After the murder, tearful mourners gathered to lay flowers and kneel in front of a makeshift memorial near Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, not far from where Abe was killed.
Abe, 67, was pronounced dead at 5:03 pm local time on Friday, just over five hours after he was shot while speaking to a small crowd on the street.
At the time of the shooting, Abe was supporting candidates from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections, which are still due. Despite stepping down as Japan’s prime minister in 2020 for health reasons, Abe remained a powerful figure in the country’s political landscape and continued to campaign for the LDP.
Abe arrived at the hospital in cardiac arrest, and despite a team of medical personnel fighting to resuscitate him, the former prime minister died from heavy bleeding caused by gunshot wounds to his neck and heart, doctors said.
On Saturday outside Abe’s Tokyo residence, dozens of reporters filled the street, outnumbering the handful of police on guard, waiting for Abe’s body to return home.
“I didn’t expect something like this to happen to someone who has been the leader of Japan for so long – it’s usually so safe here and we don’t have gun crime,” said Takashi Uchida, 57, who walked by.
Suspect confesses to shooting
Police have launched an investigation into the murder, but little is known about the suspect, who was arrested at the scene of the fatal shooting on Friday.
Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, admitted to shooting Abe, Nara-Nishi police said at a press conference on Friday. The unemployed Yamagami told investigators that he harbors hatred for a particular group that he believes Abe was associated with. The police did not name the group.
The Japan National Police Agency said it would review security measures put in place prior to Friday’s shooting, NHK reported. Security was provided by the Nara Prefectural Police, who developed a security plan for the former prime minister while he was in the city.
The agency said several dozen officers and security personnel from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police were on duty and reportedly watched Abe from all sides during his speech, NHK reported.
Japanese JFK Moment
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, setting the country’s policy for a generation.
He will be remembered for increasing defense spending, forging the most dramatic change in Japanese military policy in 70 years, and for his grand experiment known as “Abenomics” to bring the Japanese economy out of decades of stagnation.
“I think it will be the equivalent of the day of the assassination of John F. Kennedy… It was a day of sadness, grief, disbelief, and for me, great anger. Reality is very hard for people to digest,” Taniguchi said on Friday.
US President Joe Biden called Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday to “express his outrage, sadness and deepest condolences” over Abe’s “tragic and violent death,” the White House said in a statement.
CNN’s Junko Ogura, Pierre Meilhan, Rhea Mogul and Jake Kwon contributed to the coverage.