Photo/Illutration A long line of people wait to offer flowers in memory of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Pool)

A flower-offering site opened early in Tokyo on Sept. 27 for the long line of people hoping to pay their respects to slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Although Abe’s state funeral was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Nippon Budokan hall, officials opened a nearby park for flower offerings about 30 minutes earlier than the planned 10 a.m. start.

A line about 600 meters long had already formed by then.

Although many were from the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, some came from as far away as Okayama and Osaka prefectures in western Japan.

A 31-year-old local civil servant from Nagoya took a paid day off to take the first Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo so he could offer flowers.

He said Abe’s efforts to strengthen Japan’s alliance with the United States and to partially allow the exercise of the right to collective self-defense had contributed to creating peace for Japan and Asia.

A 25-year-old graduate student from Chiba Prefecture said he offered flowers in appreciation for Abe’s accomplishments, especially his Abenomics package of economic measures that made finding employment much easier.

“Almost none of my friends had problems landing a job,” he said. “The economic policy helped to create a bright future.”

Protesters were also in the area voicing their displeasure at the use of public funds for the funeral. Others were preparing to hold a protest march.

The state funeral is expected to attract about 3,600 participants as well as about 700 individuals representing 218 foreign nations, regions and international organizations.

Condolence speeches will be given by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who served as chief Cabinet secretary under Abe during his eight-year second stint as prime minister.

(This article was written by Yosuke Watanabe and Ryujiro Komatsu.)