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Kishida becomes Japan’s first prime minister to live in official residence in nearly a decade

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida moved to the prime minister’s official residence over the weekend, becoming the first leader to live there in nine years.

Kishida moved into the brick building, the primary site of a 1936 coup attempt by a group of Imperial Japanese Army officers, which is located about a minute’s walk from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The relocation cut his commuting time from the three minutes it takes by car from the apartment blocks in Tokyo’s Akasaka area where Lower House members live, and where he has resided since before becoming prime minister in early October.

“I slept well,” said Kishida after emerging from the official residence on Monday morning. “The budget committee meeting will start (in parliament today) so I aim to work hard for it, feeling fresh.”

When questioned about whether he saw any of the ghosts that reputedly reside in the building, Kishida said, “So far, I have not seen (any).”

Some of the people who were killed during the coup attempt, known as The February 26 Incident, are said to haunt the building which dates from the late 1920s.

The relocation to the building, which sits in the same compound as the prime minister’s office, is intended to show Kishida’s focus on crisis management. Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the then Democratic Party of Japan was the last leader to live there.

Kishida’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, lived in the apartment for parliamentarians during his tenure, while former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lived in his private residence in Tokyo since returning to power in 2012.

“I decided to move because I think it would be beneficial for me to concentrate on my public duties,” Kishida explained on Saturday. “I also want to cherish my time with my family.”

Some opposition lawmakers had criticized previous Liberal Democratic Party prime ministers for not living in the official residence, which costs the taxpayer ¥160 million ($1.4 million) per year to maintain.

Opposition figures have said there would be an unnecessary delay in responding to a major disaster or other incident if the prime minister has to travel from a more distant location.

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