When Chizuko Obuchi’s husband, Keizo, became prime minister of Japan in July 1998 and the couple moved into the official residence, she was taken aback by what she found.

“People from overseas might be surprised to hear it, but there was absolutely no one and nothing there,” Obuchi recalls, more than 20 years later. “Everyone assumes that someone helps you to move into the prime minister’s official residence, but there was no one.

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