Jamaicans in Japan shocked by assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe
As news of the assassination of modern Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reverberated around the world, unspoken grief consumed millions in the East Asian country, just over six decades after the famous killing of Inejiro Asanuma, who led Japan’s socialist party.
Abe, 67, was shot dead while delivering a speech at a political rally in the city of Nara, approximately 300 miles from the capital city, Tokyo.
A suspect has been arrested and has reportedly confessed to killing the former Japanese leader because of a lingering grouse with a company Abe is said to be associated with.
Gun violence is rare in the country, with 10 shootings that resulted in injury or death last year.
But it is the culture of silence and suppression that has led to citizens committing “shocking acts”, Jamaican teacher Andre Cunningham told The Gleaner on Friday.
Cunningham, who has lived in the country for eight years, recalled that at the onset, many struggled to process what had happened.
“For a man of that stature to be killed felt unreal. It’s something you watch in movies,” he said of Abe, who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2007 and from 2012 to 2020, citing health reasons for his departure from office.
Cunningham said for foreigners like himself, the shock from what transpired has yet to run cold, but already locals have moved on.
“Japanese people do not show a lot of emotions. They internalise a lot and believe in harmony. They have a popular saying here, the nail that stands out is hammered down. If you’re an outlier, you are reined in. And so while they are mourning, you’ll not see it,” said Cunningham.
“They practise a philosophy called gaman, which means to suffer in silence, especially for the greater good. So, with that in mind and as the culture, most persons have not said a lot. I thought that it would have been more sombre,” the 36-year-old Shiba resident added.
He said that the mood “had not really changed” because of Japan’s principle of sufficiency and work.
Jamaican teacher Patricia Smith, who has lived in the country since 2011, said Abe was loved, but that this was not reflected in the mood of locals who maintained “business as usual” postures.
“I am still in shock. I liked him. Things like this do not happen in Japan. It’s rare and often gang-related,” she said.
Smith recalled when Abe assumed office a year after she had arrived in the country and how loved he was because of his leadership style.
She said at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Japan had introduced a citizen-only ¥100,000 stimulus package.
Abe objected, Smith said, and insisted that the package be extended to foreigners and this was done.
“That’s one of the reasons he was endearing to foreigners and was so loved but overall it’s just business as usual. It doesn’t appear as if anything happened. The animated reaction has not been there,” she said, adding that there are other political rallies taking place.
In a Gleaner interview on Friday, Japan Ambassador to Jamaica Masaya Fujiwara said the country was “shocked and saddened at the sudden death” of Abe.
He called Abe a great political leader who heralded the country’s economic recovery, strengthened its defence strategy and contributed significantly to world peace and stability.
“We are very saddened by this sudden loss of a great political leader but we must go on,” he said, noting that he was “impressed” by Jamaica’s response to Abe’s killing.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the Liberal Democratic Party politician was a friend of Jamaica and one of the most gracious world leaders he had met.
He said that his killing was “shocking and deeply disturbing”.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding said Abe’s death has come as a shock. He described him as a prominent statesman on the world stage.
– Nicholas Nunes contributed to this story