Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been in office for five months and reporters who follow him every day still have one question: why hasn’t he moved into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence?
Despite his extremely tight schedule, a security detail-escorted limousine takes Abe to the prime minister’s office every morning, a 15-minute ride from his private home in Shibuya Ward’s Tomigaya district.
The question drew fresh public attention Friday after the Cabinet responded to a written query by Ken Kagaya of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, who asked if Abe’s reluctance to move into the official residence had anything to do with rumors that it is haunted by ghosts.
“We are not aware (of any ghosts),” the Cabinet wrote in an official reply.
“It’s true there are various rumors,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters later in the day. When pressed if he ever felt the official residence was haunted, Suga laughed and replied, “Yeah, I’d say I felt something like that, if you ask me.”
The residence stands next to the prime minister’s office in the same compound in Tokyo’s Nagata-cho political district. Built in 1929, the structure originally served as the prime minister’s office until 2002, when, via an ¥8.6 billion renovation job, it was turned into a residence.
Two major coup d’etat attempts — the May 15 Incident in 1932 and the Feb. 26 Incident four years later — took place in the compound, resulting in the assassination of a number of government officials and Cabinet members, including then-Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai during the first revolt.
Since then, rumors have circulated among politicians that ghosts haunt the building.
Suga said he believes Abe feels more comfortable at his private home, explaining: “The prime ministership is an extremely busy post with pressing work. So I think (Abe) should be allowed to work in what he considers the best environment.”
Abe, who is careful about his health, may feel he needs an environment where he can relax at night. His first stint as prime minister — from 2006 to 2007 — ended in humiliation with his abrupt resignation.
At the time, he claimed he was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, which can be exacerbated by stress. It was also a time when members of his Cabinet were involved in scandals, including a minister who committed suicide.