature ‘Abenomics’ and for providing a stable point for the Japanese people as a leader. Prior to Mr. Abe’s rise to PM in 2012, there had been a revolving door of Prime Ministers for the past 6-7 years (including Mr. Abe himself briefly in 2006-2007). Mr. Abe essentially defined the last decade of Japanese politics. He brought Japan closer to the US, built up the infrastructure to prepare Japan for the 2020 (or 2021) Olympics, and brought Japan through much of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the current Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, seemed to struggle to not get emotional while talking about what Mr. Abe meant to him and Japan. 

It’s unclear how this calamity will affect the upcoming elections in Japan. Perhaps it will strengthen the people’s convictions in their stance on gun control and their faith in their current ruling party, but as of now, it is impossible to tell.

Regardless, Shinzo Abe was pillar of dependability who led his country through thick and thin, and he will be missed greatly by Japan and the world as a whole.

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