The year was 2022. In the midst of giving a speech, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated. Moments after speaking, his remarks were interrupted by two loud shots followed by a burst of white smoke. He collapsed onto the ground and his security guards ran towards the culprit—a man in a gray polo shirt who held a homemade gun. The suspect was 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, who admitted to shooting the official barely 30 minutes after pulling the trigger.
When asked about a motive, Yamagami gave an unlikely answer: he pointed to Abe’s connections with the Unification Church of Japan (better known as the “Moonies”) and said the assassination was a means of getting revenge on the Church for stealing his parent’s money at a young age. At first, the motive was shoved off; the police assumed Yamagami was a product of insanity and hyper delusion. But over the past year, reports have shown that the majority of Japanese government officials in the reigning Liberal Democratic Party are actually a part of the Moonies cult, and a lot of their policy has shown that they choose to back up the hyper-conservative values of the Church.
Japan’s LDP is a widely conservative party that revolves around the elimination of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in an effort to reinstate “core family values” into the lives of Japanese citizens. Abe’s LDP has long relied on the church to mobilize its followers to help them at election time. Just like Yamagami, many Japanese families have been—often violently—forced to donate money to the church, which is then given to the LDP. As of 2023, the Japanese government has sought to dissolve the Moonies, as their violent practices are seen to go against the country’s constitution and values.
There has always been an underlying anxiety regarding the relationship between religion and state in Japan, but the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed the true issues regarding unregulated religious representation in the government. Even more, the Moonies are best known for being more of a cult rather than an ideology, meaning that a hyper-conservative, shell of a religion has often been offered when the Japanese government makes decisions.