Japan PM Visits Graceland

As a way of expressing thanks to one of the few world leaders who has stood by him through thick and thin, President George Bush treated Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a private tour of Graceland during Koizumi’s last visit to the U.S. as prime minister.

Koizumi is leaving office in September.

Koizumi is a famous fan of Elvis Presley, and even sang a version of the King’s “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” at a birthday party for Bush last year. A CD compilation of Presley songs hand-picked by the prime minister was a surprise hit in Japan in 2002, selling 200,000 copies. All proceeds went to charity.

The June 30th trip to Graceland was made even more special when Bush took Koizumi to Memphis aboard Air Force One. It’s extremely rare for the president to use the presidential jet for foreign visitors.

However, despite these special guests’ status, the president and prime minister were not allowed to see anything normal tourists aren’t. They could not, for example, visit Presley’s private bedroom or the bathroom where he died in 1977.

However, the tour was made special by the tour guide, Lisa Marie Presley, who had reasons of her own to be thankful to the prime minister. She sent a letter to Koizumi several months ago asking him to extend Japan’s copyright law to cover royalties up to 70 years after the death of a recording artist. The law has since been changed to cover the extension.

– Philip Brasor