John Lennon

Someone from the 60s and 70s may recognize this name: John Lennon (1940-1980). He was born in Liverpool, Britain, and was infamously known as the lead singer/rhythm guitarist of The Beatles. Under his direction, The Beatles’ influence on the development of music has been tremendous. This group laid some of the basic foundations of rock.

They composed many songs that represented the feelings and opinions of commoners. Their music might sound simple. But, it is subtle. Its simplicity is what most people accepts. It’s also easy to memorize.

John Lennon and The Beatles came to Japan in 1966. They performed in the Budokan Arena, Tokyo, for five consecutive nights. Although they only played for 30 minutes each night, the “revolution” of rock music started in Japan. Previously, the Japanese were only familiar with traditional Japanese music, classical and jazz. After that, the rock music began to be acceptable in Japan. The Japanese felt that their lyrics were filled with honesty and freedom.

Initially, John felt that the Japanese were not really into the rock music. He saw people neatly clapping their hands after each song ended. Then, they were immediately quiet. John felt that Japanese music lovers were not really as expressive as their counterparts in United States or Britain. Music promoters said that the Japanese often do this when they watch a concert. They are probably shy, less expressive; so they tend to be quiet. From the outside, they are not reactive. Yet, they seem to like The Beatles’ music.

Since the end of 60s, an increasing number of Western musicians performed in Japan. Japanese were more expressive, and various genre infused the Land of Rising Sun.

In 1970, John was breaking out of the Beatles. It was only 10 years old. But, his name remained popular in Japan because, one year before, he married a Japanese woman named Yoko Ono.

In the years after, John increasingly produced many songs. The lyrics have very fine words. The lyrics of the song titled “Imagine”, for instance, have a deep philosophy. It was the song known when John and his wife campaigned against the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

John Lennon liked the atmosphere of Japan. In 1970s, he, his wife and his son, Sean, often visited Japan. His experience in Japan was unique.

His friend, Elliot Mintz, told a story in the book entitled Memories of John Lennon (2005).

One day, John, Yoko, Sean and Elliot rented a presidential suite in the Okura Hotel, Tokyo. Yoko asked his son to stroll downtown Tokyo. Only John and Elliot stayed in that spacious room. Bored with situation, they played football in the room. After some kicks, John and Elliot rested on the couch. They turned off the lights, and let the city lights shimmer their room through large windows.

It was very quiet.

Around 10 PM, John began to play guitar. Suddenly, a middle-aged Japanese couple entered the room. John’s room had a direct access to the elevator. Whoever has a key or code can enter the room anytime. Apparently, the couple mistakenly has their room code. So, they entered the room quietly.

Elliot thought that they were Yoko and Sean. But they were not. Then, the couple sat on the couch and watched a musician plucked his guitar. There was a man sitting on another chair, and it seemed that he enjoyed the song of the guitaris.

“Why the club is so quiet?” they might think. A spacious room with a soft music are a good match.

Ten minutes later, the couple was busy looking around. They whispered in Japanese language. They looked disappointed realizing that no waiter or waitress came to take an order. No drink was served. But they tried to enjoy John’s music.

John whispered to Elliot, “‘Just let them … this is interesting …”

John played a song titled A Jealous Guy. It’s wonderful.


Not long after, the Japanese couple seemed to be unhappy with the service at the “bar”. They did not enjoy the Western song either. They finally stood up and left the room.

After the couple left, John and Elliot were laughing out loud.

There is still a lot of interesting stories in the book. Surely, Japan is a country that John always remembered.

Japan probably felt the same way with John. Therefore, Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, built a museum that contained 130 John’s memorabilia. Some of them were borrowed from Yoko. The museum was 1.500 square meter, and opened on October 9, 2000. It had musical instruments, clothing, art, handwriting and others. Unfortunately, the museum was closed last year. Apparently, the museum attracted few visitors. Initially, the museum was targeted to get 350,000 visitors a year. However, within 10 years, it only managed to attract 615,000 visitors.

But, John Lennon remains popular. There are at least two bars in the Roppongi that present The Beatles’s pieces. Nippon Television (NTV) also aired a program contaning a list of 100 most influential historical figures in Japan. John Lennon was ranked 27th.

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