Photo/Illutration The vehicle carrying former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coffin passes in front of the Diet building in Tokyo on July 12. (The Asahi Shimbun)

I saw the funeral cortege of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from an Asahi Shimbun helicopter.

Departing from Zojoji temple in Tokyo’s Shiba district, the hearse carrying his remains traveled through the “corridors of power,” dotted by the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters, the prime minister’s office and the Diet building.

From the air, mourners resembled black human waves.

Ryogoku Kokugikan was seen to the east.

Three years ago, Abe invited then-U.S. President Donald Trump there. The two leaders sat side by side and watched sumo bouts on the final day of the summer tournament. That was a climactic moment in Abe’s diplomacy.

To the west lay the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, the venue for taxpayer-funded cherry blossom viewing parties.

Abe was criticized for inviting his supporters there, many from his home district.

As for his other scandals involving Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution, any chance of hearing Abe explain them in his own words is lost forever.

Who could ever have imagined him being shot to death? The gunshots shattered everyone’s belief in Japan’s safety.

The suspect appears to have harbored a deep grudge against a religious organization.

But the reality of a former prime minister being brutally gunned down before an audience is too shocking to fully process.

In retrospect, I remember getting a similar feeling from a news report when I was a child.

In 1970, novelist Yukio Mishima committed suicide. I asked grown-ups around me what it meant, but they all seemed incapable of digesting what had occurred.

While I was recalling such memories, the Defense Ministry came into view below, as well as the building where Mishima urged Self-Defense Forces members to rise to action.

The funeral cortege disappeared from my view in front of the Diet building.

An era had come to an end, but people and cars kept moving about as if nothing had changed. The pulse of the mammoth city of Tokyo continued to beat.

A line from “Hojoki” (An Account of My Hut), an essay written by Kamo no Chomei during the early 13th century, came to mind: “The flowing river never stops and yet the water never stays the same.”

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 13

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.