It seems like every politician has their own, dumb mini scandal. With the speed at which information travels nowadays, even the most minor gaffe and non-issue can be blown way out of proportion.
Even Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, hasn’t been immune to this. Even though Abe has been one of the most influential Prime Ministers in recent memory, his time in office has been riddled with minor scandals of public intrigue.
Since starting his current term as Prime Minister, Abe has been reluctant to move into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence (総理大臣官邸). While not quite as dramatic as the President of the United States refusing to move into the White House, Abe’s reluctance to move into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence is still a bit strange.
Abe has claimed that he just prefers to live and work elsewhere, but other people have a more dramatic reading of events: they believe that Abe refuses to move into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence because it’s haunted.
The Abe’s office has issued an official denial (
“We do not assent to what was asked.”), but the fact remains that Abe has gone over five months without moving into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
A Storied History
It’s easy to see why people might think that the Prime Minister’s Official Residence might be haunted. Old buildings like the circa-1929 Prime Minister’s Official Residence (not to be confused with the newer, adjacent building) often have a long and storied history.
During the early turbulent years leading up to WWII, the Prime Minister’s Official Residence was often a site for mayhem. Two violent coup d’état attempts took place at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in the 30s, and one Japanese Prime Minister (Inukai Tsuyoshi) was even assassinated in the building. You can reportedly still see some of the bullet holes in the building to this day.
Given all of that history, it makes sense; and if Abe is indeed avoiding the house because of its supposedly haunted status, he isn’t the only Japanese person who’s wary of places where people have died.
Not too long ago, we wrote about the stigma surrounding apartments where people had commited suicide. Even though—according to Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda—some people actually seek out these suicide apartments, most people tend to avoid living in places where people have died.
Some of this fear is related to Shinto, the system of spiritual beliefs that most Japanese people ascribe to, in one way or another. Shinto is generally believes that everything has some kind of spirit surrounding it, whether it’s a benign nature spirit or a not-so-nice ghoul.
Many people believe that if a person died under turbulent circumstances—like, say, an assassination—their spirit might stick around for a while longer. The anguished spirit may exist to torment the living, seek revenge, or just vent its feelings.
Even if you don’t necessarily believe in that sort of thing, it’s hard to deny how prevalent that kind of imagery is in Japanese media. Think of every Japanese horror movie you’ve ever seen. I mean, The Ring? C’mon!
To be fair to Abe, he’s not the only recent prime minister to not live in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence—Kiichi Miyazawa, Noboru Takeshita, and a spate of other Japanese Prime Ministers didn’t live in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence during their tenure in office.
Maybe we’re all just reading too far into this. When I step back and think about it, it sounds like something out of the Weekly World News.
On the other hand, how cool would it be if the Prime Minister’s Official Residence were actually haunted? OoOoooOoOOooooOo!!!
Bonus Wallpapers and GIFs!
In case you wanted a constant reminder of Abe’s fright, our wonderful illustrator Aya has whipped up some desktop background sized versions of the header image, along with some animated GIFs!