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Staff writer

After lying empty for over six months and costing Tokyo 1 million yen a month in maintenance, the official residence of the Tokyo governor finally has a prospective tenant, Tokyo government officials said Thursday.

The downside? He won’t move in until next spring.

Eliano Fione, chairman of nonprofit organization Ciao Italia-Giappone, was chosen from among five applicants during a selection process that began in September, after it became apparent that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara was not moving in.

The 1.2 billion yen, four-bedroom building in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward was rejected at a glance by Ishihara with a curt “Even the Prime Minister’s Official Residence is better than this.”

The governor has adamantly refused to budge from his Denenchofu home in Ota Ward, deaf to objections from Tokyo government officials, who said he would not have adequate security. They added that the official residence is equipped with a water tank, power generator and direct lines to the city’s disaster prevention center in case of an earthquake.

These arguments, which persuaded Ishihara’s just-as-reluctant predecessor, Yukio Aoshima, failed to convince Ishihara, who had direct lines connected to his own home and argued that he has never had security problems.

Fione, who is also managing director of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan, will take up residence in April. He plans to use the building as a cultural embassy and an information center on Italian foods and tradition, Ciao Italia-Giappone officials said.

Rent is 3 million yen, with the lease renewable through 2002.

Other applicants wanted to use the residence as a bridal parlor, a restaurant, or a meeting place for venture businesses, Tokyo government officials said. But they were rejected, since the building had to be used primarily as a residence.

In any case, Ishihara continues to commute from home. “Home is where the governor can relax,” his office said.

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