What’s So Scary About the Japanese Prime Minister’s Official Residence?

Japan is famous for creating some of the world's greatest horror movies, so perhaps it's fitting that terror seeps into the country's real-life politics, as well.

Two successive Japanese PMs refused to live in the premier’s official residence; some say they were afraid it was haunted.
Two successive Japanese PMs refused to live in the premier’s official residence; some say they were afraid it was haunted.

Despite being given the chance to live for free in a historic art deco mansion right next to their office, two of Japan's recent prime ministers refused to live in the official residence, known as Sōri Daijin Kantei, and instead made the daily commute from elsewhere in Tokyo. The building sat unoccupied from 2012 to 2021, despite costing 160 million yen (nearly $1.4 million USD) a year in upkeep.

According to rumors that were officially denied, Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe (who did briefly live there during his first term in 2006) were worried that the Kantei is haunted, perhaps by the ghost of former Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai, who was assassinated at the mansion in 1932. It was also the site of a bloody attempted coup in 1936, and there are said to be bullet holes still in evidence in the building. Previous premiers have reported ghostly incidents, and a Shinto priest allegedly performed an exorcism during renovations in 2005.

However, it's also possible that Suga and Abe simply didn't want to live in such a large, and not entirely comfortable, old building. Whatever the real reasons for their refusal to live at the Kantei, it seems clear that Japan's current premier, Fumio Kishida, isn't afraid of ghosts. Kishida and his family moved in in December 2021 and have yet to report any spooky sightings.

Politics under the "Rising Sun":

  • Japan's current system of constitutional monarchy has only been in place for a little over 70 years.

  • The prime minister is not popularly elected, but chosen by whichever political party holds the majority in the House of Representatives.

  • The voting age in Japan was changed from 20 to 18 in 2016.

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    • Two successive Japanese PMs refused to live in the premier’s official residence; some say they were afraid it was haunted.
      Two successive Japanese PMs refused to live in the premier’s official residence; some say they were afraid it was haunted.