A man threw an improvised explosive device at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a few days ago without hitting him. The case recalls the assassination of his predecessor Shinzo Abe last year, also targeted during an outdoor election event. The motivations of his assailant have led to spectacular revelations that are still upsetting politics in Japan.
“Last summer, we lost a great leader and friend, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last January. I couldn’t go to his funeral in September because a devastating hurricane hit eastern Canada. »
He was then addressing the Japanese delegation and the new Prime Minister of Japan, on an official visit to Ottawa, without knowing that Mr. Kishida himself would be targeted a few months later by what looks like an attack. A 24-year-old suspect was arrested for throwing an explosive device at him during a campaign rally on April 15. His motives remain the subject of much speculation.
However, by the time Justin Trudeau delivered his January speech, Japanese public opinion had already turned against the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with some even going so far as to feel some sympathy for the assassin. His attack made headlines around the world, but the aftermath of the tragedy is less known. The deadly attack, however, revealed a strange association between Japan’s ruling class and a small Christian group.
“Immediately after the assassination, most Japanese people supported holding a state funeral. But after deep and troubling ties to the Unification Church were revealed, support for the state funeral plunged,” said Izuru Makihara, a political science professor at the University of Tokyo.
The shooter of the ex-prime minister, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, is a former soldier who made a homemade weapon to commit the irreparable. He did not flee after fatally shooting Shinzo Abe in broad daylight, in public, in the city of Nara, in the center of the country, on July 8.
He confessed he was seeking to kill Mr Abe, whom he blamed for having ties to a Korean-born Christian group called the Unification Church. This Church would have pushed his parents into bankruptcy, which would have made him a “second generation” victim seeking revenge. Tetsuya Yamagami is currently awaiting trial.
Japanese adherents to the Unification Church are forced to donate a lot of money to the organization, says theology professor Katsuhiro Kohara, in an interview with the Duty from his office in Kyoto.
“Japanese people feel guilty about what was done during the war [entre autres en Corée, pays qui a été occupé par le Japon]. They were offered a form of redemption,” continues the man who is also the dean of the Faculty of Theology at Doshisha University, located in Kyoto.
The religious group is very marginal in Japan, even among the country’s Christian minority, which forms around 1% of the population. Behind closed doors, however, the Unification Church supported the more conservative fringe of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), long led by Shinzo Abe.
For example, members of this Church were asked to volunteer for LDP election campaigns or political events. In return, their positions hostile to the rights of women and the LGBTQ community enjoyed a certain influence in government.
“Mr. Abe had a great responsibility in this scheme,” confirms Professor Izuru Makihara. The grandson of a minister, the conservative politician perfectly represented the image of a leader of the quasi-dynastic Japanese political old guard. He had resigned from his post in the summer of 2020 for health reasons.
A powerful party
The LDP has ruled Japan unchallenged since 1955, with the exception of two short opposition terms, the last from 2009 to 2012. The weakness of the opposition in Japan means that there is no real alternation of power. Experts do not expect the party to lose the election, although this case has caused a huge political scandal.
Several ministers had to resign – up to a quarter of the government, according to the estimate of political science professor Izuru Makihara. “Knowing the participation of these sects in politics was a real earthquake for the PLD”, adds his colleague Katsuhiro Kohara.
According to him, Japan suffers from a lack of knowledge in religions. “Quebec has a course in ethics and religious culture. We must establish this kind of course in Japan, otherwise people are tempted by these new religions, ”drops the expert on French and Quebec secularism models.
It is especially the most conservative wing of the PLD which has been splashed by this affair. Japan’s current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, comes from its most progressive wing.
“Nobody dares to say that it was normal that Mr. Abe had this tragic fate. We cannot legitimize this assassination, says Professor Makihara. But given everything he revealed, there was popular sympathy for the killer. »
After the attack on Prime Minister Kishida, the Japanese media can only speculate on the role that the murder of Shinzo Abe and its aftermath played in this new attempt. It is published for example that this new suspect challenged in court the electoral rules which prohibited him from presenting himself at the age of 23 years. He too would then have denounced the links between the Unification Church and the ruling party.
This report was made possible with the financial and logistical support of the Foreign Press Center of Japan.