With flowers and a gun salute, Japan bids farewell to Abe

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Tokyo, Sept. 27 (BNA): With flowers, prayers and a 19-gun salute, Japan honoured slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday at the first state funeral for a former premier in 55 years.
 
The ceremony started at 2:00 p.m. (0500 GMT), with Abe's ashes carried into the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo by his widow, Akie, to music from a military band and the booms of the honour-guard salute, which echoed inside the hall.
 
Thousands of mourners flooded to designated spots near the venue from early morning to pay their last respects, Reuters reports.
 
Within hours, about 10,000 people had laid flowers, television showed, with more waiting in three-hour long queues.
 
Inside the Budokan, better known as a concert venue, a large portrait of Abe draped with black ribbon hung over a bank of green, white and yellow flowers.
 
Nearby, a wall of photos showed Abe strolling with G7 leaders, holding hands with children and visiting disaster areas.
 
A moment of silence was followed by a retrospective of Abe's political life and speeches by leading ruling party figures, including Kishida and Yoshihide Suga, Abe's successor and Kishida's predecessor as prime minister.
 
In remarks representing Abe's friends, Suga noted that many people in their 20s and 30s had showed up to offer flowers.
 
"You always said you wanted to make Japan better, that you wanted young people to have hope and pride," Suga said, his voice trembling.
 
About 4,300 people attended the funeral ceremony itself, along with at least 48 current or former government figures, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
"It was he who coined the term free and open Indo-Pacific," Harris told reporters after the funeral, referring to a concept that has become the cornerstone of Asian security.
 
"We cherish those principles and we stand by them. It is part of the bond that forms the alliance."
 
Russia's ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin, also attended.
 
Some 20,000 police were deployed, nearby roads were closed and even some schools shut as Japan sought to avoid the security blunders that led to Abe's shooting with a homemade gun by a suspect who, police say, accused the Unification Church of impoverishing his family. 
 
The state funeral for Abe, who received a private funeral days after his assassination, was the first for an ex-premier since one in 1967 for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.