• Kyodo News


Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is dealing with less space and more traffic jams as he settles into a temporary residence before his new state-of-the-art official residence is completed.

Koizumi moved to the temporary housing in Shinagawa Ward about three months ago. The old residence is being torn down and the new one, being built at an estimated cost of 40 billion yen, will not be ready for about two years.

His new digs were originally built for the head of the Cabinet Legislative Bureau and is near Empress Michiko’s old family home, which the government planned to raze after auctioning off the property in lieu of an inheritance tax payment after the June 1999 death of her father, Hidesaburo Shoda. Neighbors are now campaigning to save the house.

An official at Koizumi’s office said the situation has brought more people to the temporary residence, as visitors to the Empress’ old house use the opportunity to take in the prime minister’s home, which has resulted in an increased need for security.

The old official residence was just a minute on foot from the prime minister’s office, but now Koizumi must travel some 6 km by car to the office — and he, like many Tokyoites, often gets stuck in traffic.

Koizumi also has a smaller living space, with the current house measuring less than 200 sq. meters. The old residence was about 240 sq. meters.

“Since it is a provisional residence, we are asking (Koizumi) to live in a smaller private space,” an official at his office said.

Koizumi said he is untroubled by the situation: “Any place is fine. I can get used to it.”

The street in front of the residence is narrow, and when Koizumi moved in Aug. 28, many neighbors were annoyed with the media crowds swarming the place.

Koizumi cautioned the media at the time: “This is a residential area. So, please don’t bother the residents while you are covering stories.”

But his new home seems to provide with some privacy. At the old residence, Cabinet ministers and executives of the Liberal Democratic Party called on him even on Sundays and holidays. Fewer seem to be dropping by these days.

But his aides are worried that the busy prime minister does not have enough room to work out at the new place. At the old residence, he often tossed around a baseball.

“We are concerned that (Koizumi) has been too busy to exercise since moving there,” an official said.

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