The Prime Minister’s Official Residence, which has served 40 prime ministers since its completion in 1929, has witnessed a number of historical incidents.
On May 15, 1932, 17 military officers broke in and shot Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai to death. Inukai reportedly rose from his bed before being shot and said, “You will understand if we talk.”
After the assassination, alarms were installed, but they failed to prevent the so-called February 26 Incident in 1936, when young army officers occupied the residence for four days in an attempted coup d’etat.
Prime Minister Keisuke Okada survived by hiding in a bathroom and servants’ room. But his brother-in-law, who was serving as his private secretary, was mistakenly killed because he resembled Okada. Bullet marks from the incident remain on the wall of the residence.
During the war, the courtyard became a potato patch and an air-raid shelter was built.
When the Diet was debating the controversial signing of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960, the residence was surrounded by throngs of demonstrators.
Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi was effectively confined in the building overnight when a bill to ratify the revised pact was approved by the Diet on June 19, 1960.
The residence was also used for signing important diplomatic documents. In the main hall, documents were signed for the reversion of Okinawa from the U.S. in June 1971, and ratification documents were exchanged for the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty in October 1978.
The building was a crisis-management center when hijackings and other emergencies occurred, and top leaders spent nights inside coping with the crises. (S.D.)