Tokyo denies 'ghosts' keeping PM out of residence

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet on Friday formally denied rumours going back for months that the premier had not moved into his official residence over fears the mansion is haunted.

The conservative leader took office in December but has yet to move into the 11-room brick home in central Tokyo, the longest holdout among any of his predecessors, according to local media.

Several former prime ministers have reported experiencing unusual phenomena at the mansion which was centre-stage for two failed but bloody coups in the 1930s.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi once told reporters: "I've never encountered any ghosts, although I want to see them." Some first ladies have also refused to live in the mansion over fears it was inhabited by spirits.

"There are rumours that the official residence is haunted by ghosts. Is it true? Does Prime Minister Abe refuse to move to the official residence because of the rumours?" an opposition lawmaker asked in a letter to PM Abe's cabinet.

The lawmaker said the decision could delay PM Abe's response time in emergencies because the residence is next door to his executive office.

PM Abe's cabinet issued a terse written statement on Friday, saying: "We do not assent to what was asked." In May 1932, a revolt by naval officers ended in the murder of then prime minister Tsuyoshi Inukai and the plotters' surrender to military police.

Several years later in 1936, about 1,400 rebel troops killed several political leaders and seized the heart of Tokyo's government district including the official residence for four days.

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