It is well known that many people who have lived in or stayed overnight at the White House have seen ghosts or experienced anomalies that convinced them the U.S. presidential residence is haunted. Despite that, no U.S. president has refused to live there. Similarly, Japan’s official prime minister’s residence in Tokyo has been said to be haunted, but unlike the White House, the last two prime ministers have refused to live there – leading many Japanese citizens to believe they were afraid of the ghosts. That changed last week when newly elected PM Fumio Kishida moved in with no hesitation, and had this to say about the rumored ghosts:
"I slept soundly yesterday. I haven't seen any, yet."
Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi oversaw the completion of the first prime minister’s residence on March 18, 1929 – an art deco style influenced by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is diagonally adjacent to the National Diet Building, which houses Japan’s parliament. A new residence 2.5 times as large was built next to it in 2002.
It sounds nice. Why did two prime ministers refuse to live there?
In 1932, eleven junior Navy officers entered the residence and assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in a plot that included plans to provoke a war with the U.S. by killing film star Charlie Chaplin, who was in Japan at the time. Fortunately, Chaplin was watching a sumo wrestling match with the prime minister's son and escaped. Four years later, five people were killed there in another assassination attempt but then Prime Minister Keisuke Okada hid in a closet and survived. Those victims are some of the ghosts said to haunt the residence.
"I was told that there are many people clad in military uniform in the garden."
Yasuko Hata, wife of former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, claimed to see ghosts in in 1994, but she and her husband lived there anyway, as did Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori who claimed to see the "leg of a haunted spirit" there in 2000-2001. However, everything changed in 2013 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to move in … even though he had lived there in 2006-2007 during his previous term as PM. While he claimed the residence was just too small for his needs, he said in one interview:
"I do not feel like living here because there are ghosts."
In 2020, Abe’s successor, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, also declined to move in and instead stayed in his private residence three minutes away, ignoring rumors he also was afraid of ghosts. A year later, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ended the ghost stories, temporarily at least, by moving in immediately.
Is the Japanese prime minister’s residence really haunted or is this just an urban legend passed from one PM to the next as a traditional prank? Let’s see what PM Kushida says in a few weeks.