A Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) honor guard was deployed for the family funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held at a Tokyo temple in July, in what the Ministry of Defense calls the first such case since the World War. II.
Regarding the sending of the honor guard to the private ceremony, GSDF Chief of Staff Yoshihide Yoshida said at a regular press conference on September 6: “The decision was taken at ministerial level. We received instruction and performed our duty in a dark way.
An honor guard includes Self-Defense Force personnel who attend events, including welcoming ceremonies for state guests visiting Japan. When Abe’s family funeral was held at Zojoji Temple in the Minato district of Tokyo on July 12, hosted by his widow Akie, an honor guard of around 60 members and the GSDF core band comprising around 20 members were dispatched. The honor guard waved to the hearse carrying Abe’s coffin and saw him in the distance to the accompaniment of the band’s music.
According to the Ministry of Defense, the honor guard attended the ceremony as part of the ministry’s and the SDF’s condolence presentation for Abe’s death, after confirming the intentions of Abe’s bereaved family. Then Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, ordered the honor guard to be dispatched based on rules that included Self-Defense Force Law Enforcement Regulations, which define the purposes and meaning of FDS ceremonial protocols. As the Prime Minister of Japan is the commander-in-chief of the SDF, the Defense Ministry explained, “We expressed our condolences to our former superior as the ministry as a whole.
So far, there have been a total of 11 public funerals for former prime ministers that the government has helped to organize, including the state funeral of Shigeru Yoshida in 1967 and the joint funeral of Yasuhiro Nakasone by the Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party in 2020. The guard of honor participated in all of these ceremonies. However, the unit had never before been deployed for family funerals of former prime ministers. Meanwhile, the Honor Guard has taken part in the family funerals of former heads of the Defense Agency, the Ministry of Defense’s predecessor, a total of three times so far.
GSDF chief Yoshida said at the September 6 press conference, “We are unable to comment on the purpose of the honor guard’s presence (at Abe’s family funeral). It was decided at the ministerial level, and we did our duty in a dark way as we were asked to do.