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Japanese Fans Turn Out To Greet Jackson

September 10, 1987|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

TOKYO — Michael Jackson, accompanied by 110,000 pounds of musical and lighting equipment, an 85-person entourage and Bubbles the Chimpanzee, arrived here Wednesday to begin a 12-nation world tour, the superstar's first performances ever as a solo act.

Although police at Narita International Airport limited the numbers of photographers and fans, Jackson received a frenzied welcome. The terminal lobby was packed with both ordinary travelers and fans who had made the 41-mile trip out from downtown Tokyo in hopes of seeing the singer.

Middle-age men and women, along with teen-age girls, took off their shoes and climbed atop sofa backs in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the 29-year-old singer. Others lined a balcony overlooking the terminal's ground floor.

What they saw was Jackson, wearing his trademark dark glasses, come out of the customs area through a doorway normally used only for baggage carts, walk quickly across the edge of the lobby with a police escort and disappear into an elevator. It took him to an underground exit, so that he could avoid the roads in front of the terminal used by limousine buses, taxis and ordinary vehicles.

Photographers, whose ranks were limited by police to 300, had jammed behind police lines as Jackson disembarked from the Japan Air Lines jetliner. He paused momentarily to wave as the photographers shouted "Michael! Michael!"

Asked for a word for his Japanese fans, Jackson said only, "I love them all."

A JAL purser who served him aboard the flight from Los Angeles said Jackson informed the crew that he was a vegetarian and turned down all meals. Instead, the purser said, he ate food he had brought aboard himself.

Jackson is scheduled to give 13 concerts beginning Saturday at the 50,000-seat Korakuen Stadium, normally the home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team. It will be re-configured to seat 35,000 people.

His concerts in Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama--which are being staged at a cost to the sponsors of $8.6 million--mark the second American entertainment extravaganza in Japan in two months. Madonna created a major stir with her concert tour here in August.

Tickets--at 5,000 yen ($35.71) and 6,500 yen ($46.43)--are nearly sold out. Jackson was originally booked for nine performances, but four more were added to meet the demand for tickets; 336,470 have been sold.

Nihon Television (NTV), one of the sponsors of the tour, will tape the performances and broadcast a special show in October.

Already, police have arrested scalpers demanding as much a 110,000 yen ($785.71) for a single seat.

Jackson's new album, "Bad," his first since "Thriller" became the world's best-selling album three years ago, was released here at the end of last month. The "Thriller" album sold 1.5 million copies here.

Only once before has Jackson visited Japan--in 1973, when he performed here with his brothers as a member of the Jackson 5. He last performed live in the United States as a member of the siblings' 1984 "Victory Tour" when the group was known as the Jacksons. He has since left the group.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., one of the sponsors of the tour, is selling plastic telephone credit cards featuring a photograph of Jackson. Pepsi Cola also is using the tour to promote its sales by offering customers who send in labels from Pepsi bottles a chance to win a free concert ticket.

T-shirts, finger towels, posters, and baseball caps also are being sold.

Bubbles, Jackson's pet chimpanzee, was dressed in a red-and-white sweater and arrived on a flight that landed 30 minutes ahead of the plane bearing the singer.

Among the equipment shipped in aboard a chartered jumbo cargo jet were 700 lighting devices, 100 speaker cabinets, two 24-by-8-foot rear projection screens and 74 costumes Jackson will wear, including four outfitted with fiber optics. In the entourage are 16 musicians, dancers and singers, four video cameramen, a lighting crew of seven persons, a three-person laser crew, five wardrobe attendants, and two makeup artists.

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