Police said a 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of shooting in the western city of Nara. The news agency Kyodo and NHK announced that Abe (67) was taken to the hospital by helicopter, and that he was conscious and responsive after being wounded.
"Such a barbaric act cannot be tolerated," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, adding that he did not know Abe's condition. NHK showed video of Abe giving a campaign speech outside a train station when two gunshots rang out, briefly obscuring the view, and then security officials were seen tackling a man on the ground.
A photo released by the Kyodo agency showed Abe lying on his back in the street by a guard rail, with blood on his white shirt. People gathered around him, and one was massaging his heart.
Abe was shot in the left side of the chest
TBS television reported that Abe was shot in the left side of the chest, and apparently also in the neck.
Political violence is rare in Japan, a country with strict gun regulations. The rifle used in the shooting appeared to be a homemade firearm, NHK said.
Police identified the suspect
Police identified the suspect as Nara resident Tetsuya Yamagami.
Abe served two terms as prime minister, becoming Japan's longest-serving prime minister before stepping down in 2020 due to ill health. However, he remained the gray eminence of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its main factions.
His protégé, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, goes into Sunday's upper house election hoping, analysts say, to step out of Abe's shadow. Kishida suspended his election campaign after the shooting.
The government said it has no plan to postpone the elections
The United States ambassador, Rahm Emanuel, said he was saddened and shocked by the killing of an extraordinary leader and staunch ally.
"The US government and the American people pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family and the people of Japan," he said in a statement.