The story of ghosts and murders awaits Kishida in the 1929 mansion
For the first time in nearly a decade, a Japanese prime minister has decided to live in the official residence of the leader – a century-old structure that is a monument to the Art Deco aesthetic and overshadowed by an ominous history.
On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida moved into the 5,183-square-meter (55,789-square-foot) two-story stone and brick mansion, inaugurated in 1929 and believed to be a symbol of Japan’s entry into the early 20th century modernism.
“It has been a long time since I moved and I feel fresh,” Kishida told reporters, adding that he had made the decision to move to concentrate on his official duties.
The residence underwent a renovation completed in 2005, which was said to have been carried out by an exorcism by a Shinto priest to ward off evil spirits that some in concerned political circles had gathered over the decades.
Kishida, who took office about two months ago, is moving closer to the Prime Minister’s Office, a glass and steel structure opened in 2002 a few meters away, to be quickly available in case of emergency. . He lives in a residence for lawmakers, reported Jiji Press, and will be the mansion’s first ruler since Yoshihiko Noda in 2012.
The last two prime ministers have stayed on the sidelines. Kishida’s immediate predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, went to work from the housing complex for members of parliament. The location may have helped him get around and deal with lawmakers away from the media.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lived in his private residence in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, about a 15-minute drive from the office. Even though the official residence was unoccupied, upkeep still costs taxpayers about 160 million yen ($ 1.4 million) per year, according to Noda.
Abe had lived in the Prime Minister’s official residence for around 10 months during his first term as Prime Minister in 2006-2007. During this period, the renovated residence became home to six short-lived prime ministers who served on average just over a year in office and were seen as an unsuitable place for a new leader.
Abe did not look back when he returned to the helm in 2012 and became the country’s longest-serving prime minister.
The original residence and office were built as Tokyo was emerging from a devastating earthquake in 1923 and inspired by the Imperial Hotel designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The hotel officially opened on the same day the earthquake hit Tokyo and it survived the cataclysmic event that razed much of the capital and killed tens of thousands of people.
Three years after the Prime Minister’s office opened, young naval officers stormed in and assassinated Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai in 1932. Four years later, the installation was the scene of yet another military uprising, but Prime Minister Keisuke Okada hid in a closet and survived. Five people were shot dead and what was thought to be a bullet hole left above a main entrance was a reminder of the insurgency that erupted as the country sank into militarist rule .
As Japan emerged from the destruction of WWII and the decades since, no major overhauls were made to the facility, which became obsolete and was viewed by many Cabinet Office employees as dark. Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori told Abe that he saw ghosts there, according to an article in the Sankei newspaper.
Its large rooms were still used to host foreign guests, such as US President George HW Bush, who fell ill at a banquet in 1992 and vomited into Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s lap as he passed out.
The government spent around 8.6 billion yen to transform the residence into a warm environment. Its intricate word carvings and ornate pieces have been painstakingly restored. Its idiosyncratic decorations have been preserved, including stone owl sculptures that stand guard outside.
Now he has a new resident.
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Tokyo, Fumio Kishida