Moments before he was fatally shot from behind on Friday, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was doing what he'd done for decades in politics: getting up close to the crowds and stumping for a local candidate.

As is typical in Japan, where violent crime is rare and guns are scarce, security appeared to be light on Friday morning as Abe spoke at an intersection outside the Yamato-Saidaiji Station in the city of Nara.

Roads weren't blocked off and a bus and a van passed behind Abe's exposed back as he spoke to the crowd of a few hundred. Two helmeted riders on scooters turned in front of him. Inside a passing hatchback car, someone waved in excited recognition at Japan's longest-serving prime minister.