Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Singaporeans and foreigners pay respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew in Japan

TOKYO- The mood at the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo was sombre on Tuesday where many dressed up in black to pay condolences to Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died at the age of 91 in Singapore on Monday.

Among those who came was Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Embassy officials said he arrived at around 2pm and stayed for about 20 minutes.

Speaking to reporters in Japanese at the embassy, he said of Mr Lee: "As the founding father of Singapore, he laid the foundation for Singapore's development. He was a great leader from Asia and as we once again remember his achievements, I would like to offer my most sincere condolences."

"I had the pleasure of meeting him when I visited Singapore last year and I consulted his opinion on the future of Asia and the world. This gave me the chance to glimpse his wisdom."

Mr Abe, who had issued a statement on Monday hailing Mr Lee's "incomparable leadership and unparalleled insights", is one of the many world leaders who have come forth to pay tribute to Mr Lee.

A mix of mostly Singaporeans, some Japanese and other foreigners working, studying and living in Japan also came to pay their last respects to Mr Lee.

An embassy official estimated that close to 100 people have arrived at the embassy to pay tribute to Mr Lee by early afternoon of Tuesday. The embassy, which originally prepared two condolence book for those in Japan hoping to pay respects to Mr Lee has since added a third condolence book to ease waiting time.

Mr Eugene Liang, 32, who recently concluded his study of Japanese at Takushoku University, said: "Because I'm older, I've seen more drastic changes and his policies really affected me. For example, our education system changed a lot between my parents' time and my time and government housing is good and cheap...He was more than just a name to me.

"I came here to pay my respects to him because I want to show my appreciation for what he's done and because I do respect him."

Ms Chay E-Mei, a 23-year-old postgraduate student in Japan, came with a group of friends to pay respects to Mr Lee.

"I think he'll be remembered both in Singapore and in the region. In fact, a Vietnamese friend came up to me to say that he's very sorry about Lee Kuan Yew and told me that he was instrumental in the development of Vietnam," she said. "I would like to pay respects to a man who has helped build Singapore to what it is today."

Mr Lars Ake Nilsson, 52, a Swedish tour operator who worked in Singapore as a tour guide for 10 years, said: "He really saw through the transformation from one time to another. I remember that song that says people thought Singapore couldn't make it but you did. He really brought out the best in people and saw the possibilities in them."

Mr Kei Saito, 70, a Singapore permanent resident who lived in Singapore for about 14 years on and off, expressed his sadness for Mr Lee's death.

He said: "I had wished that he could be around for National Day. It's very sad. He was a good leader.'

Mr Saito and his wife, who is also a Singapore PR, have made plans to be in Singapore for its Jubilee.

Those who wish to pay respects to Mr Lee in Japan may do so at the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo from 9.30am to 12 noon, and from 2pm to 5pm from Wednesday to March 29.