Assassination of Abe spurs strong reactions in Southern California – San Bernardino Sun

Former Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination set off strong emotions in Southern California, where the longtime Japanese leader attended USC and last visited in 2015.

“For him to be shot, it was quite shocking,” said David Ikegami, president of the Little Tokyo Business Association.

Japan doesn’t allow guns aside from rare uses and is considered a “very safe country,” said Ikegami, who traveled to Japan many times before the pandemic, including in 2017. “They don’t have that type of gun violence trauma, like we do.”

Many in the Los Angeles area, Ikegami said, feel a natural connection to Abe, particularly those who attended USC; Abe attended the university for a time and Ikegami graduated from there.

Alums like himself were “very anxious” when they heard the news that Abe had been shot, Ikegami said.

“We consider him a fellow Trojan,” he said.

Abe spent three semesters at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, from 1978 to 1979, the university said. He studied English, political science, international relations and history.

“The Trojan Family is deeply saddened and shocked by the horrific shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a proud Trojan who last visited USC in 2015,” said USC President Carol Folt in a statement.

The university on Friday shared photos of Abe’s last trip to USC, including shots of him meeting with faculty members and donning a letterman’s jacket bearing the iconic “SC” letters.

“The brutal assassination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saddens us all,” tweeted L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “The Prime Minister visited L.A. in 2015 and we hold fast to his vision for partnership and cooperation throughout the Pacific Rim.”

Kimiko Fujita, president of the Orange County Japanese American Association, said she was shocked to see gun violence in a country like Japan, which boasts from of the world’s most restrictive firearms laws.

Her impression of Abe comes from a Los Angeles event she attended at which Abe’s presence as a representative of the Japanese government showed “they care” even about Japanese living overseas in the U.S.

Fujita says their group often works with their community’s seniors, such as delivering food to them during the pandemic. And she was impressed that despite his stature, Abe and his wife remained standing until an elder, 96-year-old attendee had been seated.

The shooting has left Fujita wondering why such a thing happened. She was shocked because “Japan and the U.S. are completely different. … The gun control is very strict (in Japan), so it’s very difficult to get a gun. But they made it – hand-made it. That’s unbelievable.”

The state of global geopolitics weighed on Akio Katano, an attorney and community organizer, who said the shooting may “fuel the ultranationalists in Japan.”

While Abe is a well-liked dignitary in the West, Katano said, the former prime minister was far from an innocuous figure in the East.

Abe, while serving longer than any other prime minister in Japan’s history and maintaining strong ties to the West, could be a divisive figure. Supporters said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

His nationalism angered officials in the Koreas and China. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support. Following the U.S.-Japanese treaty that ended World War II’s conflict in the Pacific Theater — which levied strict military limitations on the Asian empire’s military sovereignty — the country also implemented a constitution that said Japan could only use the military for self-defense within its borders.

Some also accused Abe of downplaying such wartime atrocities as the “rape of Nanking” and the sexual abuse of “comfort women” in Korea. Katano said it is vital that people acknowledge the full scope of Abe’s legacy in “a time of rising tensions” in the East.

Meanwhile, Haruo Takehana, a Los Angeles businessman who leads the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, said that he prayed for Abe’s recovery when he learned the news of the shooting.

“I personally and strongly condemn the violence,” he said, adding that the shooting suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, “should have been able to express his opinion by election.”

Takehana says Abe’s positive contributions included introducing new economic reform in his second stint as Japan’s prime minister.

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