Photo/Illutration The state funeral for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in October 1967 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Mourners wearing red armbands continue plodding on, clutching flowers and portraits as they go. The crowd packing the snow-covered Red Square looks like a colony of ants.

These are scenes from “State Funeral,” a 2019 historical documentary film about the titular event held in honor of former Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin, who died in 1953. The film’s director, Sergei Loznitsa, was born in Ukraine.

In eulogy after eulogy, Stalin is extolled as “the great leader” and “the best person on Earth.” Since the realities of his reign of terror and Great Purge are well-known today, however, this epic funeral comes across as nothing short of a grotesque caricature.

Opposition is growing against the planned state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Everyone mourns his violent, untimely death while he was giving a speech, but now that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s collusive relationship with the former Unification Church has been brought to light anew, the idea of holding a state funeral for Abe is becoming increasingly questionable.

Abe allegedly maintained deep ties with this dodgy religious group, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, so that the LDP and his own intraparty faction could grow stronger.

Shigeru Yoshida remains the only postwar Japanese prime minister who was accorded a state funeral. With some other former prime ministers who were deemed just as great as Yoshida, the custom was for the Cabinet and the LDP to jointly host funerals.

Under the party manifesto of 1955, drawn up at the time of its founding, the LDP proclaims that “respect for individual rights and dignity is the most basic premise of social order” and that the party opposes “imposition of dictatorship or class ideology by force.”

Does holding a fully state-funded funeral, involving the entire nation, live up to the party’s founding spirit?

“The Death of Stalin,” a 2017 British-French-Belgian political satire, a black comedy film, is also about Stalin’s 1953 funeral. However, it depicts a ruthless political power struggle behind the facade of this solemn state funeral, showing the spirit of mourning, which is the very essence of a funeral, is completely forgotten.

Aug. 25 marks the 49th day after Abe’s death--an important milestone in Buddhism.

Irrespective of what may be the motive of the parties pushing for a state funeral for Abe, I can only hope that they will at least refrain from staging the event as if this is what the entire nation genuinely wants.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 25

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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.