PM Abe draws heat for choosing to live at home

News & Views - November 12th, 2013
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Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently drew flak for a tiny detail in his government: his decision to forego the official residence as his humble abode.

The official residence, an art deco mansion in the heart of Nagatacho, is strategically located next to the prime minister’s office in central Tokyo, making it practical for leaders to call it home during their terms. In times of need for quick crisis management during potential disasters, the prime minister could easily get to his office, officials said.

Abe currently lives in his family’s private home about 8km (5 miles) away.

“When considering crisis management, it only makes sense for the prime minister to live at the official residence,” said Yosuke Kondo, a member of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan at a recent parliamentary meeting.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the prime minister could be rushed to his office from his home within 15 minutes.

“It’s not about where he lives, but the adequacy of our crisis management system,” Suga said.

Since taking over the leadership in mid-December, Abe has yet to move into the residence, although he has occasionally stayed overnight.

Abe’s refusal to move into the residence raised speculations of otherwordly beings occupying the mansion. Those reports were fanned by comments from former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

“I don’t understand why he doesn’t live at the official residence. He can’t be scared of ghosts,” Noda wrote on his website. Noda denied seeing apparitions of men in military uniform so often reported during his stay there.

Abe clarified that the 11-room property was too big for his needs and prefer the short ride from his family’s house to the office.

Originally built in 1929, the residence since witnessed two assassination attempts of prime ministers. Then prime minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was killed there by a group of naval officers during a failed coup in 1932.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies/Flickr