Family and friends of assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe gathered at a Tokyo temple for a private funeral as tributes have poured in from international leaders.

Police investigating Abe's suspected killer have said he targeted Abe because he believed the former PM  was linked to a particular religious group.
Police investigating Abe's suspected killer have said he targeted Abe because he believed the former PM was linked to a particular religious group. (Reuters)

With prayers, flowers and flags draped in black ribbons, Japan has said farewell to Shinzo Abe, who dominated politics as the country's longest-serving premier, before being gunned down at a campaign rally last week.

Amid a heavy police presence, men in black suits and black ties joined women in black dresses and pearl necklaces entering central Tokyo's Zojoji temple for the private funeral service on Tuesday.

Onlookers lined nearby pavements under grey skies in oppressive summer heat, and one woman held flowers.

Hundreds had filed into the temple on Monday evening to pay their respects to Abe, who died aged 67. His killing on Friday by an unemployed man wielding a homemade gun stunned a nation where both gun crime and political violence are extremely rare.

The ceremony was closed to the media and limited to family and close friends. Abe's widow, Akie, was chief mourner.

Following the ceremony, the hearse bearing Abe's body proceeded through downtown Tokyo.

The procession took place in the capital's political heart of Nagatacho, including landmarks such as the parliament building Abe first entered as a young lawmaker in 1993 and the office from which he led the nation in two stints as prime minister, the longer from 2012 to 2020.

READ MORE: Japan’s Unification Church: Mother of Abe killing suspect is a member

Scion of a political family

Tributes have poured in from international leaders. Nearly 2,000 condolence messages arrived from nations around the world, Kyodo news agency said.

Public memorials are expected to be held at a later date, with suggestions that top foreign political leaders could attend, but no details have yet been announced.

The suspected killer, arrested at the scene and identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a "huge donation", Kyodo news agency has said, citing investigators.

The Unification Church, known for its mass weddings and devoted following, said on Monday the suspect's mother was one of its members.

Abe was the scion of a political family and became the country's youngest post-war prime minister when he took power for the first time in 2006, aged 52.

He resigned in 2020 at the end of his second stint after suffering health problems.

He was lauded for his economic strategy, dubbed "Abenomics", and his efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage.

READ MORE: Suspect in Shinzo Abe's killing used handmade gun: Japan police

Source: TRTWorld and agencies